Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBT+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Why I Think Writing Isn’t Magic

For me to equate writing with magic removes what control I have over my creative output, from coming up with ideas, to building worlds, to actual writing the stories, and editing. I lose enough control periodically with unpredictable writing downswings which vary from creatively inspired (where I come up with copious worldbuilding notes and/or ideas for other stories) or completely barren (where nothing happens creatively at all).

Writing, for me, is 10% inspiration, 90% work.

Part of that work is extremely fun. Going out with friends to take a break from writing—square dancing is extremely good for that; it totally takes me out of my head to the point where I’m not thinking of my writing at all. That’s something I need. I live too much in my own head. Also, I need to socialize, and square dancing is my primary social outlet.

I also read. Mostly recently I’ve been rereading old favorite books. Got Holly Lisle’s Arhel books in fact, tried to put them on my Nook, and, what do you know, it doesn’t want to let me read them. Says they’re the wrong format. So I’m going to fiddle with it later. I’m also reading stories for my writing friend, Jennifer Amriss. If you look around the site, you’ll see her list of slated projects. I’m reading through one of her completed stories for edit notes for her. It’s an exchange; she does the same for me. One skill we both have is the ability to create a story which doesn’t need a lot of rework—our completed stories tend not to have massive plot holes or other issues which require rewrites or extensive edit runs. Mostly what we do for each other is point out discrepancies in books and spelling errors and offer suggestions for how to fix the issues we see.

Sometimes, I’ll watch DVDs. I don’t do this very often. Haven’t in fact, for a couple years now. I’m just not in the mood for watching anything, and when I do get in the mood, I tend to binge on my movies. I’ll watch the entire Star Wars series (yes, even the prequel movies), or I’ll go through my Star Trek TOS movies. Sometimes I’ll pick random movies, or go by genre (all fantasy, or all Christmas movies).

To kick-start my writing if I have the drip of inspiration but not the immediate drive or ability to focus on writing, I may take my laptop, Portaplotty (my portable external hard drive), and whatever else I need to my local Beans & Brews coffee shop. They have free internet, so I’ll log online, buy a drink or something to eat, and hunker down to write. This helps because 1) being in FM Writers chat isn’t a distraction—I in fact get uncomfortable if I’m unable to login there, so it’s something of a necessity; and 2) I have no distractions there; all I have on Rover II (laptop) are my writing programs, Tweetdeck, music, and internet. No games, no reading materials (I often have chapters/WIPs of Jennifer’s open on my desktop, and I deliberately don’t open them when I’m on Rover II), and only my website and FM Writers up online.

I use all these things to refuel my creative mind so I can actually write. That’s the work part of writing, much of the 90% that goes into my writing. If I don’t do these things, my writing suffers and I don’t get the inspiration.

To be honest, much of my time when I’m able to write is spent sitting at the computer seeming to do nothing. Since I write from open-ended outlines, I spend a few hours wrangling ideas for one or two plot cards before settling down to write a scene. If I feel inspired to do more cards, I do them. If not, I don’t. I obey this requirement even when I’m at the coffee shop.

If I find myself completely unable to wrangle out an idea even when I’m feeling the ability to write and have ideas—say, an idea for a plot card isn’t coming easily—I’ll read a bit. If I’m at home on Homer II (desktop), I’ll play a little Bejeweled 3; it’s a simple game which doesn’t take all my brain power to play, so it leaves my mind free to wander until I get the idea. Other times, I’ll chat with friends in FM Writers chat, or do an edit read-through of one of my other projects.

But for me, writing isn’t magic. I like retaining what control I have over my creative processes. Saying “it’s magic” removes that ability from me. As someone who suffers a mental illness which periodically takes control away to varying degrees, I have an almost obsessive need to control other things in my life, and my writing, and how I view it, is one of those things. Also, I put too much work into my writing to disregard all I do for it. To me, calling writing “magic” is belittling the effort I expend to write good stories and create believable, logical worlds. Everything I do, from talking to family on the phone, to reading, to taking my writing to the coffee shop to work on, goes into my writing.

This is the reason why I usually refer to my creative processes as my writing mind, or my subconscious, or my creative mind. I feel that using the word “Muse” takes too much power away from me. Of course, I’ll refer to my creative processes as my muse jokingly, but when I’m serious about my writing and its processes, I don’t. Because writing is work, and it takes focus and attention and determination. None of which I believe the word “Muse” indicates actually happens.

But this is just me. It’s how I respond to my creative processes and writing.

1 Comment

  1. Sounds like you have a good grasp of what works for you. Congratulations.

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