The Creation Process – How does your muse like to work?

writingI am the type of author who craves utter silence when I write. That includes interruptions at any time, including quietly slinking into the room to simply “get something” even though no one actually speaks to me. I find that just as distracting as if I’d stopped to have a conversation. I’ve tried to explain that “when a writer is on a roll and stops writing for any reason that means THAT particular train of thought is GONE forever.” Yes, I know we can start again, but it will never be what it was and that makes me a little crazy. The frustrating part is, the people around me really and truly don’t understand this and they think I’m being unreasonable.

Ideally, I like to sit on my bed with my laptop on my lap, fan or A/C going and just have a block of an hour to let the words come. There are days I need more time. Much more time, but I have kids, a life, a husband, a job, and those get in the way. Other days I get a little stuck or bored and just have to take a break, but I like the control of my own muse, without interruptions. I’ve tried going to a coffee shop or the library, but those little whispered conversations around me, crinkling of a candy wrapper, the tinny sound of someone’s music leaking from their ear buds – they bother me. I must have some sort of sensory issue. In school during testing “I” was the one “shushing” the teachers who were quietly chatting at the front of the room. Come on! We’re working here!

I wondered if I was alone in how we create, so I asked two writers, Mitchel Whitington and Gwen Choate this very question. I also wanted to find out their most gratifying moments. Writing takes so much time out of our lives, there has to be something gratifying in it for all of us, right?

Question #1) What is your writing set-up and what do you need to write?

Mitchel Whitington: It all depends on my mood. If I’m really in the zone, I like it quiet and dark. My office has black-out curtains to help me create this environment. There are other times when I put on instrumental music (one of my favorites is Cirque du Soleil’s soundtrack “Mystere”) and light incense. Darkness is still important, though.

Gwen Choate: I prefer to work at my computer, which sits in the corner of a small room, surrounded by my dictionary and thesaurus, research material, and the copy in progress. I have a laptop, but I get a backache trying to position myself when I use it very long at a time. I, too, like solitude.

Question #2) Can you share some gratifying moments?

Mitchel: My biggest one came from a book that I wrote a long time ago. It was humor fiction, and I had a lot of fun with it. At a book signing, a lady asked me to sign her dad’s book. He had just died, and his sunday school class had purchased it for him to read in the hospital. The lady told me that he’d read it and laughed throughout, even toward the end when she was having to hold the book for him and turn the pages, because her dad was too weak to do it himself. There were tears in her eyes when she told me that my book was the last thing that her dad laughed at in his life. I still get tears in my eyes when I think of that.

Gwen: There are so many. When I sold BUFFALO GOLD, the Abilene Reporter-News did a two-page spread about how I, as a woman, broke the taboo against female authors of westerns. SACK has had wonderful publicity in the Nacogdoches newspaper, and I was given a book signing which was attended by sixty-five people and generously covered by publicity. Then more recently I was privileged to join a friend at a Kroger’s Supermarket and sell copies of THE SACK, which were charged to the customers’ Kroger cards . . . followed by the wonderful KTRE-TV interview.

So there you have it. I personally know people who can exercise and write at the same time on some contraption they set up on their treadmill (I can’t drink and walk at the same time, so I’m continually stumped how they do this). I know others who prefer blaring music, but most seem to love the solitude that allows their muse to truly come forward.

And then there are the gratifying moments we all love. For me, the most gratifying moment came when I had a library chat. A sixteen year old boy came with his dad, armed with three pages of questions. He stayed until the end of my talk, waited to speak to me, told me how much he loved my book, asked me to sign it and then asked if he could ask me some questions. You see, he wanted to become a writer and wanted to get “a real writer’s” perspective on some things. A real writer? Me?! Wow. For me, that was my first time hearing from someone I didn’t know how they felt about the book, validating my hard work and wanting MY advice. It felt great.

To find out more about the authors above, they can be reached here:

Gwen Choate’s YA novel, THE SACK, was nominated by Texas Librarians for the Star of Texas Award as a best Middle School book. It is available on Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/The-Sack-ebook/dp/B00CD5VBTO/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_kin?ie=UTF8&qid=1371494846&sr=8-1&keywords=the+sack+gwen+choate She can also be reached on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/gwenchoate

Mitchel Whitington is an author and speaker from the piney woods of East Texas. Over a dozen of his books have been published over the last decade, and he has contributed to as many anthologies. You’ll find Mitchel speaking around the country at workshops and conferences. Mitchel lives in a historic 1861 home in Jefferson, Texas, where he lives with his wife Tami, two basset hounds, and several resident spirits. You can contact him at: mitchel@whitington.com.

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20 thoughts on “The Creation Process – How does your muse like to work?

  1. Hi, Elyse. It is always curious to me how others do what they do in this crazy life we’ve chosen to take up. Not that any of us had a choice in the matter, right? *laughs* I have an 11 hour day job, so I have to find the way to get the work in. When my teens were small children who made lots of noise, I often used headphones and classical music to drown them out. These days, I have just gotten very good at ignoring everything around me.
    Have a great week and thanks for sharing.

    -Jimmy

  2. We’re cut from the same cloth Elyse it seems 🙂 I need silence too. Can’t really get rolling on anything with other noise going on or people nearby. I know a lot of writers who have a soundtrack of songs they like to listen to when they write, but I would just find myself singing along and not getting any writing done 😉

    • Definitely of the same cloth… I really like it quiet. Now, if I’m just editing, I could pop something in my ears, but to create something fresh and new? No way… Thanks so much for commenting!

  3. I am with you, Elyse. I seem to get my writing flow best first thing in the morning. I like to walk the dog first and get the thoughts churning. When I come home, I like to head right for the keyboard. My poor husband will often stop to ask me something and I put my hand up, “No, not now, I will loose the ideas in my head.”

  4. Like you I need silence but there always seems to be noise from the other people who live in my house (not living with me so I cannot shush them!). Sometimes I put a headset on to block out the noise. I find the smallest distractions to be just that – distractions. It scares me sometimes when I realize how easy it is for me to get pulled away from writing. I get the best feeling in the world when I am writing so it is a mystery to be how I can so easily be pulled away from it. I certainly don’t want to be deaf but if I could create silence when ever I wanted, writing would be much easier. I LOVE music on when I edit but writing needs the silence, at least until I am on a roll. I also walk my cat every day and sometimes I will go and do that if I need to think something through. He is my muse after all and my best thoughts come when he is nearby. Weird I know, but there you have it.

    • Susan, it is like you’re also reading my mind. I find the smallest distractions distracting and I’m amazed how easily I can get pulled away from something I love. Strange, right?

  5. Me? I harrass a few people watch their reactions, and then get writing. J/K… I am no good with specific processes. I must write when I am either inspired or have something specific to communicate.

  6. I tend to write anyplace, anytime, anywhere. Just two conditions, I must have a means of listening to music (no idea why, but often songs determine a rhyhm of writing for me) and darkness. I can’t explain the last one. My muse simply prefers to visit me in the dark, maybe she’s shy.

  7. Nice article, and it rings a bell with me too. I usually need a clean house before I can write. If there is clutter, dirty dishes or dust in the corners, it all needs to be cleaned up before the words flow distraction free. When all that is in place, I like to start writing around 6am, and write (pretty much non-stop) till 4 or 5 in the afternoon. If I stop for anything more than coffee and a bite to eat, that’s it, done for the day.
    The best writing moments I’ve had is when the story is flowing so well, and SO not from me, that I cannot write fast enough in anticipation of finding out what happens on the next page.

    • WOW! Your ability to write for that many hours is very impressive. I don’t personally know if I could do that. I’m just begging for an hour, could you imagine what I could accomplish with 12?

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