Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Tag: muse

Open Letter to My Mind Which Gave Me a Great Idea Before I Fell Asleep and Took it Away When I Woke

     Seriously?!
     I thought we were on the same side here!
     I mean, I trust you so much sometimes. I give you so much credit, and then you go and screw me over like this?
     I treat you really well, too. Way better than a lot of people. I always try my best to keep you stimulated and active. I give you great things to eat and wonderful activities to play with. All I ask in return is a bit of consistency. And maybe a better memory.
     As I lay down to sleep last night, you shocked me. You unraveled beautiful, living things about the novel. They were so good that I laughed in bed. I looked around for a scrap of paper or my phone to write them down, but I couldn’t find them.
     “Don’t worry,” you said. “These ideas are huge. There’s no way you’ll forget them. Not a chance!”
     Liar.
     You allowed me to remember that you gave me great ideas. I even kinda remember who they were about. Selasis and Fable, I think. Something about slavery. And … swords? Argh!
     They were wonderful and deep intricacies of character and emotion and motivation. And now they’re gone. Gone gone gone. Why did you do this to me? Are we not on the same team? It’s enough to make me believe my religious friends who tell me never to trust you.
     If you weren’t safe and holed up in my skull, I swear I’d take a broom handle and—
     Oh.
     Wait.
     Ahhhhh.
     Yes, I remember now. Oh yes, thank you, that was very nice.
     Er, um. Sorry about all that. We cool?

A Billion Stories to Tell

     I’m about 18,000 words into book two. And I’m dry inside.
I had another idea for a book. A great idea. Just as good as the series I’m on now. So I thought that my dryness in the sequel meant that my muse wanted me to write the other idea first. I got 2,800 words in before I turned dry again.
     Then I had another idea. And another. And then I remembered.
     The muse has a billion stories she’d like you to tell. And she couldn’t give a rip which one you do first. If she had her way, you’d be somehow writing them all at the same time. And then you’d have a nervous breakdown because muses don’t care much about human frailties and the like.
     I haven’t written much in about a month. Maybe more. And I’m starting to feel it.
     When the creativity doesn’t seep out, things get stale inside. It’s like a pool with no stream running out of it. It stays still and grows stagnant. And it stinks like poop. It needs to flow or else nothing but mosquitoes and parasites will live there.
     Stop blogging, Matt. Go write a story. Write about the Bard and his wife. Write about the Chronicler and his god. Write about the people of the Expanse and call their tragic stories into existence. And when you feel the wells of self-pity rising up within yourself, think about the blinded Skotons and the doomed men and women of Al Ryaal. And count yourself lucky.
     Write, Mr. Cook. It is your calling. Your well-being is at stake. And the world wants to hear your story.

An Open Letter to my Muse

     Dear Muse,

     We need to talk.

     I want to start by saying that I’m really grateful. Honestly, I am. You’ve given me some amazing things. Two novels, dozens of stories, and so many ideas that I’ll never be able to use them all. It’s great, really.

     And those moments when you come right beside me and we really churn out the goodness? Nothing is better than that. Remember the time we sat in that coffee shop in the dead of winter? There was that chapter that we just couldn’t deal with, then suddenly, boom! There it was! Five thousand words in, like, an hour! Good times, eh?

     So, I’m totally thankful. You know I am.

     But we still need to talk.

     There’s no doubt that the work is best when you’re there doing it with me. You are the talent. You are the flash. Without you, it’s all dull and flat. No doubt at all. But, here’s the thing. I show up everyday. Every single day. I’m here while I’m working and I’m here on my days off. I’m here when I feel like it and I’m here when I don’t. I’m here whether I have the time or not. Because I treat this thing seriously.

     I really wish you’d show up more often. Because I feel like I’m doing my part.

     Now, I’m not trying to blame you or anything. I don’t know much about what a muse does when she’s not helping mortals create. Maybe you’re busy. Maybe you’ve got a family or something. Maybe there’s some muse day job that you need to deal with. I get that. But I have a family and a day job too, y’know?

     You know I love you and your work. I just wonder if maybe we could work out a schedule so that we could get together at the same time. That way we can avoid those awkward moments when you show up just as I’m drifting off to sleep or driving in the car.

     And if that’s not possible, I totally understand. If the way it is is the way it’s gotta be, I can accept that. I’m willing to work around your schedule. Just wanted to throw that out there.

     Anyway, I’m still your biggest fan. Thanks for the great run around you gave me this morning.

     Sincerely,
     Matt

Elizabeth Gilbert on Genius

     Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, gave a great TED Talk about where creativity comes from. Watch it.

     For years I have thought that genius and creativity was from the outside. The artist does not generate her art, she translates the whisperings she hears onto page or canvas or sound.

The Writer’s Home

     When thinking about the best place to write or do whatever our creative spirit moves us to do, there are phases.

     First, we picture the perfect environment as a place of seclusion with ample lighting, classical music in the background and an expensive mahogany desk. Or something like that. Probably something with a bunch of quotes on the wall. And maybe a poster. And an espresso machine.

     If we’re unlucky enough, we might even be able to manufacture such an environment. And we sit there, in our expensive chair made from baby cows, and frown.

     Because it didn’t help. Writing is still hard work.

     Then we figure that the environment counts for nothing. We force ourselves to adapt to every and any situation. We try to work at home, despite the screaming kids. We try to work at coffee shops, despite the noise. We try to steal a few hours at work on the night shift, despite the eerie silence and darkness. And things get better.

     But it’s still hard work.

     Since we’re versatile at this point, we end up doing our work in a variety of different places. And, if we’re mindful, we start to notice that our productivity levels are higher at certain places / times / settings. I, for example, discovered I work best in a public place, surrounded by people who don’t know me.

     And then a temptation arises.

     Because we suddenly realize that there is an ideal writing environment. It’s just a little counter-intuitive.

     This is a dangerous realization to touch, because it tempts us into thinking that all our bad days are due to the place we sit.

     My life does not allow me to sit at the coffee shop every day. If I’m lucky, I get there a couple times a week. And my work is certainly best there. One day at the coffee shop is worth four normal days. That stat makes me look at my normal days and question why I bother with them at all.

     But that thought fails to take stock of the inter-connectivity of … well, everything.

     What I do during the week touches my coffee shop weekends. If I spend the week in discouragement and idleness over my inability to transport my coffee shop environment to my night shifts, what sort of energy will I be passing on to the weekend? I’m pretty sure that the moment I neglect the hard, inefficient grind of the weekdays, I’ll start to fail even at the coffee shops.

     Because the writer’s home is not a room or a desk or a shop. It’s where the story is.