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Five Great Quotations about Writer’s Block

Rather than wait for muse, face fear head on

Ah, the Download muse – that wonderful angel-like being who whispers the words of a great poem or novel into your ear, or that celestial cherub who shoots you with an arrow whose tip has been dipped into a formula of creativity. Such are just a couple of many fanciful notions that imbue our culture when we think of the writer’s great friend, the muse.

But I’d like to offer a more modern interpretation of the muse, one for the 21st century, an era based in science and rationalism. This metaphor says that the muse really is a parent figure, one who escorts us through our most frightening moments, protecting us all the while.

You see, fear is what prevents each of us from writing. Fear that what we’ll write won’t be any good. Fear that no one will understand or appreciate what we’ve written. Fear that no one will be interested in or ever buy our book. Fear is the root cause of writer’s block and often is the reason we stop writing or don’t bother to publish.

The muse, however, magically frees us of our fear, if only momentarily. The muse, however, doesn’t fully relieve us of fear’s manifestation – self-doubt – for when we say the muse helps us, we admit that we’re incapable of writing with such eloquence and quickness. In that sense, we remain a child…and the muse is the parent who provides the safety net and quick fix at the edges that allows our finished manuscript to be spectacular.

Fear is natural, especially when allowing ourselves to be exposed so nakedly to the rest of the world (or even to ourselves, as writing often is self-discovery). Not surprisingly, writers fearful that they lack talent rely on the myth of the muse – or of “inspiration,” for that matter – as the rationale for their successful work.

If we are to actually write and even publish, then we have to overcome this fear. Rather than wait for some moment to click that we can falsely attribute to a muse, why not face fear head on? Like the baby taking that first step, we may stumble several times before getting it. We even may need to initially hold onto the sofa to balance ourselves. But each time we do, we increasingly overcome our fear of falling and become excellent walkers until we no longer need the encouragement or hand of a parent…or of the muse.

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