Thursday, September 16, 2021

We Are Not A-muse-d

 by Abir

Do you have a muse? Or a happy place that gives you inspiration? An ideal reader, perhaps. What gets you inspired to write?

Interesting question this week.


I’ve always thought of muses as something that poets, playwrights and painters have. A beautiful, vivacious creature who breathes life into the soul of the flinty, shrivelled up husk of an artiste. Crime fiction writers – now we’re cut from a different stone; granite or maybe obsidian. We’re tough, no-nonsense types. We like our drinks neat and our crosswords cryptic. Our creativity comes not from the spark of another individual, but from the wellspring within (and sometimes from prescription meds from the drug store). And indeed who actually want to be a muse to a crime writer? Can there be anything worse than being the muse to a bunch of semi-literate drunks, inspiring them to greater, more gruesome and more ingenious ways of murdering people in novels? I think not.


Alas, I do not have a muse, which is just as well because I couldn’t afford one anyway. If I were to have a muse, they’d be an unpaid intern and have to work part time as an au pair for the kids. I’ve could try advertising the position: 


but since Brexit, when all the hard-working foreigners left, it’s been difficult enough to find a competent plumber round here let alone an intellectual inspiration/domestic help, so it’s probably a forlorn hope.


Moving swiftly on. Do I have a happy place that gives me inspiration? I think I’ve mentioned it before, but I seem to have all my best ideas while sitting in the sauna at the gym. Only the sauna, mind; not the steam room. I don’t know what it is about the sauna. Maybe it’s the dry heat, or the temperature being just right (I find the steam room less than conducive to creativity as it’s so hot in there, that after three minutes my shorts feel like they’re on fire). I’m not even joking about this. Ideas and plot twists do come to me in the sauna. Alas, I haven’t been in a sauna since before lockdown so don’t expect any good ideas from me before I renew my gym membership.


On a more mundane note, I prefer to write where there’s light. Up in the top floor of our house, in our loft conversion suits me best. I don’t know why that should be, but light tends to help my creativity. I’ve tried working in the basement but it’s not the same, and besides there are spiders down there, some as large as a small dog.


Do I have an ideal reader? Well yes, in the sense that my ideal reader buys everything I’ve ever written – in hardback, paperback, e book and audio – but in the sense of: do I write for a particular person – then no. My wife is my first reader, but I don’t write the books for her. I guess I write them for me. Isn’t that what all writers do? We are, after all, just a bunch of egotistical maniacs.


So what is my inspiration to write? I guess I have to agree with my learned colleague Mr. Jim Ziskin – it’s just an urge to put pen to paper; to make sense of the narrative that flows within my head, sometimes rushing like a damn deluge, at other times little more than a trickle, but always there, whispering. Sometimes it’s just a particular line or phrase, half of which I’ll forget before I even reach for a pen to write them down; at other times it’s grand ideas: the scope of whole novels, stretching like a landscape painting before me. I’ll do my best to sketch the details of these grand visions but what I note down are always pale imitations of what I saw in my head.


I’ve never suffered from writers block. What I have suffered from is nerves; a lack of self-belief; a fear that I was not - am not – up to the task of writing. Those black moods can last days. When they come on, I find the best thing to do is not to fight them. I just try and do other stuff (and believe me, there’s always other stuff - a mountain of it that I’ve been too lazy to do – like paying bills, responding to e mails and writing this blog). Maybe I’m just kidding myself and it’s all just procrastination, but sooner or later, the clouds will lift and I’ll be able to write again, doing what I love, and what I’m lucky enough to do for a living. 


And that’s how I see writing. It’s a job: one that can be incredibly frustrating at times and incredibly rewarding at others. Crime fiction writers on the whole, are, I think, not the type to be precious about what we do. We just get on with it. We don't need muses, and while I suppose a muse would be nice, an au pair or a housekeeper would be better.

1 comment:

James W. Ziskin said...

I love your posts and your books, Abir. And thanks for the “learned” comment. I’ll take it.