Elise Walks Through

How To Think Sideways Walkthrough Blog

Week Three – Bringing Down Lightning and the Muse

Well, this has been interesting. As everyone who is doing the walkthrough with Holly knows, the week three lesson (which is actually being done every two weeks, so it’s week six if you’re a stickler for accuracy), is to learn techniques for “calling down lightning” or coming up with ideas on demand. You use your Sweet Spot Map to help you come up with these ideas.

An additional task that’s a technique in getting comfortable with this process is to personify your muse. You’re supposed to develop a picture or use a totem of sorts (say, if your muse happens to be a stuffed animal you already own) to encourage you to communicate with the right-brain side of yourself.

Holly was right when she said some of us skipped this step when we did the class initially. Those of us who are left-brain dominant thought it was silly. I don’t need a cutesy animal or anything to help me get in touch with my muse. During the walkthrough, Holly encouraged us to do it anyway and set up a separate topic for us to post pictures of our muse. In case you missed mine, which I’m not sure how you could have since the only way to find this blog is through the walkthrough links, here she is:

Purple fairy surrounded by butterflies

My Muse

Now, there are a couple of interesting things here. The first is that I thought of a fairy. Fairies belong to fairy tales, happily ever afters, and childish things. Anyone who knows me in my “normal” life would not be thinking fairy when they think of me. They’d be thinking computers and maybe church and a very practical person. But there was no doubt in my mind that my muse was a fairy. And she had to be flying, flitting around like Tinkerbell. She’s not the slow, deliberate, thoughtful person that my “Me” is at all.

The other interesting thing (to me, anyway) is that she likes purple. I tend to think that my favorite color is blue, with yellow as a close second. But as I looked at pictures of fairies, I kept coming back to this one and only secondarily gravitating toward the blue ones. I realized this is not the first time my muse has expressed a preference for purple. Back six or seven years ago when I was writing a seaside mystery, an important part of that process was a pair of earrings that I’d bought on Long Island. They were seagulls made from clam shells and were definitely purple. I kept thinking that I’d have to find a nice purple blouse or dress to wear with them on my (imaginary) book tour.

One of the most important lessons from How To Think Sideways is to let your muse speak to you. You have to make your left brain stop throwing up objections like “I can’t have a purple fairy for a muse. My favorite color is blue!” Well, my “Me” might like blue, but my muse doesn’t. She not only likes purple, she likes lots of bright colors. She likes yellow and pink and bright green. She has a whole different perspective on the world. My “Me” insists on writing in black ink only. My muse keeps wanting to write in colors.

Okay, so on to the the Calling Down Lightning part of the lesson. I’ve been sulking over this for pretty much the whole first week. I looked at my Sweet Spot Map after viewing the walkthrough video and pretty much said, “So how am I going to come up with neat story ideas from this stuff?” Besides, my muse has been busily tossing ideas at me for a few minutes a day on the fantasy novel I’ve already decided to write.

It’s only a few minutes because the only time I seem to have to listen to Esmeralda (and I’m not sure I like that name, but that’s the one my muse is using, so I guess I have to listen to that, too) is the few minutes between after the coffee has started to take hold and before I have to get ready for work. It’s annoying, it is. I start my day by writing in my journal as I sip my first cup of coffee. I got started on journaling, or writing Morning Pages,  years ago when I took a class based on Julia Cameron’s book “The Artist’s Way.” It’s a very strong habit and I genuinely miss it when I don’t journal for a few days. Anyway, as I’m drinking my coffee and writing whatever pops into my head each day, eventually Esmeralda starts throwing out ideas. If I’m lucky. It helps to read a writing craft book as I eat my breakfast as well because all kinds of good stuff is inspired by suggestions in those books. Lately I’ve been reading “Goal, Motivation, And Conflict” by Debra Dixon. I’ve read it before, but I need constant reminders on the way to write a good novel.

Okay, so it’s week two on this lesson and I don’t want to fall behind in this class, so I watched the walkthrough video again this morning to get in the right frame of mind to try this assignment. I did have one idea that came at me during the week. This was “horses.” I can’t remember whether it was the same day or the next day, but that evolved into “circus ponies.” I guess this was my equivalent of “rabbits.”

I wasn’t sure what I was going to do to keep on track with the assignments. It was also on my mind that I’ve started Holly’s Create a Culture Clinic. You see, this fantasy novel has at least four, if not five, cultures, two of which are alien. I’ve never created an alien culture before, so I decided I needed some help with that. I’ve barely started work on the clinic and had only done the first exercise, which is describing a culture you know. The next part was writing a short story about this culture. Sheesh! More ideas? And a short story? I don’t write short stories!

So I “cheated.” I decided that for one of my Calling Down Lightning ideas, I would set as the task the short story from the Create a Culture Clinic. The other two could be any genre, any length.

Then the dryer stopped tumbling so I left my office and took the basket of laundry into my bedroom to fold. And the most amazing thing happened as I was folding laundry. Esmeralda just wouldn’t shut up! I got the clinic story, I got the circus ponies story, and I got something I hadn’t even thought of yet from just passing by a painting hanging on the wall of my living room.

Now, I’ve been pelted with ideas by my muse before, but this was a clear example of how Holly’s techniques work and I’d just proven to myself that they do. So I’m feeling very satisfied with myself and happy that it worked out this way. I can’t wait for the next step.

May 14, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment