I had a journey ‘down-under’ that taught me something critical about being a writer, and how to improve my writing exponentially – I’ll share that with you in a minute. But first, let’s look at how I found my muse in Australia.
The best recipe to rouse my muse is travel and reading the right book on a trip. What’s yours?
In Fremantle I saw the Indian Ocean for the first time. It was breath-taking and energizing. The history of the prisoners of The Round Housemoved me to wonder about their lives – many of those lives lost on that shore. What stories were lost with them?
With muse aroused, I wrote all night –my husband’s used to it.
In Sydney I fell in love with the Rocks and walked the fragrant Botanical Gardens, visited the museum, and bought a novel, The Lieutenant by Australian author, Kate Granville, and delved further into Australia’s history through her fictionalized accounts. While my husband –dressed in a grey jump suit and tied to other people like a chain gang – clambered up the Sydney Bridge Climb (because he’s a crazy person), I climbed to the Sydney Observatory, sat on a hill overlooking the harbor and read about a star-gazing lieutenant in the 1700’s who found himself in a strange land and a forbidden love. I sat where that story may have taken place and entered his world through Ms. Granville’s words. At that point my muse was drunk on inspiration.
We then traveled to London. With my husband visiting war museums, I spent a week in art museums and writing. My novel for that leg of the trip was Debra Dean’s The Madonnas of Leningrad. While in the National Gallery (3 days in a row) I felt Dean’s rich descriptions of paintings and war come to life in a city immersed in war, history and art. With my creativity sparked to life, surrounded by the museum café’s black lacquered walls, and LOTS of tea and biscuits, I wrote like crazy. Don’t you love those days?
On that journey I committed to stay connected to my muse, learn to deepen my characters and add more life to my story worlds. One of the main things I realized is how vital it is for writers to experience other books – reading is critical to writing – and to take note on what those works evoke. When I read I want to feel submerged in that story world – transported to another time, another way of thinking, being, loving and existing. Though I love to travel, I believe there is no greater adventure than one taken with a good book as your guide and your imagination to provide a vivid landscape.
And every time I read a great novel I grow more determined to write better. What I learned while traveling that changed my writing exponentially is now my new creed:
To improve writing, read novels from different genres, different countries, and different cultures. When one tickles your muse, pay attention to why. Study that book and recommit to improving your writing. And then pass it on to other writers like the bearer of an Olympic torch – keep the creative energy flowing –it keeps your writing pencil sharp, and you in touch with your muse.
Resolute in my intention to stay connected to my muse and enrich my writing, in 2014 I’ll be talking with successful authors –you know, sitting at the feet of the masters – getting them on video, and sharing their answers with others. Passing the torch: because when I teach, I learn.
One such torch bearer is Gloria Kempton, writer, author, writing coach, editor, mentor and now, prison volunteer. Her quest for inspiration – muse – took her behind bars where many stories are haunting and as lost as the ones I wondered about on the shores of Fremantle. Gloria has found her muse and is as on fire as a Pentecostal preacher about her prison writing groups and what she’s learned from them. Thankfully she’s written a book, The Outlaw’s Journey that will help you find your muse in a way never thought possible. Thanks for reading, and best of luck in finding your muse.
Mindy Halleck is a Pacific Northwest author, blogger and writing instructor. Her short story, The Sound of Rain, which placed in the Writer’s Digest Literary Contest blossomed into her debut novel Return to Sender published by Booktrope Books in 2014. Halleck blogs at Literary Liaisons and is an active member of the Pacific Northwest writing community. In addition to being a writer, Halleck is a happily married, globe-trotting beachcomber, antiquer, gardener, proud grandma, and three-time cancer survivor. www.MindyHalleck.com