Last summer at the SCBWI Conference in Los Angeles, Laurie Halse Anderson gave a fantastic keynote speech in which she said we should treat our Muse like a small child. "You wouldn't beat up a small child for not writing a thousand words a day, would you?" she asked. "So why are you doing that to your Muse?"
I've been thinking a lot about this comparison since I started doing The Artist's Way two weeks ago. For the last couple of years, no one could say that I wasn't a diligent writer. I wrote or revised nearly every day. I met my writing goals. I made every single one of my deadlines, whether internal or external.
But what I've realized that although I was writing - although I was doing what I love - I completely neglected my Muse.
I never let the poor girl have any fun. I chained her to a desk in a windowless room and fed her only bread and water (and maybe gruel if she wrote a thousand words every day for a week). I ordered her to "BE PRODUCTIVE!" and then I slammed the door shut and left her in the dark.
When I did The Artist's Way the first time around five years ago, one of the things I really reveled in was being given permission to play. Sure, writing a thousand words a day is a wonderful way to serve our artist. But so is taking an afternoon off from writing to paint. Or writing one hour less a day to take a long walk. Or spending a Saturday cutting up magazines and creating a collage. All of these things are just as productive as writing because they are filling the Well. One of the things I've forgotten in the last couple of years is that writing is not the only way to fill the Well.
Now that I'm immersing myself in The Artist's Way, I'm realizing how depleted my Well is. That thing is dried up, my friends. And my poor little Muse is leaning over the edge of it, peering inside, trying to find a drop to quench her immeasurable thirst.
So I'm giving myself permission to play again. And I challenge all of you out there to do the same. Even if you're on a deadline. Take an hour to paint, draw, collage. Take a half-hour and go for a walk. Take fifteen minutes and sit outside and watch the clouds. Take five minutes and listen to your favorite song. Keep your Well filled. And let your Muse dance in the sunshine.