There is a tiny voice inside every artist that tells us what to do with our works. “Change that line. This isn’t in character. This scene doesn’t belong here.” The more we create, the more we listen to that voice, the stronger it becomes. The easier it is to hear.
I first became aware of it when I started obsessively drawing one particular actor over and over. I started out spending two hours on a piece. By the tenth or eleventh portrait, I was spending two days. Long days. Hours spent hunched over the Bristol paper with pencils of all different graphite densities. Toward the end of the later pieces, I started to feel something new. “A few changes here and there and then… It’s done.” I had never experienced art that actually felt finished before. I knew there were parts of the piece that weren’t perfect, things that I could fix. But my muse was satisfied. It was giving me permission to move on.
With writing, I’ve started experiencing the same thing. Finding the particular moment in the story to start a piece, knowing when to introduce characters, figuring out the best order for the scenes and which to tell or leave out. It doesn’t all happen in the first draft. The editing process is still long and hard. But the more I listen to that inner voice, the better the pieces end up. I’ve learned to trust it.
When I speak of my muse now, I’m talking about my writer’s intuition. It didn’t suddenly appear one day. I educated it through a lifetime of stories. Learning from my successes and mistakes and those of others as well (sometimes the mistakes are even more enlightening). Watching as other artists broke the rules in a way that somehow worked. And always practicing, integrating the craft skills that are leaned through the curious phenomenon of osmosis.
Read and write. Read and write. As much as you can. And then, learn to trust, to listen to that tiny voice inside yourself that tells you when a piece is ready to edit, to share with your beta readers, and finally, to send out into the world.