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Guest Post

WRITING WITHOUT THE MUSE

Years ago, I took a fiction writing class with author and teacher, Joyce Thompson at Lewis and Clark College here in Portland, Oregon.  On the first day of class, the twelve of us settled around a big table, eager to begin.  Joyce introduced herself and then proceeded to take a deck of cards from her briefcase.  She passed a card to each of us.  They were Tarot cards.  She said, “Take a good look at your card, see what the image brings up for you, then write something.  You’ve got twenty minutes.”  Most of us sat there looking dumbfounded.  Write something?  About what?

At the end of allotted our twenty minutes, a few of us had managed to write a page, others a paragraph or sentence or two.  We took turns reading aloud what we had come up with.

The following week, Joyce began the class by saying, “I’m going to give you three words.  They are:  Ring.  Unhappy.  Winter.  Write something using these words.  You have fifteen minutes.”

On the third week, we gathered again at the table.  She said, “Today, I will give nothing.  No Tarot card, no words, no prompts.  You have ten minutes.  Write something.”

Again, we went at it.  At the end of this exercise, she explained that the purpose of these assignments was simple.  They were designed to get us to the point of being able to sit down at anytime, anywhere and write something without waiting for inspiration, the right mood, or the Muse to drop by.  “You must learn to write spontaneously, without preconceived ideas, without hesitation.  When you have mastered the ability to do this, you will become a writer.”

While many years have gone by, I have never forgotten this experience. She was right.  To be able to sit down, pull up a chair and start writing is the ticket.