Friday, August 7, 2015

Fiction Friday: Work Ethic vs. The Muse

When I was in New York for the RWA national conference in July, I got a chance to see two of my writing idols: Jenny Crusie and Nora Roberts. It's hard to imagine two writers whose philosophies are more different.

Jenny was my instructor in the romance writing certificate program at McDaniel College. I give her 95% of the credit for my Golden Heart win. Jenny is a firm believer in Calliope, the Muse of Writing. Well, she actually refers to her muses as The Girls in the Attic. In Jenny's view, the Girls are responsible for the inspiration that allows us to create story worlds. She says, "Whatever you do, don't get in the way of the Girls."

Jenny has published 15 books and is a legend in the romance writing world. Her books are brilliant and witty, with characters you want to hang out with far longer than the story lasts. Her most recent book came out in 2010 and she has legions of fans who are eagerly awaiting the next. She made time to meet with the McDaniel alums on Friday evening. Next to winning the Golden Heart, my favorite memory from the conference is of sitting at the hotel bar with the smartest writers I know, talking about the craft and business of writing.

I didn't get to actually meet Nora, but I did sit in on a Chat with Nora session, where everyone got to ask questions. Nora has published 250+ books over the past forty years. Growing up, she attended Catholic school and the nuns' rulers drove home the value of hard work.Although she is worth approximately $150 million dollars according to the website, The Richest, She still writes 6-8 hours a day, 6 days a week, 50 weeks a year. (She vacations the other two).

Her view of the writing muse is the polar opposite of Jenny's. Another writer once came to her husband's bookstore for a book signing and tried to engage her in a conversation on the topic.

"How do you summon your muse?" he asked.

"There is no f*cking muse," Nora replied. "You just sit there and you write until you have a book."

When my turn came to throw out a question, I asked, "Has there ever been a book you couldn't finish, one you just couldn't figure out?"

"No!" She was outraged. "If that happened, the book would win."

There's no question this approach works for her, but looking at this continuum, I'm closer to Jenny's end than Nora's.

How about you?


  1. I understand the need for discipline in order to write, but I can't imagine relying only on that. Maybe she's keeping her sources of inspiration a secret. Or maybe she's just that focused. Hmmm.

  2. Interesting. I think I need more discipline if this book is ever going to be finished so I'm going to think about Nora's ideas...wish I'd gone to the conference too!!! :)


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