Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Dwelling on Dreams

I've been rereading the Harry Potter series for the first time in a decade. It's strange to take a walk down memory lane with these books again with the views and perspectives as an adult and a writer. I'm seeing WHY so many people fell in love with them, and I'm falling in love with them all over again myself. It's reminded me why I admire and idolize J K Rowling so much. The depth of detail she created in her world, a world that's right outside our own, that we could possibly find if we stepped into a little hole-in-the-wall pub and went out the back door, or got lost of a back road and found a strange little house with a family of nine redheads, it's unbelievable that it came from one woman's head. I think I read somewhere that the Harry Potter series consists of a thousand named characters? Maybe an exaggeration or me misremembering. Many only get mentioned in passing, never to be seen again, but those little details make the books come alive. It's so developed, so rich, you can for a moment believe it's actually real.

What I wanted to get to, though, is the question of something Dumbledore says.

"It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live."

It does not do to dwell on dreams. I can understand what JK meant, but at the same time, I can question it. Our dreams can take us over, but they can also drive us onward, no matter how impossible it may be. We can use our dreams to push us towards a better reality. Where do we go without those dreams? What pushes us forward? What is the separation from dreams and ambition? Where is that line drawn?

I'm a dreamer. I always have been and always will be. Awake or asleep, my dreams drive me. By day, they push me onward, keep me writing, knowing that if I don't, I'll never be an author signing her book for eager fans. It's a dream I have held tight to ever since I was a child, and I hold to saying that in my darkest hour, it saved me. By night, they take me to distant lands with unfamiliar faces, telling me their stories that I may record them, hold them, save them for the day when their story begins on the next page. At this moment, I have fifteen different plots, some detailed, some plain, all from dreams. Even I find it strange that they're coherent enough to make a story out of, but I'm not going to look a gift muse in the mouth.

Dumbledore may be a wise old wizard with years of wisdom behind his words, but I think, in this case, I'll respect his opinion and continue to dwell on my dreams until the day I can make them a reality.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Wandering Quille

I swear, this time I'll explain the blog name. I swear it! No more getting sidetracked down memory lane!

Hey that reminds me of a time-


I couldn't tell you where we were going when it hit me. I remember being in the car for a long trip, it was nighttime. My muse returned from her first plotbunny hunt since I was aware of her return, and she brought with her a little old woman who ran a magic shop. Not a normal magic shop, but one of those you read about that "just opened down the road". They're full of weird trinkets and geegaws and gadgets, and the hero always leaves with something. They can try and return it, but the shop will be gone, with no sign it was ever there. This story my muse found, the hero was the shopkeeper, because we never see the story from their point of view. It wondered what happened if something went missing that wasn't supposed to, if the wrong person took the wrong item. How damaging would the fallout be, and how far would the little old woman who ran the place go to right the wrongs?

And thus was born Miranda Quail and the Wandering Quille. For a shop that specialized in making stories, I thought The Wandering Quille was a good name. And when I needed a name for a blog to focus on my writing, what better name was there? The Wandering Quille is the first story at a now long list of plots waiting to be written. It's where it all began again. Not to mention that my quill does indeed wander. I've been trying to make this post for the past three blog posts! The mind wanders and rambles, and the quill goes with it. We have no idea where we'll end up, but it'll certainly be interesting. After all, books are about the journey, aren't they? People always ask "Why didn't the eagles just fly the ring into Mordor?" Because then there's no journey, and if there's no journey, there's no story (well, there are also the countless in-story reasons for why the eagles didn't do more, but this article isn't about my love of Lord of the Rings trivia).

So that's the story of the Wandering Quille. It's a magic shop, it's a rambling blog, and one of these days I'll get around to writing more of both.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Finding a Lost Muse

Muses are strange creatures. They have no physical form. For most people, they don't exist outside of their head. For some people, they take the form of characters from shows or books that they admire and strive to be like. For others, it's the form of real people or creatures with whom interaction makes ideas take shape. These muses are just in our head, but you will never, ever hear me say that they aren't real. If you ignore them, they will leave you to find someone who will give them the attention they need. I said in my last post that I stopped writing for six years. At the beginning of that time, when I left for college and put away the "childish things", I also put away all of the sources my muses at the time came from. I stopped watching the shows and reading the books that inspired me. I lost touch with my muses completely, and they left me when I wasn't looking. I thought I could just come back and they'd still be there, waiting, but when I finally did, my mind was... silent. Abandoned. Empty, with only a few scattered and crumpled papers left in the corners.

I said that I told my little begging story "All that remains is the memories of who I was then. Unless that can be my muse, I'm finished." That's really not far from the truth. I sat and wondered if it was possible for me, or rather, the persona I had created for myself as a writer, to be my own muse. It was the only thing I still had that was entirely mine, the only thing that I could possibly make a muse out of. It seemed crazy. I should just give up. I was talking nonsense. The side of me that was a writer six years before was gone, and the thought of muses, of needing an imaginary friend to help you create, was just the idea of a seventeen year old with her head in the clouds. Adults didn't think that way. I went on with my life. But something was awake with that thought, and it wasn't going to give up without a fight.

A few days later, I had my first idea for a new novel since I had stopped writing. It was a dream, one that told a strangly coherent story, one that I remembered completely when I woke up. I hadn't remembered my dreams in years. It took over my mind. I spent the next few days jotting down notes, learning about these characters and this strange place I had seen in my dream. There was no doubt in my mind that the "silly thoughts" I had put to myself and brushed aside set something in motion. It was the only explanation. So what if it's not the "adult" way to think, if I'm pulling the childish things back out and holding them close? I put away the childish things and almost lost everything.

Maybe it's silly to think of it as if there's an imaginary friend finding little lost stories and bringing them back to me to make a home for them, but I no longer care, because I now know I'm not wrong, and I'm not alone. Neil Gaiman (American Gods, Good Omens) once told a fan who said they wanted to be an author when they grew up, "Growing up is highly overrated. Just be an author." A chapter in Ray Bradbury's Zen in the Art of Writing is titled "How To Keep and Feed a Muse". There's something incredibly uplifting about realizing the people you idolize, the people that you want to one day join the ranks of, feel the same way you do. It tells you that you're on the right path. Is it the only path to get there? Never, but it's the one I want to be on.

So, do I still think I'm silly and childish for keeping a muse? Without a doubt. The difference is, I'm okay with it now. The change since that day has been undeniable. I need my muse just as much as she needs me. I give her a head to live in, and she fills it with people and places and things and ideas. She exists because I need her to. And you can guarantee, I'm not going to lose her again.

Friday, February 8, 2013

A Brief History of Maggie Maxwell

You would think, wouldn't you, that as a writer making a writing blog, I'd know what to say for my first post. Writers block on page one. This bodes well, doesn't it?

So, I guess I'll start with a bit about me. While we're here, you all can call me Maggie, or Maxwell, or M, or "that crazy chick". I'll answer to pretty much anything. I'm not picky. I'm mid-20s, and my entire life, I have wanted nothing more than to be a writer. When I was in kindergarten, I was the first kid in my class to learn to read, and I promptly fell in love with books. When I was in 2nd grade, I came upon the revelation that I could make up stories of my own and write them down. From that moment on, my head was filled with stories, with people who didn't exist, objects that defied the laws of physics, and places most fantastic. The rest of my childhood and all of my teenage years, I read, and I wrote. I made friends who wrote and built myself a community.

You know that old bible verse, "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things"? I fell for that. I believed the people telling me "I know you love to write, but study something that will get you a job." I listened to everyone who told me "Writing won't pay the bills. Get a day job." I faded away from my writing friends. I went into a computing field when I left for college. I told myself I'd keep writing like I had in high school, during class, so I could have time for a social life outside of school. But class didn't allow time to write like high school had, and the social life took over my time afterwards that wasn't devoted to homework. When I walked across the stage and took my diploma, I was a college graduate, top of my major, a bright future in computing ahead of me. What I was not anymore was a writer.

Two years passed, and it had been six since I put pen to paper. All of the things I had written were archived on my computer, or packed in boxes. I had put the childish things away. I was... broken. At 24, I had already fallen into the cycle of "work, eat, watch TV, sleep, repeat until retirement". And yet, tucked away in one little corner of the internet, a story written long ago sent whispers to my ear, whispers of long-abandoned "glories" and the smallest modecum of success as readers somehow continued to find it, review it, thank me for writing it.  In the recesses of my mind, a single surviving story stirred and begged me to come back to it, to finish it.

"But I can't," I said. "My muses have left me. All that remains is the memories of who I was then. Unless that can be my muse, I'm finished."

And somewhere in my mind, those memories hit me with a sledgehammer, called me a dumbass, and told me to sit down and write.

So I did. It was...pathetic. I got two pages written, and they were terrible. I put it aside again and went back to the routine. The muse was back, though, and she was not going to let me push her aside again. A few months later, I signed up for my first NaNoWriMo and did that little begging survivor justice.

It's been two years and three NaNos since then, and they've been good to me. I made new writing buddies, one of whom has become my biggest supporter and one of my best friends. My second NaNo, I wrote "the end" for the first time ever. I have written well over 200 full pages of stories, and it feels amazing. That which was broken is mended. The stories still beg to be told, but it's not just one anymore. My head is filled with people that don't exist, objects that defy the laws of physics, and places most fantastic. And I have never been happier.

Well, I was GOING to talk about the blog, but I suppose I've given you all enough of a novel for the first post. I'll save that stuff for post two.

Oh yeah, and if you need a tip on getting through writers block, just write. The above is what happens when you do.