Not long ago, my fourth grade son’s teacher told me my child was having difficulty with writing assignments. It wasn’t that he was unable to understand the conventions of the language, nor was he lacking in vocabulary. His fluency was fine and he always found a voice, once he got started. So what was the trouble? Ideas.
This came as a surprise since this child not only took it upon himself to create a class newspaper, but also enjoys writing enough to have penned several pieces of fiction for fun. How, I wondered, could he have an issue with ideas?
As it turns out, my son was getting stuck when asked to write about a specific topic. Writing came easily when it was (pardon the pun) an open book, but having to stay within certain parameters was enough to cool his creativity to a frozen state. If ideas didn’t erupt immediately, he felt he was a terrible writer. That’s when I let him in on a secret. I asked if he would tell a friend what he tells himself during those times. After an emphatic, “No way!”, I said, “Why then, would you do this to your muse?” Being the speculative student he is, he pondered the question as I explained how harmful this is to the spirit of expression and how it can block the influx of ideas. This made sense to him…somewhat. Then it donned upon me what I really needed to say: Don’t abuse your muse!
Like a person, a muse deserves respect and patience. Negative thoughts can send one running, hiding, or at best, up a tree. Being impatient and expecting words to flow too fast will render the same result. Instead, your muse will tell you what it needs to say. It may not sound like you think it should in the beginning, but give it time. Rewriting is fine. The first step is just to get the words on paper.
With that explanation, I felt I’d made a connection. And while I have yet to see if my son took the advice to heart (no writing assignments this week) the least I’ve gained is a new motto!