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Hearing the Voice of the Writer’s Muse

If you’re struggling to hear the voice of the writer’s muse, check out this “Q & A” with author and writing teacher Mark David Gerson. He wrote The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write – and here, he shares a few writing tips.

Before his tips, a quip:

“It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end.” – Ursula K. Le Guin

Click The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write for more info; it’s for writers at all levels. And, read on to learn about hearing the voice of the writer’s muse…

Hearing the Voice of the Muse: Interview With Author Mark David Gerson

What would surprise people to know about your writing process or habits?

When I’m writing fiction, I’m clueless about the story. It unfolds for me as surprisingly and in-the-moment as it does for the reader.

Is there anything that you have published that you wish you could take back or re-do?

Not really. Nothing is ever perfect when it goes to press and, frankly, nothing is ever perfectible…other than that it’s the perfect expression of the writer in the moment of its completion. It’s important to release for me to recognize that, to do my best with each work and to then release the finished (imperfect) work into the world so I can move on to whatever’s next.

Having said that, I do wish I had included something in The Voice of the Muse about how important it is for writers to be reading – anything in any genre, as long as it’s good writing.

What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Recognize that writing is an art not a science. There are no hard-and-fast rules that work every day for every project. Be flexible. Listen to the voice of your Muse. Listen to the story. Trust the story. Trust your story. The story is smarter than you are. The story always knows best. (When I speak of “story,” by the way, I’m referring to pretty much any kind of writing – poetry or prose, fiction or nonfiction.)

What prior writing experience did you have, before getting published for the first time?

Fifteen years of freelance writing (and editing), most of it full-time.

Have you taken writing courses or attended workshops?  Were they helpful?

Quite a few years back, before I was writing fiction or teaching, I took a continuing education class on writing and creativity at the University of Toronto. It was powerfully transformative, opening me up to my creative self. It was the catalyst for many things in my life, including the kind of writing I do now and the way I teach. I don’t often attend classes or workshops anymore as I learn so much from the ones I teach!

Are you a member of a writers’ group?

Not any kind of critiquing or support group or writers’ circle. But I do attend meetings of (and have spoken at) Albuquerque’s Southwest Writers.

Do you keep a journal?

Not at this time. I have kept personal journals, dream journals and writing journals at various times in the past – and they’ve all been helpful. Sometimes, though, as I discovered during a hiatus from writing The MoonQuest, they can soak up all my writing energy. I found, at that time, that I needed to stop journaling cold turkey (ouch!) and channel all my dreams, emotional upheavals, life challenges and writing time into The MoonQuest and its characters.

Did you always want to be a writer?

Not at all! All through school I hated (read: feared) writing and anything related to creativity, gravitating instead toward math, where there was always only one right answer. Quite unconsciously, I slowly found myself easing into a writing life – first by working in public relations, later by working as a freelance writer and editor. It was that University of Toronto class I mentioned earlier that changed everything. Now, I can’t imagine not writing!

How has your writing style changed during your writing career?

When you consider that my earliest writing consisted of press releases, journalistic articles and institutional writing, I’ve traveled galaxies from those days to today, where my work is more lyrical and inspirational…not to mention fictional!

What personality traits make you a successful writer?

  • The same qualities, I suppose, that I encourage my readers and workshop participants to adopt: humility, surrender, courage, trust and faith. 
  • Humility before the superior knowledge of the story and its characters and imperative. Surrender to that knowledge
    Courage in the face of all that emerges through the writing that makes me uncomfortable about myself.
  • Trust that one word will lead to the next and, ultimately, to the end of the story.
  • Faith in myself that I can do it.

What are some of the best things about writing as a career?  What’s the downside?

  • Pros: Freedom, ability to create new worlds at will, what writing teaches me about myself
  • Cons: Insecurity, others’ judgments, the need to abandon all control to let the story birth through me!

Do you have a particular writing routine?

It can vary from day to day and project to project. I prefer to write first thing in the day, which insures that I get to it. Having said that, though, first thing isn’t always my most creative time. I try to be flexible where possible.

When do you get your best ideas?

When I’m quiet, open and undistracted, when I’m doing something meditative: walking in nature, soaking in the bath, driving long distances on the highway, meditating in silence or by listening to one of the tracks of The Voice of the Muse Companion.

Do you write entirely on computer?

I wrote the first two drafts of The MoonQuest longhand (and the second draft was a massive rewrite) – largely because sitting at a desk in front of a typewriter or computer brought up all the deadline pressures of my freelance life. The Voice of the Muse was written partly longhand, partly on the computer. Now, I prefer to write on the computer but will go back to pen and paper if I’m feeling stuck.

Do you experience writers’ block?

You’ll have to read the section of The Voice of the Muse titled “The Myth of Writer’s Block”! Yes, I get stuck. But I also believe that no one ever needs to be blocked, including me. I have various things I do and look at to get a clearer idea of why I’m feeling stuck and to see what, if anything, is appropriate to get me unstuck. 

Do you consider yourself primarily a writer or do you have another career?

I lead writing/creativity workshops, coach writers and guide authors through the self-publishing process and give talks about writing and creativity. I also coach non-writers as a life/spiritual coach and do inspirational/motivational/spiritual speaking. As I wrote earlier, all these various tracks have a single goal: to help people awaken, acknowledge and express their highest potential, however that shows up for them. In addition to all that, I do some art on the side and, am pleased to say, have sold prints of many of my drawings over the years.

How do the skills you’ve developed in one field (eg, your current career, or a former job, or volunteer work, etc) help in your writing career?

I would say the reverse, that what I’ve learned about writing (humility, surrender, courage, trust and faith) have helped me in every other part of my life.

What is your educational background? Work experience?

I have no formal writing (or artistic) training. In fact, little that I’ve been successful at over the years is credentialed in any way! I have an undergraduate business degree from Concordia University in Montreal and have worked, as I said, in public relations and as a freelance publicist, writer and editor. Over the years, I’ve also driven a taxi on Maui, done food demos at Costco, worked in time share, sold art, fossils, minerals and crystals in a gallery and been an energy healer doing vocal sound healing (which I still occasionally do). 

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To learn more about Gerson, go to his blog about writing

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