The Care and Feeding of a Muse (a guest blog)
Three years ago, I was at the end of a multi-book contract. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write next. I only knew I wanted to write something different. I didn’t feel lost; I felt blank. My muse was restless. If I wasn’t going to write another book immediately, I needed a plan.
My dear friend, author and radio host Michelle Phillips, says: “When you don’t know what to do, go serve someone else.” I took her advice, and decided to serve young adults who dreamed of becoming working writers. Working with a public middle school in Atlanta, I founded a Young Authors program. My goal was to teach them everything I knew about writing. (After that first class, I’d have to wing it.)
Walking into middle school for our first meeting, I felt slightly nauseas. Middle school was not a season of my life I wanted to revisit. Yet here I was, about to enter that world again. I feared I still wouldn’t be cool. I feared the kids would dismiss everything I said. Or worse, that I wouldn’t say the right thing at all.
Within five minutes, I realized that they were far less interested in what I had to say, than in my willingness to listen. I ditched my lesson plan and followed their lead.
Now, every week, I listen to their stories. I listen to their dreams and nightmares. I get to be the adult who says, “There is beauty and power and truth in your story. No one can tell it but you. Ignore the critics. Ignore the bullies. Tell the world what you see.” What an incredible privilege. And my muse? She’s never happier than when a kid dares to read a deeply personal tale. Witnessing an act of courage is powerful stuff.
I don’t worry about whether any of these kids will go on to write professionally. I am sinking an anchor deep into their souls, so that when life’s storms hit, and they are pushed off course, something deep within will draw them home. They will remember who they are, and they will remember that truth is a powerful ally. Most of all, they will remember that their stories and their dreams, they matter.
To all of us.
Ginger Garrett is the author of numerous novels that explore the lives of historical women (including Reign, Desired, Chosen, Wolves Among Us, and In the Arms of Immortals) as well as several nonfiction books. Ginger also frequently works on TV and radio, when not busy teaching writing, chasing her dogs, and corralling her three children. She is widely recognized as being one of CBA’s best writers, and MacGregor Literary is proud to represent her work.
When you don’t know what to do , go serve someone else. – I love this advice! May I remember it.
Excellent post, Ginger! This paragraph applies to millions of adults too who never had someone listen to, or encourage them, when they were children. It’s a vital service you offer those children that will affect many of them for the rest of their lives:
Now, every week, I listen to their stories. I listen to their dreams and nightmares. I get to be the adult who says, “There is beauty and power and truth in your story. No one can tell it but you. Ignore the critics. Ignore the bullies. Tell the world what you see.” What an incredible privilege. And my muse? She’s never happier than when a kid dares to read a deeply personal tale. Witnessing an act of courage is powerful stuff. – See more at: http://www.chipmacgregor.com/blog/deep-thoughts/the-care-and-feeding-of-a-muse-a-guest-blog/#disqus_thread
Wow. I was so moved by your story. Your willingness to listen and encourage them will have a positive effect in their lives for years to come. You expressed the experience beautifully. Thank you for sharing this.
Inspiring. Thanks, Ginger.
Brilliant as usual, Ginger. Thanks for coming onto the blog to share your thoughts. Really appreciate every time I get to read your work.
Love your thoughts here today, Ginger. Thanks for sharing! And wow, going back to middle school is one of my greatest fears. You are one brave woman! 😉
Thank you, Ms. Garrett. There’s nothing like getting outside our Hobbit holes to start fresh ideas flowing!
You are so right!
Ginger, that’s a beautiful story and speaks to me on several levels……just because the Muse is silent, you don’t quit; you redirect your efforts in service to others. You reach those outside of your comfort zone, even at the risk of feeling nauseous or awkward. In other words, you pushed through your discomfort, because your recipients were worthy of your time; you put others before yourself. You were able to cheer others on in the field of your expertise and to encourage them to exercise their gifts. Although you didn’t say it, I suspect that your Muse might prompt you to write about this experience in depth, just as you are now! Thanks for these encouraging insights!
Lynn, you expressed that beautifully, too. And you know what? You are so right about the book for them…another post is probably forthcoming on that one. XO!
I knew it! Think of all those whom you’ll help!
What a great thing to do, Ginger! I once had the opportunity to work with middle schoolers in drama. What I discovered is they were there because they wanted to be, not because their parents made them come. They were excited and enthusiastic and renewed my passion for drama in the church.
Yeah, middle schoolers are the coolest. Kids. Ever. Love that age. And love you, Ane…so happy to hear you are well on your way to making publishing history! 🙂
What a great way to both use your gifts and serve others.
Thanks Robin! It is the highlight of my week.
Listening is a powerful thing. I find people extremely open when they know someone is really willing to HEAR what they have to say. So glad you have the opportunity to do that and those kids have you to do it with them.
Connie, you’re right. I wish I could become a master-listener. It’s not my best skill set…but these kids make it worth it.
That’s awesome, Ginger. That’s what stories are for, more than anything.
You’re right. If anything, these kids brought me back to the truth about stories: we need them. All of them. And we need to stop being afraid of not telling it brilliantly. We just need to tell it.
I agree. The hard part is convincing the bean-counters.