Monday, June 04, 2012

Beating a Muse Into Submission...

It's late once again... I almost forgot to blog. As it goes, while tonight at the store was busier than expected, Monday looks to be even more hectic as I have four orders to place and two checks to drop off on what is supposed to be my day off. Ehhnn... What can you do? It's part and parcel of running your own business.

On a sour note, while I wanted to get some gaming groundwork done, the muse... she did notta come... I stared at a blank screen for the better part of two hours and got nothing. I hate when this happens, but I should of expected it. As I've gotten older, the ideas have turned more slippery and elusive in coming. There is one surefire way to unlock said muse, but I am loathe to rely on it, and have come to hate that it is becoming my only avenue to creativity. What is this mystical way of foo-fraw you might ask? It's simple.


Get me drunk and the ideas pour out of me... Big, bold, and most importantly, *COHERENT* ideas come splashing on the written page in easily legible handwriting. Yes, my handwriting gets better the drunker I get. I cannot explain it. I only know it to be true. I have several witnesses who can back me up on this somewhat cockamamie claim.

If it's so easy, why don't I just get blitzed and write what I feel needs to be written? Again, from my vantage point, simple...

I have an extreme fear of being an alcoholic.

My father is an alcoholic. His father was an alcoholic. I am genetically and environmentally pre-disposed to becoming an alcoholic. Back during my first stint in college, when I wasn't gaming or actually studying, I was getting completely tanked off my a**. The amount of alcohol I was consuming would scare most Marines. One of my best friends at that time was from a very-well-to-do Catholic family from the northern suburbs of Chicago. This person also came from an alcoholic background, and I can honestly say, they were a professional. This individual could drink ENTIRE FRATERNITIES under the table and still be able to make their way home without help. I hung out with this person a fair amount and tried to keep up with their alcohol consumption when I did. I have more than a few blackout stories in my past.

One of them involves a night planning for a Champions game happening two days later . I was a little wound up from something that had happened earlier that day, so I figured a drink to relax would help me out a bit. One drink eventually became about a bottle and a half of Absolut over the course of the night. When I came to the next day, there were game notes strewn about me throughout the room. Once collected, these notes made up one of the best story arcs I had ever come up with. Everything had been laid out in terms of plot, villain motivation, and world events to clue the heroes in that something was wrong and in what direction they might want to look. Major NPCs had their personalities sketched out, and many of them (over a dozen) had been fully constructed... HERO SYSTEM... BY HAND. It was an amazing bit of output from me, and one that I haven't been able to duplicate since then. I've come close at times, but I was drunk at those times as well.

That was great when I young, stupid, and single. Now, I'm married with two high school age children. My wife and I run a successful small business. I am older, wiser, more responsible, and I have ZERO desire to be a drunken fool in front of my kids. They deserve better than that. My wife deserves better than that.

So where does that leave me?

I'm still working on that... beating my head against the proverbial wall...

-- GopherDave


  1. :-) It was never my handwriting that got better as I got drunker... The line between what I think about doing and what I do goes away... I used to play darts a fair amount when I was drinking, I got REALLY good when I was fairly drunk... So, I don't hesitate and my aim gets so much better... 'course, there is that whole violence thing growing up where I did, makes the whole losing a bit of control so very dangerous... Some interesting stories from back then, but not something that I can do these days...

  2. All I can think to say is that's rough. I guess I was lucky. I don't ever remember seeing my dad take a drink of anything even slightly alcoholic. The one time I did get drunk I had one of those blackout incidents you talk about. It scared me so bad that I never took a drink again.

    Not sure what you can do about having a dry spell, inspiration wise. Sometimes it just takes the right thing to spark it. Hopefully you will find something safer as a source of ignition.


  3. Dealing with muses is a very individual affair. I can tell you only how I deal with issues similar to yours, and I can offer a few suggestions. Hopefully something will help.

    I've worked really hard to identify things that actively block inspiration. Family duties are a constant distraction, so I get up when everyone is asleep and try to get work done early in the morning. I have a tendency to daydream, so I put on music to make me more aware of the passage of time. I find lyrics will distract me, so I only listen to music that's instrumental or in a language I don't understand well. My mind is constantly producing time-wasting tasks ("look up this video on YouTube," or "look on Wikipedia to see how an air conditioner works"), so I keep a pad of paper next to me and write down all of these tasks to do later (or maybe never). When actually writing, I can never find the right word to use in a given sentence, so I keep a dictionary-style thesaurus open next to me.

    I never know when my muse will pay me a visit, so I always carry a pen and paper. When I say "always carry," I mean it. A notebook on my desk won't help me if I'm in the kitchen or out doing errands. I carry index cards in my back pocket in a little wallet from Staples that gives me a surface on which to write. My wife teases me because I never wear pants without pockets, even when lounging at home, unless I'm in bed. Even then, the paper and pen is on my nightstand. I find that writing things down changes their status in my mind. They're no longer "things to remember," just "things to think about." Then I find that they'll just simmer on the back burner and will develop without too much active work from me.

    A blank screen? I know of no more powerful repellent for my muse. I tend to make notes longhand until I have ideas fleshed out, and then I go to the computer. But typing things out feels so ... final. I feel pressured to get it right, to be eloquent, to make every argument convincing. So I commit to writing a crappy first draft. Often, my muse doesn't visit until I'm revising rather than composing. So I just write poorly on purpose. It becomes a game, almost. I still follow my notes, but try to remember that the draft I'm typing is just a way of putting my notes into an electronic prose form.

    I'll attempt to offer two suggestions to prime the pump, or even just to get crap on paper that you can revise later:

    1) Mythic Game Master Emulator can be used to create backstory:

    2) The 9Qs was designed as a solo RPG engine, but you might be able to use it also. It's derived from exercises for screenwriters. Check out the last page of the PDF for other sources of inspiration for RPGs. Solo Nexus, the blog where The 9Qs first appeared, also has a series of posts about using The 9Qs for a solo superhero adventure.

    1. Interesting thoughts, o anonymous one...

      When using alcohol, I will write things out longhand because I don't trust myself not to spill my drink on a keyboard after a certain point.

      Otherwise, I'll use the computer as a "notepad", getting down initial thoughts and refining them as things solidfy themselves in my skull. If things are not down "in the machine", I tend to lose them piece by piece, as I am not the most organized person on the planet.

      I will definitely check out the links... If nothing else, they can't hurt... =P

  4. Hi, Dave. Made my way over from HoP via WoW. Lots of good reading.
    Pertaining to your issue, I have two recommendations, both of which you've probably thought. The first comes from most writers: just write. Write whatever comes to mind, even if it starts as a grocery list, or a list of things you hate about Ewoks. Something useful might eventually tumble down the stream. The second is to find out what (besides alcohol) stimulates you. If it's conversation, talk with your wife, buddies, regulars at the store. If it's literature, read a lot (especially different genres). Watch a bunch of movies, take walks or a drive to take a look at the scenery, or drive somewhere, then walk. Best of luck.

  5. Hey Delf...

    Welcome to the "Abiding" world. Hope you enjoy your stay.

    Now, onto comments...

    As for writing, there's a problem with "just write" for me. I'm not really a writer. When I *have* to do it, I am good at the actual construction of sentences and paragraphs. I just loathe doing it as it is a chore to me.

    Why is it a chore?

    The same reason alcohol (or vicodin... or any other barbituate/opiate) helps unlock "the muse". I'm unmedicated bi-polar. I also have fairly serious heart issues, so medication to help the bi-polar isn't really an option for me. Anything that I could take screws with my heart, and I'd rather be slightly crazy than dead, so... Alcohol and/or vicodin slows down the mental static that inhabits my brain much of the time, and helps solidfy thoughts to a point for me to grasp them long enough to commit them to "paper", but I am deathly afraid of becoming addicted to anything outside of caffeine.

    Hence, my catch-22...