Friday, August 21, 2009

Where's Janet?

Earlier this week someone commenting on Prairie Chicks asked: “How long before Janet will be back online?” Yes, my Janet-deprivation quotient has been seriously rising, too. Seems so long since she posted the Nova Scotia picture and bid us adieu. As the U-Haul pulled away, she assured us there would be only five Fridays before she would post another blog herself. ONLY! And how many sleeps is that, anyway?

We have missed Janet’s unique voice on Fridays. In a couple of weeks, though, we will welcome her back with open arms, if not to the actual prairies, certainly to the Virtual Prairie.

Today it is my turn to do a Friday post. My title laments Janet’s absence from these parts. It fits the mood of that close-to-end-of-August syndrome, when vacations are nearly over, when Karyn shops for school supplies along with all the other millions of mothers, and for some oddball reason I am reminded of the Waldo books. The pages are crowded with images that tantalise us, making it difficult to find Waldo behind, under, or in between them. Wish I could find Janet.

In a fit of whimsy, I went looking for her. First, I googled her name. Google didn’t believe that I wanted to search “Janet” but gave me results when I insisted. Well, there sure are a lot of Janets in Google’s world. But I wasn’t looking for the most famous Janet in the world ... Jackson (apparently). Came up first. Ignored her. Then some images of a number of Janets and a video from youtube that probably wouldn’t meet the Prairie Chick standard of decency, so no links. Didn't look at them. Sorry.

I discovered a site called JANET, a reputable site linking all the educational and research institutions in the UK. It started out as JA.NET, a contraction of Joint Academic and network. A reference to SuperJANET. Now maybe I’m getting somewhere. But, no. We know our Janet’s a super writer, a super person, but obviously this is a slightly different realm.

I searched her blogging name, “Janet C.” (You can probably guess how many Janets have the middle initial C.) You’re wondering why I didn’t smarten up and use something to do with writing. I put in “Janet’s Muse” ...

“But you won’t find her there, you know.” I heard a plaintive voice.

“Who’s there?”

“I’m Janet’s Muse, and you won’t find her, because she’s gone.” Oh, dear. I thought she might start crying. (I knew how she felt.)

“Maybe I’ll never see her again.” Sounding even sadder.

“Now, now. Don’t worry. This is just temporary while she .....”

“See, I told you.” I didn’t recognise the intruding voice.

“Oh, shut up, EE. You’re no help at all. Never were, always getting in my way.”

“Is that you, Evil Editor?” Actually, I’ve always wanted to meet him. Janet thinks he’s pretty ruthless. I need ruthless. “Listen, I was trying to reassure Muse. Maybe Janet isn’t working on her draft after all. Holidays can be like that. Especially when you start out as tired as she did after all that packing.”

Muse is pretty sensitive, and not nearly as confident as EE. I turned my attention back to her.

“Muse, I’m sure that when Janet is relocated, she will be needing you. Yes, yes, EE. She will need you, too. You of all ... um, people? ... should know that.”

“But, it was awful watching her drive away, with that little wave ... I thought she was waving goodbye to me, but maybe it was the house, or the neighbours.”

“Give me a break. What a drama queen.”

“EE, don’t be rude.” I didn’t think that Janet would mind if I tried to keep some order.

“Muse, don’t worry if the summer isn’t going quite as you expected. I understand that you thought you’d be sitting on her shoulder the whole time. Think of it. Right now she’s on a road trip across the country, visiting relatives and relaxing, having fun, and she won’t even be thinking about writing ... much. But when she unpacks, she’ll be ready to hit the keyboard, and then she’ll call you. I’d bet the farm on it.”

“Do you really think so? That makes me feel so much better.”

“EE, a little advice. Now, don’t get your nose out of joint, but you know Janet will start with a blank screen. Wait your turn. And please don’t interfere with Muse. Sorry, it’s just that Janet has told me that sometimes you butt in before you should. She’ll let you know when she needs you. Try not to distract her while she’s getting all those fresh new ideas down. Promise me? And Muse, please cheer up!”

“Okay. If you say so.” They spoke in unison. Then they were gone. Maybe Janet called them.


Fact is, I also searched for “writer’s muse” and came up with a few neat sites that I hope you find useful.

For an article entitled, “7 Writing Muse Kickers to Fill Up That Blank Page,” go to a site oddly named language is a virus.

Another article on the topic is found at How to Call in Your Writing Muse.

I also found a blog called Inspired Writing.

Finally, there is a book called The Muse on Writing which purports to be a “helpful reference guide” and covers information for all genres and writers. At the site you will find a complete table of contents, each segment authored by different people, and an excerpt from the first chapter, with details for purchase. Look for it here.

Coming in September: Return of Janet. Hooray!


Jana Richards said...

Hi Helena,
Yes, I think we all desperately miss Janet. But thanks for speaking to Muse and EE. Seems like old times.

Thanks for the links. I'll check them out when I'm not at work (don't tell anybody I'm reading the blog when I'm supposed to be working). I ran across a blog post recently (sorry I can't remember where, but it was a fellow author from The Wild Rose Press). Anyway, her question was whether following your writing muse is an excuse not to write. As in, "My muse is not cooperating today. I can't write." Most of the commentors said you can't wait for your Muse to get with the program. You have to go with the BICFOK program: Butt in chair, fingers on keyboard. Writing is a creative venture but it's also a job and business. It's not like I could say I'm not in the mood to do my day job. But then, I am on the blog, not exactly killing myself today...


Edna said...

What vacation? I am always on vacation since I am retired, and I love to stay at home. This is my retreat where I can do something or just sit here and look at the walls. I enjoy reading the blogs you good people write and also enjoy the books that you write, so may God bless untill I meet you in the written pages of a good book.


Ban said...

I'm sure Janet will love to read this ... cheered me up a bit :)

Helena said...

Hi, Jana,
I am also a firm believer in the BICFOK program (altho, have you ever said that acronym out loud? Almost obscene, wouldn't you say?)

I think the reason most writers I know recommend that you sit down regularly and write something, anything, is that somehow the active part of writing stimulates the creative part. Sooner or later the drivel or nonsense that we scribble in such a situation leads to something more thoughtful and worthwhile.

It's possible that some writers make a scapegoat of their muse for something that is entirely of their own making. My concept of the muse in writing is that it is an inextricable part of the creative process -- could be the part of the mind that triggers the inspiration for the story, poem, etc, that is being created, or it may be the other half in the inner dialogue that is going on as we spin our plots, create characters, and devise scenes.

That some 'creative' writers make their muse an independent creature (which I bought into completely for the purposes of my post today!) is probably just an attempt to rationalise the process. It is quite nebulous, if you think about it, otherwise we would not say things like: "my story just wrote itself" or "my characters do the most unexpected things."

Now if the author you referred to is talking about musing, as in ponder, reflect, activities which could verge on daydreaming (not entirely useless when you are spinning tales) she may have a point that it could prevent the act of getting words on pages (or screens). I was wondering as I wrote my little fantasy encounter with Muse and EE if it wasn't based on a complete fallacy, because who says that the muse isn't at work long before the words hit the page. It was such a convenient ploy to strictly divide the process into two distinct stages, and to assign the muse to the actual writing down of ideas.

Going back to my first attempt at a definition then, Muse should definitely be on Janet's shoulder while she is on the road thinking about the story she hoped to finish by the end of the summer, even if her fingers are not on the keyboard. (Janet, when you read this, I wondered if you write (either longhand or type) in a moving vehicle.)

You raised good points, Jana.

Helena said...

Good for you, Edna. I am retired, too, and I love it that my 'vacation' just keeps going. But I can't help picking up vibes from the rest of the world around me. There is a change in the rhythm of the seasons, the school year, harvest, and the gardens that affect me. At the same time, I am glad that I no longer have to get back to a nine to five by the end of the summer.

Thanks for stopping by to read our blog. Good to talk to you.

Helena said...

Thank you, Ban. It was fun to try to bring a little bit of Janet to Friday this week. It worried me a bit that I might be appropriating her characters for my own purposes. (Not a good thing in the literary world.) At the same time, I'm sure everyone would notice that Muse and EE definitely don't have their usual Janet-sparkle in my rendition. Of course, they have just met me and don't know me very well yet.

Thanks for being here.

glovin said...

Thanks for the links. I'll check them out. I think the reason most writers I know recommend that you sit down regularly and write something, anything, is that somehow the active part of writing stimulates the creative part.

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Anita said...

Oh, good post, Helena!

I was just thinking of Janet the other day, too...wondering if she found the house of her dreams, etc.

The funny thing is, I always try to guess the 'Tues blogger' and with Janet gone, the 'Friday blogger'. 2/3rds of the way through, I thought you were the author.

Then EE and muse came on the scene and my brain kept telling me Janet was back while I knew she wasn't.

It's funny because even though you simulated Janet, your unique voice came through.

Good job. Loved the post.

Helena said...

Thanks for your great comments, Anita. Very affirming!

Yeah, I can hardly wait for Janet to get back on stream. It was fun trying to dream up some scenarios for her writing "crew."

The Tuesdays by themselves can get confusing, even for me as part of them, but the voices are so different they're a dead giveaway before you even get to the end. Add in a Friday, and there could be real confusion. Glad I didn't completely appropriate Janet's voice -- it was not my intention. Just wanted to provide some kind of "echo" of her usual presence.

connie said...

Helena STOP Janet STOP waahhh STOP
connie STOP