Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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F-O-C-U-S

It’s blank.

The wall, I mean. Well, sometimes my head, too . . .

Not my writing office. I’m at my dad’s place while he’s off galavanting with his brother on an Alaskan cruise. I’ve got a deadline, and this is my opportunity to write without distraction.

It’s also another opportunity to be in the house I grew up in. Except now so much has changed. My sister-in-law decided to “stage” the house (which my dad is in the process of trying to sell), which, according to her, means getting rid of anything personal like family photos. And last weekend we moved a bunch of big stuff (entertainment center, bed, TV, etc) to the townhouse my dad is renting.

I was here last weekend, and it felt, well, . . . like I came too late. Like I should have thought to take pictures of the way everything was before this “staging” business. If you’ve gone through the process of watching the house you grew up in be prepared to sell, you know what I mean.

“You came here to focus, love.”

What the hell? My Muse pulls up a chair–where did he find that chair?

“Don’t look at me like that.” He leans back in a beanbag-type chair I’ve never seen before and know my dad never had. Fingers laced together, he puts his hands behind his head and crosses his long legs at the ankles. “You’re here to write. I’m your Muse. Get over it.”

“Where did that chair come from? Not that I’m complaining, but . . .” Maybe I am complaining, because it’s a distraction. Like his “Star Wars” lounge pants and Millennium Falcon t-shirt aren’t distracting at all. 😉

“I brought it with me, and you are complaining.” He cranes his neck around to check out the whole room. “Well, it’s bare. That’s a good thing. Now you can focus, which is why you’re here in the first place.”

He’s right. It’s just . . . Everything is gone. The pictures of the grandkids. The pictures of my mom. The pictures of me and my siblings with our families. I can’t stop the tears. Not yet. I’m grieving.

“Scoot over, love.” My Muse nudges me from the middle of the love seat to one side. He settles beside me, but doesn’t put his arm around my shoulders, though I kinda wish he would. “I know you want to give your attention to this loss business, but you’ve got a deadline coming up. You’ve been doing good this month. I’m proud of you.”

“I should have been doing good in April, too.” Except real life happens. “I am SO far behind.”

“Which is why you’re here.” He leans against me. “Take the time during your breaks to, what did A say? Say good-bye to every room. But only during breaks. You are here to write.”

He’s right. Deep breath. “I’m going to finish this round of edits this weekend.”

“And I’m here to make sure you do. Besides, it’s supposed to rain today. No excuses.”

So, I’ve got all day to write–except for a couple hours this morning when my BFF from high school is stopping by. I try to catch up with her whenever I’m in town. In fact, last year when I was here she had an awesome “Are you kidding? This really happened?” story. I told her I was going to use it in a book; it’ll be part of the plot of my rural mystery (on the list to do after Book 2).

So, last week I posted plants, and someone (you know who you are), complained about a glaring lack of cat pics. Well, be careful what you wish for 😀

Have a great writing weekend!

 

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A-musing Reckoning

The clock on the wall in my writing office is ticking. Me, well, I’m waiting. I’ve got my “prize” from my weekend in Wisconsin to keep me company. moon manI’ve started working on my editor’s notes, but right now I’ve got something else on my list, and I’m waiting for my quarry.

I don’t have to wait long before my Muse shows up. I adjust myself in one of the recliners in a corner of the office and take a long sip of my brew. “Nice of you to show up.”

He zeroes in on me. “I see you’re working hard, love. Or should I say, hardly working.”

I tip my bottle again and savor the slight citrus tones of the ale. “I have been working. Every night since I got back. Unlike someone else I know. Where the hell have you been?”

He leans back against my desk, hands braced on either side. He’s wearing a black thermal shirt advertising The Old Fashioned tavern, where my Writing Sisters and I had dinner after our panel. Great place to eat if you’re ever in the area. “You do know that writing conferences are also muse conferences, right?”

I manage to avoid rolling my eyes. “Uh-huh. What’s this I hear about you hanging out at The Old Fashioned?” He can’t deny it. All 6-foot 2-inches of masculine energy, with intense blue eyes and GQ-esque physique, makes him pretty easy to spot.

He looks down at his shirt. “You and your Writing Sisters were there.”

“Yes, but I wasn’t standing at the end of the bar handing out business cards. I’ve got a witness.”

A slow grin stretches across his face. “Your Writing Sister? The one who kept her Muse from having fun because she had edits to do? Yeah, I talked to her about that.”

“I heard. You shouldn’t have distracted her.” Though she didn’t exactly complain … Honestly, neither would I 🙂

“Distracted? She–and her Muse–needed a break.” He crosses the office to stand in front of my recliner, hands on hips and a noticable lack of humor on his face. “You are accusing me of handing out business cards. Why would I want to start over with a new writer? For your information, love, those were drink tickets for the closing party. With the weather that weekend, we needed to get muses to stay.”

Why am I having a hard time believing him? “Likely story.”

“I heard about you and some new muses. Were you auditioning replacements?”

Oh crap. “No. They were part of one of the presentations I went to. They’re from a book by Jill Badonsky that helps writers with creativity.”

He leans over me. “Are you saying I’m slacking? I seem to remember my writer being stalled out for, gee, weeks. And nothing I did could knock you loose.”

“Exactly. So the presentation was about how to go after the creative process a little differently. Relax. I’m not planning to break in a new Muse.”

He straightens and chuckles, one of those “silly writer” chuckles. “As if you could if you tried.” He settles into the other recliner. “Let’s get to work.”

Whew. Sorry I’m still so far behind in reading blog posts, but I’m trying to catch up. I’m hitting the edits, but there’s a few adjustments I’ll have to make, and I’ve got to think on those for a bit. Today is earmarked for a college open house, then since it appears Spring is finally showing up for more than a day or two, I’m going to have to take a nice long walk before digging back in to my edits.

Enjoy your weekend, and WRITE!


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Paper chain countdown

Okay, not really a paper chain, but I’ve been looking at the calendar every day for the past week or so in anticipation. Despite Winter’s stubborn hold on the weather–last Monday we got 4 inches of snow (give or take), and this Sunday we’re supposed to get yet another snowstorm–I’ve been waiting for this week to arrive.

In less than 5 days I’ll get to see my Writing Sisters! All of them! One of us lives in California, so she doesn’t always make it to the reunions, but next week we’ll all be in Madison, WI for the Writers’ Institute. You should join us; we’re even going to be on a panel discussing our sisterhood.

If you’ve never been to a writing conference, you’re missing out. Seriously. There’s nothing quite like the energy created when so many writers gather. Yes, I know most of us are introverts, but everyone there is enthusiastic about the same thing: writing.

I’m looking forward to tapping the group for help with my current projects. I got my editor’s notes back, and need to do some brainstorming both for my revisions and for Book 2. I’ll bring the brainstorming wall and chocolate 😀

Just an FYI, after you’ve revised your project to within an inch of its life (yes, we all think we do), and get that contract … yeah, it ain’t over. I’ve got some changes to make, some of which I know will strengthen the main character. Some changes I’ll have to consider. That’s another bonus of going to the conference and meeting up with my writing sisters. Though most of them have never read the whole story, they can often see things from a different angle, and can suggest options I never thought of.

“Does this mean you’ll finally get your shit together, love?”

Where the hell did he come from? I look up, and there he is, my Muse, standing like a drill sergeant in front of my desk, arms crossed on his chest. The sleeves of his burgundy Henley shirt are shoved to his elbows, exposing the lean muscles of his forearms. His jeans are at that well-worn stage between brand-new indigo and faded white.

“What are you doing here?”

“Really, love? Just how much have you written in the past week?”

“Hey, I was in Dallas last weekend for my niece’s wedding. Give me a break. Not to mention I’ve been reading through my editor’s notes.”

He rests a hip on the corner of my desk. “I don’t see you working on them. In fact, I haven’t seen you work on anything for a disturbingly long time.” Before I can answer, he lifts a finger at me. “I don’t want to hear it. I want to see you write. And I don’t think you want me to take it to the next level.”

I open my mouth to respond, but nothing comes out. I try again. “Next level?”

A slow grin stretches across his face, his brilliant blue eyes holding something less like amusement, more like … er, like he’s got something up his sleeve that I have a feeling I’m not going to like. “You remember the urban fantasy, love?”

A shiver skitters down my spine. “Don’t you dare. I’ve got to work on my manuscript, my editor’s notes. Don’t distract me.”

His chuckle seems a bit, ah, malicious. “Apparently, you have no problem getting distracted. It’s the focusing part you have trouble with. And if I have to hit you with undiluted Muse energy again, I will. Trust me.”

Gulp. “Look, I’ve got the Writers’ Institute next week. My Sisters will be there. I’ve already set aside some time with my writing mentor and my agent to discuss things. I’ll be focused. You can hang out with the rest of the muses.”

One of his eyebrows arches. “And I’m supposed to trust you, love?”

“I’ll be thinking about writing the whole time.”

“Thinking? Is that all?”

“I’ll write. I’ll have to write with all that creative energy. And all those muses.”

He narrows his eyes. “I’m not sure I believe you. Or trust you.”

“You’ll be there. You can babysit me all you want.”

“You bet your ass I will.”

Yikes.

It’ll be prep time for the next few days. Oh, and of course there’s a boatload of stuff going on in the everyday department, too, including Winter’s stubborn hold–we’re due to get snow AGAIN tomorrow, prom dress shopping, college open house for my daughter. That’s just through the end of the month. Ugh.

It’s been colder than normal for April even here in MN. Good thing I have my handy-dandy lap warmer:

zoey_cr

Have a great writing weekend!


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Musing Mysteries, Part 6

One more month before I get to see my Writing Sisters! One of my sisters just published her book with Createspace. I ordered mine, and can’t wait to read it. It’s gone through a few(!) revisions since I last read it.

The back door of my writing office opens. My Muse toes off his shoes, which are caked in about an inch of gooey mud.

“Hey, leave those things outside. Why didn’t you scrape them before you came in? Wait, where the hell did you find that much mud?”

He picks up his shoes, opens the door again, and drops them outside. “It’s almost official spring, love. Things are mucky until the frost goes out, which you well know.”

Tell me about it. You can hear the squishing and slurping as you walk across the soggy, pre-grass-revival ground. “Okay, but there’s supposed to be grass out there.”

“Sure, out there between the door and the lake.” He brushes a few spitballs of mud off his jeans. You know, the ones that always show up when you stomp through mud puddles. “The path into the woods, not so much.”

“Why were you in the woods? You know, Mae got over ten thousand words written after Mr. E got home from your pub crawl last week. Where’s my inspiration?”

He shoots me a glare. “Mae’s working on the second book in her new series, and she’s a pantser. You, love–” he stabs a finger at me–“are not. Have you gotten through that outline yet?”

Sigh. “No. I’m getting there, though.” I turn to the wall-sized white board and add the next entry from my list of subjects for my presentation (shameless plug: check out the UW-Madison Writers’ Institute). “Hey, this one is about research and writing what you know. I posted about this last year, so we can skip to the next one.”

My Muse takes a marker from the little shelf on the white board and adds to the list. “Cliffhangers.” He turns to me and frowns. “Really?”

“Yes, really. Though not in the sense of actually falling from a cliff.” I do remember watching the PBS series “Between the Lions” when the kids were little. They always had a short about Cliff Hanger. “More like an end-of-chapter hook to entice the reader to keep going.”

“I hope not at the end of every chapter, because that would get a little tiresome, don’t you think?”

“Well, no, not every chapter.” But a good portion of them. I’ve read many books that have multiple viewpoints. One chapter will stop just as something is about to happen to the viewpoint character. Then the next chapter is the viewpoint of a totally different character somewhere else. So I read through that chapter to get back to the other character.

It’s a very effective way to pull the reader through the story. Pretty soon you’re halfway through the book. The first book I read where I really stopped and thought about the story as a writer and what the author did to compel me to keep going was “Wizard’s First Rule“, by Terry Goodkind. I noticed every chapter led to the next one with some question in the reader’s mind about what would happen next. Not always big “will he skid off that hairpin curve” or “don’t answer the door” questions, but more “who left that note” or “who’s that woman” questions.

It’s those less dramatic questions, I think, that lure the reader forward best, because if you have a big “can he hold on much longer” question, where do you go? Either he loses his grip and falls, or someone shows up to help him. Then what? You can only ramp up the danger so much. Think of modern action films, especially super hero films, where huge sentient robots destroy big cities, or mutant humans tear up bridges and sports stadiums. Even daredevil car-racing thieves barely stop for coffee and donuts. Non-stop, computer-generated action. Sometimes it’s nice to watch a non-cerebral movie.

But it gets old fast. Whatever happened to the story? “Mysteries are kind of easy.”

“Easy?” My Muse snorts. “Yeah, that’s why you’re done with your outline and are halfway through your redraft.”

“No, I mean easy to have end-of-chapter questions. Thrillers and suspense, too.” Not that there aren’t end-of-chapter questions in any other genre–there are. I think that’s part of what makes a reader want to keep reading no matter the story. “Mysteries are puzzles, so the reader keeps going to find out whodunit. Thrillers are chases, so the reader wants to know if the hero can catch the bad guy before the bad guy gets him or kills the girl or whatever. Suspense is built on rising tension, so there’s always that anticipation of something bad happening before the main character figures things out.”

I turn to the other big white board in my office, the one with multi-colored stains and remnants of unidentified globs. “It’s the same thing we do when brainstorming. The whole ‘what happens if’ or ‘what will happen when’ approach. That’s how I figured out what was wrong with my story before.” Yeah, no thanks to my Muse.

“Hey, I heard that. And I helped. Why do you think you finally asked ‘what if’?” He jabs his finger into his chest. “That’s my job, love.” He points to my desk. “Now, butt in chair. Let’s finish this outline so you can start drafting. Again.”

Yeah. Again. I’m going to have to start from scratch. *shrug* Oh well. Better to start over and get the story most of the way there instead of finishing it, editing it, then figuring out I have to start over anyway.

Looking forward to a warm (50F) sunny day today–woo-hoo! I started my seeds a few weeks ago, so maybe next week I’ll post some pics. I soooo can’t wait for spring!

Happy Writing!


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Musing Mysteries, Part 5

A fedora and bullwhip greet me as centerpieces on my writing desk. indianna-jones-hat-whip

Oh boy.

I glance around my writing office. I’m alone, along with an empty beer bottle on top of the mini-fridge over by the recliners. So he did find my note.

“Yes, I found your note, love.” The door to my writing office slams shut, the sound echoing in the confines. I can feel my Muse behind me, but I don’t dare turn around.

“Hey, it was family stuff. No getting out of it. Besides, it was fun.”

“Uh huh.” He edges past me, the scent of beer and fried food in his wake. My Muse’s pale gray button-down shirt hangs untucked over black jeans, the sleeves unbuttoned and rolled up to his elbows. Blue eyes lock to mine as he crosses his arms on his solid chest. “Since when is it acceptable to leave me a fecking note? Better yet, when is it acceptable to not tell me you’re going to be out instead of here writing?”

Crap. “Hey, at least I left a note.” Which is more than I can say for some people. “Let me guess. You and Mr. E crawled a few pubs. At least you don’t smell like smoke. I thought Mae was working on her new series. How did E manage a night off?” I pick up a marker for the white board and add to the list. Maybe I can distract him. “We’re done with clues–for my presentation. Next is red herrings, but everyone knows about mis-direction. How about we start with ‘Whaddya know’?”

“How about we finish our discussion on why you didn’t tell me you were going to be out last weekend? Did you finish your plot rewrite?”

Er. About that. “Getting there. I’ve been working on it during my lunch breaks.”

“Uh huh. How’s that going for you, love?”

“Slow.” Anyway. “Character knowledge is next on the list.” I scribble behind my last entry. “The protagonist can’t be a know-it-all. It’s a good reason to have supporting characters, because they can fill in the gaps.”

“We weren’t finished talking about your plot.”

Technically, no. But realistically, this is kinda where I’m at. “Fine. My protagonist needs to figure out who killed her mentor and why. Her boyfriend is the cop. So, he knows how to track down clues. She knows the victim and the area. Well, sort of the area since it’s been six years since she’s lived there.” I’m afraid to turn around; I can feel his stare drilling into my shoulders. “See, character knowledge, with clues thrown in.”

I can’t see him behind me, and I can’t hear him, but after a moment I can feel him behind me. The air is charged with Muse energy, like on a hot summer day just before the storm starts with rain, thunder, and lightning. Lots of lightning. Enough to make your hair twitch. “You will finish the plot this weekend, right, love?” He’s so close I can smell the onion rings he must have had at whatever pub he and Mr. E visited. And bitter notes of Guinness stout.

“That’s the plan.” After I finish reading the revised author welcome packet from my editor, and redoing the information packet she sent me yesterday.

“Good. Because I’m sticking around this weekend to make sure you work on it.”

Oh, goody. “Great!” Uff-da.

Don’t forget daylight saving time tonight (well, technically tomorrow morning at 2am) for those in the US (and not in Arizona or Hawaii)–Spring Ahead!

After getting another 9-10 inches of snow earlier this week, we might finally be turning the corner. Next week will be ten or more degrees above freezing. I so can’t wait for spring!

Have a great weekend, and get some writing on!


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Musing Mysteries – Part 4

“Are you ready for the next item on the list, love?”

I close the door to my writer’s writing office, but the place is deserted.

Where the hell is she? “Julie.” She must be out back.

A window appears in the back door, showing a serene view of the lake, dark blue under the brilliant almost-spring sky. The Adirondack chairs are empty. I leave the quiet of the office and pass into the hushed environs of the lake and its surrounds. Nothin’. There’s just enough of a breeze to hint that the balmy weather–if you consider 40 degrees F balmy–will be short-lived.

Where the feck is she? “Julie?”

*She’s not here.*

“No shit.”

Her damn book-dragon backwings onto the path between me and the lake, sunlight giving her scales sparkles like a first grader gone nuts with the glitter. She lowers her head and peers at me with glowing red eyes. *If you know, then why are you still looking for her?*dragon1_cr

“Because she’s supposed to be here. We’re supposed to be going over her presentation for the conference. She’s supposed to be working on revising the plot for Book 2.”

*Did you look for a note?*

A note? “Why would she leave me a note? She never leaves me a note.” She just bloody disappears.

*Did you look?*

“I’ve known her a lot longer than you have.” Fecking junior muses always think they know more than you do. “She doesn’t leave notes. She just goes off to do who knows what, then shows up whenever she feels like it.”

*Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?*

I narrow my eyes. “Are you trying to say something?”

The dragon shrugs her massive shoulders. *She said to tell you she knows the next items on the list, and she will spare you the whole mis-direction part of the clues. You can thank her later.* She turns, spreads her sparkly green wings, and shoves off, climbing out over the lake.

Damn writers. No, my damn writer. I head back to the writing office. Julie never leaves notes. I suppose that dragon had a point, but I’m a Muse, with a capital ‘M’. I’ve been doing this gig long enough; I don’t need to …

Sure as shit, there’s a sheet of paper folded on the seat of one of the recliners. I grab a brew from the friggie before I read it:

If you found this note, it means I’m not there.

Yeah, no shit. So where are you?

Nice of you to show up when I’m not there. Timing. It’s about timing, and sometimes yours sucks.

Don’t hold back, love.

Figured I’d repay the favor. Check the top desk drawer if you really want to know where I am. And check the treat basket. And I was going to go all sneaky on the clues, but dammit, I’m tired, and I’m working on the new plot. Otherwise, I should be back tomorrow. I’d sign my name, but you know who I am. 😛

What the feck? Why wouldn’t she just tell me where she’s at? I’m by the recliners, so I check the basket first. Chocolate. More chocolate. Pickled peppers. Popcorn. A small envelope of flower seeds–forget-me-nots.

Flower seeds? She doesn’t grow flowers, at least not unless she’s got extra seed. I dig around more, but that’s about it besides more chocolate. And a bottle opener.

I toss the seed packet on the desk and pull open the center drawer. Pens. Pencils. Sticky notes. Highlighters. A picture of her niece and some guy. They look happy. I toss that on the desk beside the flower seeds. Index cards. Nothing else that shouldn’t be here.

The top desk drawer on the side holds her backup drive, about four notebooks–what is it with writers and their notebooks? Some writing book about emotional stuff by Donald Maass. The keyboard for her iPad. An invitation.

It’s a wedding invitation, but this one is dated the end of the month. We just started the month.

I check the picture on the desk again. Her niece and the guy. The flower seeds. A fancy flower seed packet now that I look at it.

Bloody hell.

I check the calendar on the wall beside the door. Her niece–the one in the picture–is getting married. Today. Julie’s going to a wedding today.

Fecking lovely. She couldn’t just let me know?

Fine. I drop into a recliner and get comfortable. The bullwhip looks nice on top of the desk. Maybe I’ll add the fedora for effect. If she thinks she can come back later and mosey her way back to work, she’s greatly mistaken.

Hey, what are you still doing here? Julie’s gone today, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to entertain you. Besides, your muses called. Get your butts in your chairs and WRITE!

Oh, and have a good weekend.


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Musing Mysteries, Part 3

Four inches of snow the night before last. Another five forecast for today.

I sooo can’t wait for spring. I ordered my seeds this week. Crossing my fingers they come soon so I can get my fingers dirty.

“Are you ready to get back to work, love?” My Muse rocks on his heels, not so intimidating in stocking feet. Especially when he’s wearing the same stockings that the old sock monkeys were made from. His sweats don’t do anything to add to the strict muse image. sockmonkey2

I’m good with that. “You know, I figured it out.” Wait. “Okay, we figured it out.”

He waits in silence, arms crossed on his chest, one eyebrow arched.

“I know why I was having such a problem with Book 2.” I’ve been struggling–stuck–with Book 2 for weeks. Frustrating. I tried to write through it, but no matter what I did, how I reimagined the plot, it just didn’t “feel” right. “I killed the wrong character.”

The other eyebrow arches to match the first. “I don’t remember making any suggestions.”

There was one, maybe two nice days last week warm enough so I could take a walk. Walking helps me think through writing snags. “I figured it out on my own.”

“Congratulations.” He sounds about as excited as if he just learned yet another snowstorm is on the way. While suffering spring fever. I know exactly how he feels.

“C’mon. Once I did a what-if and killed off a different character, everything seemed to click.” Not only that, but the character has a closer tie to the main character, so when he’s killed, it really raises the stakes for my main character.

“Good. Now, let’s get back to your list.” He marks off the list already on the wall-sized white board in my writing office. “Character. Stakes. Raising stakes. Time limit. Next?”

“Can we talk about the new plot direction instead?”

He sighs. “Fine. Talk.”

“What’s wrong with you? You’re not sore because I figured it out all by myself, are you?”

“Why would I be upset, love? That’s the goal, isn’t it? You figuring things out without my constant presence.”

He doesn’t sound like it doesn’t bother him. “I still need your help, if that’s what you’re worried about. I still need to revise the plot to fit the new situation.” My turn to sigh. “Fine. Let’s hit the next thing on the list. Clues.” I’m not ready to go over clues. I need to work the plot through first.

He adds it to the list, then frowns. “Kinda jumping the gun, aren’t you?”

“I said I wanted to work the new plot through first. Can we just do that? Please? I promise after my self-imposed NaNo I’ll start redrafting Book 2.” Why do I get the feeling he’s going to head out for a pub crawl the first chance he gets? “I need your help with the plot.”

“When?”

Arrgh. I’m just starting to get into the meat of my WIP (I know, I know, I should be through the middle muddle by now. I had a bunch of false starts in the first chapters.). Ack. I hate to set aside my WIP, but I do have a contract obligation for Book 2. “Next weekend. My 30-day NaNo session is up then.”

His intense stare makes me feel like I just got caught stealing my brother’s Valentine candy. “Next week. I’m going to hold you to that.”

Good. Great. Um, except next Saturday is shot; my niece is getting married. I should probably not tell him that. At least not yet. “Sounds great!”

Speaking of NaNo, I missed my week three quota big-time. The week 3 quota is 35,007 words. I managed a measy 28,406. Ugh. I am, however, getting into the meat of the story, so I’m hoping I’ll get the word counts in as it gets easier to write. I might have to postpone the Book 2 plot revision for a few weeks to get my WIP to a point where I feel comfortable letting it sit for a while, but don’t tell my Muse that.

Enjoy your weekend! Write on!