Sanskrit read to a pony
When things go amiss

Preparing for the muse

Oak and earth.

"I start all my books on January 8th," says Isabel Allende. "Can you imagine January 7th? It's hell.

"Every year on January 7th, I prepare my physical space. I clean up everything from my other books. I just leave my dictionaries, and my first editions, and my research materials for the new one. And then on January 8th I walk seventeen steps from the kitchen to the little pool house that is my office. It's like a journey to another world. It's winter, it's raining usually. I go with my umbrella and the dog following me. From those seventeen steps on, I am in another world and I am another person.

"I go there scared. And excited. And disappointed -- because I have a sort of idea that isn't really an idea. The first two, three, four weeks are wasted. I just show up in front of the computer. Show up, show up, show up, and after a while the muse shows up too. If she doesn't show up invited, eventually she just shows up." *

Isabel Allende, with her husband William Gordon, and their dog Olive

"I write eight to ten hours a day," Allende says, "until I have a first draft, then I can relax a little. I am very disciplined. I write in silence and solitude. I light a candle to call inspiration and the muses, and I surround myself with pictures of the people I love, dead and alive.”

Water and wind.

"One of the hardest things to do with a novel," says Philip Pullman, "is to stop writing it for a while, do something else, fulfill this engagement or that commitment or whatever, and pick it up exactly where you left it and carry on as if nothing had happened. You will have changed; the story will have drifted off course, like a ship when the engines stop and there’s no anchor to keep it in place; when you get back on board, you have to warm the engines up, start the great bulk of the ship moving through the water again, work out your position, check the compass bearing, steer carefully to bring it back on track … all that energy wasted on doing something that wouldn’t have been necessary at all if you’d just kept going."

Philip Pullman

"I don't know where my ideas come from," Pullman says, "but I know where they come to. They come to my desk, and if I'm not there, they go away again."

...and a little black dog following her muse. The art she creates is joy.

* The first quote is taken from Why We Write, edited by Meredith Maran (Plume/Penguin, 2013), published in aid of the 826 National youth literacy program. Please consider ordering a copy to support this worthy cause.