"The Pocket Muse," Monica Wood

Pros: Wonderful suggestions; fabulous photos; inspiring attitude
Cons: I want these pages on cards that I can shuffle.
Rating: 5 out of 5

First published 7/16/2002

Don’t write a Mr. Potato Head story.

I’d heard that “The Pocket Muse” was very popular, so of course it took me a few months before I gave in and ordered it. It’s that contrary streak in me rearing its ugly head! As it turns out I started reading it at the perfect time, so maybe I can go easy on myself and my bad habits this time.

It wasn’t the perfect day today. I was feeling a bit disgruntled and burned out. Maybe because I just finished my rewrite for my very last freelance contract – it went quickly and easily, but perhaps it reminded me of why I burned out in the first place. Maybe it’s because it’s a gray day, or perhaps I’m just mood-swinging randomly. Maybe it’s because of that last book I read, which really wasn’t all that great. For whatever reason, I didn’t feel much like reading or writing. Still, I sat down with “The Pocket Muse” and started turning pages. The book is meant as a book of inspiration and guidance for writers – prompts for writing, exercises, photos, thoughts, inspiration, and so on.

Ideas and Inspirations

Today’s horoscope: Your wish becomes somebody’s command.

It started slowly. That disgruntled feeling got in the way, and I found myself thinking about everything negatively. The prompts weren’t open-ended enough. They were too mundane. The funky fonts and positionings and designs were silly.

Somewhere in there, however, things started to change. They picked up steam. They caught fire. Even my depression and irritation couldn’t stand up to the wonderful bundle of fun and inspiration that is “The Pocket Muse!” By the time I reached the end, I had so much energy and inspiration dancing around inside of me that I couldn’t wait to go set pen to paper, fingers to keyboard. I was in such a state that the simplest photo or phrase got me going, gave me ideas, suggested entire stories, essays, whole books!

Yeah, But What’s IN It?

Since then I’ve made it one of my life missions to celebrate everything. Immediately.

“The Pocket Muse,” despite its name, is not really small enough to fit in your pocket (although it’ll easily fit into your backpack, purse, or bag). It has an odd black-and-olive color scheme that I actually came to love after a while. Black and white photos are scattered throughout, and they’re quite well reproduced. Suggestions are presented sideways, right-side-up, at an angle, on tacked-up notes, luggage tags, index cards.

There are suggestions and exercises. Sentences with blanks for you to fill in. Ruminations on elements of writing. Little horoscopes you can apply to your characters. Quotes from writers that don’t duplicate the quotes I’ve seen in all the other writing books! (Monica Wood promised this would be the case in the introduction, and to be honest I didn’t believe her. I do now.) There’s fire and enthusiasm, and a deep understanding of the writing life and what it takes to not only survive it, but enjoy and thrive in it. Her “ten commandments for a happy writing life” and her recommendations for handling rejections are spot-on.

I have not a single complaint about this book, except perhaps that I’d like to take every single page and put it on a card in a deck. Then on any given day I could shuffle the deck and draw a card or two.

There are a lot of things in writing books that bug me – bits of advice I don’t agree with. Attitudes toward new & developing writers that annoy me. Ways of approaching things that, really, everyone else has already done a hundred times over. You’ll find none of this in “The Pocket Muse” – just lots of fun, bushels of inspiration, and plenty of things to think about!

No one else will ever write exactly what you are writing. No one.

Posted in Reviews, Writing

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