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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Paulson

On following your muse: it might just save your life, and other benefits

I'm being overly dramatic. About the saving your life part. I think.

When I awakened at three one particular morning, as I had for months after a traumatic career ending moment, I was, for a change, not in tears.

I saw a (beautiful) reporter, a (stunningly handsome) cop, a (stupid homophobic) decision by a church and a (dead) bishop. Where did that come from? Would I remember it all at a more reasonable hour of the morning?

Didn't think so. But I did.

It became Adam's Witness, a novel I never thought I'd write. Nor any novel, really.

I'm not much of a believer in intervention, divine or otherwise. But somehow, I do think my brain was trying to save my sanity, or myself from a black mood I could not shake. The mood did not actually improve much for a long time, in the overall; but the creative muse eventually took hold and if nothing else served as a distraction. There's nothing like diving into someone else's life.

Even someone fictional.

And now, I am powerfully inclined to pitch my method of mind-bending to others. If a creative or athletic or other positive new thing is calling you, I advise answering the mental phone. Even if it's hard. Let me tell you, publishing a book online and in print by yourself is not the easiest thing you'll ever try, creatively or technically. (I'm sure that goes for all other pursuits.)

And I haven't entirely sorted out why it changed my mind. Altered my brain. But it absolutely did; I'm quite sure it forged new synaptic pathways, and no kidding.

As to the other benefits, there's always a chance someone else might actually like what you did. Your book. Your painting. Your photograph. The fact that you ran 10K when you could barely walk around the block six months ago.

As for the other benefits: I'm incredibly grateful to the readers of my city and the bookstore McNally Robinson for putting Adam's Witness at the top of the local fiction bestseller list for 2017. How did that happen?

Like I said, you never know what following that muse may bring.

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