Finding your muse is hard enough but then you have to keep her!
Last summer I did a talk about finding and working with my muse. I laughingly called it “How I Grab My Muse, Pin Her to the Wall, and Make Her Sing!”
Yeeks, no wonder she hides from me.
All kidding aside, the idea of your muse is fine once she (or he) shows up. After all, once you get lost in writing, once you get into the Muse Zone, good stuff pours onto the page. Getting the muse to show up in the first place is the trick.
I have a tchotchke to remind me of each side of my muse. A sweet-faced fairy with wiggly wings watches me from the top of my computer. She’s my creativity muse. Wonder Woman Barbie sits on my desk. She’s my warrior-in-charge-of-writing. When she takes control, my muse appears, blessing me with words and ideas. I’d like to share some techniques to help your warrior-in-charge-of-writing call your muse so she’ll work with you.
Finding Your Muse: Set an Appointment
Find your muse’s favorite writing time—morning, lunchtime, night after everyone goes to bed and the house is finally quiet? When is the best time with little chance of interruption? Make an appointment with your work in progress. Show up and write. The key is consistency.
Finding Your Muse: Stay Long Enough to Listen
Being a runner, I time progress constantly. Writing is no different. Set a timer for fifteen minutes. (Hint: don’t get one that ticks—it will drive you nuts!) Write until the timer dings. Don’t stop! Doesn’t matter what you write, just write. Once you build your writing muscles, set it to thirty minutes. Then an hour. You’ll be amazed at what happens on the page once you get going. If you get deep into the Muse Zone—which will happen more and more often as you show up and write—you won’t even hear the timer when it goes off. Or if you do hear it, you’ll choose to ignore it. And that zone is a great place to be!
Finding Your Muse: Give Her Permission to Be Bad
Write as fast as you dare, don’t re-read, and for sure, don’t evaluate anything you’ve written. Write without care, and write bad. Yep, you heard me, write BAD. No one ever has to read it. That’s why someone invented paper shredders. Once you get over the fear of bad writing, the good will come. When you step away and allow some time to transpire before you re-read, you’ll find what you have isn’t nearly as awful as you thought. You can work to fix bad writing, but if there’s nothing on the page, then what? You haven’t moved forward. You’ve got nothing. Again.
Finding Your Muse: Inspire and Feed Her
Read! Poetry, essays, biographies, articles, mysteries, romance, fantasy, or the book your book club will be discussing next week. Read what you love. Then read outside your favorites. You are a writer after all, so open your mind to new possibilities. You now have a good reason to take some time and read. If anyone asks, you are working. You’re inspiring your muse.
Finding Your Muse: Give Her a Weekend
Work out a weekend to get away and write. There are plenty of wonderful places nearby to ignite your imagination. Go with friends who write, plan plot parties and time to work on your manuscripts, and take lots of food. Turn your writing getaway into an event and have fun while you’re at it. And don’t forget your timer!
Finding Your Muse: Listen to Her
Go on a walk, a jog, ride your bike, take a drive. Take along a pen and index cards, in fact, always have them with you. The next time your muse strikes, you’ll be ready.
Finding Your Muse: Give Yourself a New Experience and Meet New People
If it feels scary…do it! Teach your hobby at a library, take an acting or writing class, learn to kayak, jump out of a plane. Meditate, if you’ve never done it. Get people talking—grocery store, restaurant, or elevator—wherever you go! You’ll uncover character traits and dialogue to use in your writing! And you might meet a new friend.
Now go forth and grab your muse! Be sure to enjoy your time in the Muse Zone, and set appointments to visit often.