by Ruth Harris
The muse (also referred to as intuition, instinct, the subconscious, a superpower, the Spidey sense) is generally a friendly and cooperative breed. By nature, the muse tends to be bright eyed, curious and energetic. However, ignored or poorly-treated the muse can be become depressed and mopey and will not function effectively.
The rules for its care and feeding are simple. Obeying them will keep your muse—and you—creative, productive and in top operating condition.
1) Do feed your muse a healthy, varied diet.
Muses have adventuresome palates and perk up at the opportunity to try something new and/or different. Be sure to share all the interesting, offbeat, repellent, lurid, provocative and enlightening content that rushes past in a torrent every day.
Your muse will love you for your everyday reading habits. Reading in your genre and out, fiction and non-fiction, newspapers and magazines — will keep your muse happy and healthy. Nourished on a solid stream of input, your muse will be able to connect unrelated ideas into dazzling new plots and twists.
2) Don't put your muse on a diet.
Paleo? Low carb? Uh-uh. Muses get cranky when they're hungry and behave badly. All they can think about is food and their next meal. They are too preoccupied with thoughts of pasta, chocolate and a good, thick steak to pay attention to you and your book. Deprived of regular feeding and input, your muse will have no energy for the heavy lifting needed for creative work.
Besides, diets don't work. Not for people. Not for muses.
3) Don't bore your muse.
- Muses hate getting stuck in a rut. For optimum health, your muse needs to be challenged and stimulated. Gallery hopping and channel surfing, brushing up your high school Spanish and learning to lindy, roller skate and enjoy hot dogs and a beer in bleacher seats at the ballgame—each offers your muse new and different experience.
- A summer vacation at the shore might inspire the next Jaws.
- A visit to a natural history museum might result in Jurassic Park.
- An hour or two with the food channel might trigger a new cozy set in a bakery or restaurant. Or what about a new horror novel starring a demented, knife-wielding chef, TV cooking-show host or obnoxious restaurant-owner?
- Even the supermarket can inspire your muse—think of The Stepford Wives. Visit Whole Foods for the organic, more upscale version.
- Binge viewing The Sopranos or House of Cards could lead you to create the next Godfather or All The President's Men.
4) Do learn to interpret communiqués from your muse.
- Muses, although generally reliable, communicate in unpredictable ways. Sometimes they shout. Sometimes they whisper.
- The story you can't get out of your mind, the one that wakes you up at night and intrudes when you're otherwise occupied? That's a shout. Your muse is giving you no option except to pay attention.
- The chapter you're bogged down on and hate writing? Your muse might be telling you you're on the wrong track and need to figure out where you've made your mistake.
- The balky character that lies there like a herring and won't come to life? Your muse is telling you you need to shape up and do a better job.
- The idea that flashes through your mind so fast it almost disappears the moment it becomes conscious? That's a whisper.
Whispers are gold and must be gathered and protected, ergo, the notebook.
5) Do keep a notebook—or several.
Whether digital or paper, the notebook is indispensable. Any writer who doesn't have a notebook—paper or electronic—should have his or her computer impounded.
Evernote, Microsoft OneNote and WorkFlowy all work as excellent electronic note keepers.
Paper notebooks should be everywhere you are. There are notebooks on my night table, in the kitchen, on the dining room table, in the living room, next to my desk (obviously!) and in my purse. There is even a notebook in the bathroom for those nights I wake up with a "brilliant" idea I absolutely have to write down. In the dark. So as not to disturb my DH who already knows all too much about what it's like to live with a writer.
Here are some of my favorites.
Notebook Stories will give you lots of other choices to consider and for pens to write with, check out the Pen Addict.
6) Do obey the golden rule and treat your muse as you would want to be treated.
Muses tend to be patient and understanding but they don't like to be hurried, harried or harassed. They respond better to the kiss than the whip and will go MIA if you are feeling overwhelmed, out of control and stressed out.
If your muse has gone AWOL, look for him/her at your nearest yoga class. In fact, it might be a good idea to pull up a mat and join your muse in a tree pose and downward dog.
A well-chosen yoga tape or some time out for meditation and/or deep breathing calm you and help get you and your muse back in primo working condition.
7) Don't ignore your muse's bio-rhythms.
Your muse will not react well when tired, sleepy or barely-awake. Some muses work better in the morning, others perform at their best later in the day or at night. Synch your work habits with those of your muse and you will find your work goes smoother and inspiration comes more easily.
Don't expect your night owl muse to be perky and creative early in the AM.
Don't ask your crack-of-dawn muse to come to your rescue at midnight.
8) Do give your free-range muse room to roam.
- Stilettos or clogs? Polos or Tees? Grunge or business casual? Black tie or white shoe? Fashion magazines, style blogs and catalogs are filled with photos and descriptions of clothing. Check them out and your muse will find new ways for you to describe your character's clothing and wardrobe in ways that brings them alive and makes them real to the reader.
- Good hair day or bad plastic surgery? Muffin top or too rich and too thin? Beauty and grooming sites are filled with photos and comment, some of it snarky, some of it sincere, about exactly one subject: how people look. With their help, you and your muse can turn your descriptions from insipid to inspired.
- The business pages are a source for occupations and careers: your characters have to make a living, don't they? The tabs are an endless wellspring of sex and scandal and niche magazines or blogs—bass fishing, ice climbing, stamp collecting, arctic biology—will open new dictionaries for the alert writer and his or her muse.
- Success and failure, triumph and tragedy. Go to the sports pages. Seriously. Almost every story is basically about how an athlete, talented or otherwise, overcomes—or doesn't—golden-boy good looks, a reputation for dogging it, a lousy attitude in the clubhouse, jail time, drugs, booze, injury, scandal, depression, poor parenting, mean and/or incompetent coaching.
- Besides, it's not just the drama and the schmaltz, it's also about the language: sports are all about action and sports writers are great with verbs.
9) Do treat your muse to input from experts like choreographer, Twyla Tharp.
Her guidebook, The Creative Habit
, is practical, down to earth and inspiring. Using a wide-ranging set of examples ranging from Homer to Proust, from Ulysses S. Grant to Ludwig Wittgenstein and Pope Leo X, from Merce Cunningham and George Balanchine to Ansel Adams, Raymond Chandler, Mozart and Yogi Berra, she offers a detailed road map to defining your creative identity based on her own experience.
Ms. Tharp explains the importance of routine, ritual and setting goals, how to know the difference between a good idea and a bad idea, how to recognize ruts when you're in one and she offers explicit guidelines about how to get out of them.
10) Don't ignore your gut feelings and learn how to train your muse.
Susan Kaye Quinn is a scientist—a rocket scientist, to be exact—and author of the bestselling Mindjack
series. Susan refers to her muse as a superpower and in this must-read article she tells how to tap your subconscious, how to train your muse
and why you should pay attention to your gut feelings.
You will find more from Susan about increasing your productivity and amping up your creativity
in her post at David Gaughran's blog.
11) Do learn to trust your muse—even when you don't know exactly why.
Your intuition a.k.a. your muse is that sense of knowing without knowing. Steve Jobs called it "more powerful than intellect."
From dealing with negative thoughts, to paying attention to your dreams, and making time for solitude Carolyn Gregoire lists 10 Things Highly Intuitive People Do Differently
What about you, Scriveners? Do you treat your muse with respect, or do you try to bully it into submission? Do you find certain practices and rituals keep the words coming? Do you have a time of day when you are more creative? Do you keep an old fashioned notebook, or do you take your notes electronically? Do you have a pen or notebook collection?
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Glamour Magazine Essay contest. FREE!
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Labels: creativity, Evernote, Husbands and Lovers, psychology for writers, Ruth Harris, Susan Kaye Quinn, Twyla Tharp, Writers block, Writing tips