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Anne R. Allen's Blog


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Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."

Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, June 28, 2015

11 Tips For The Care And Feeding Of Your Muse: A Writer’s Guide

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? 


HUSBANDS AND LOVERS (Park Avenue Series, Book #2)—The million-copy New York Times bestseller. 

Carlys Webber transforms herself from wallflower to swan and two handsome, successful men vie for her love.

"Steamy and fast-paced, you will be spellbound."–Cosmopolitan


Kobo | iBooks | GooglePlay

Sneak preview!

Anne's new Camilla comedy-mystery SO MUCH FOR BUCKINGHAM  is now available for preorder on Amazon at the special pre-order price of only 99c!

Pre-order and save on Amazon in any country! 
So Much for Buckingham launches officially on July 8th


BARTLEBY SNOPES CONTEST   $10 FOR UNLIMITED ENTRIES. Compose a short story entirely of dialogue. Must be under 2,000 words. Your entry cannot use any narration (this includes tag lines such as he said, she said, etc.). These are the only rules. 5 finalists will also appear in Issue 15 of the magazine. Last year they awarded $2,380 in prize money. Deadline September 15, 2015.

Rattle Poetry Prize The annual Rattle Poetry Prize offers $10,000 for a single poem to be published in the winter issue of the magazine. Each entry can contain up to 4 poems. 10 finalists will also receive $200 each and publication, and be eligible for the $2,000 Readers’ Choice Award, to be selected by subscriber and entrant vote. Entry fee $20 (includes subscription) Deadline July 15th.

Golden Quill Awards Writing Contest: Flash, Poetry, and Short fiction categories. Entry fee $20 for stories and poetry, $15 for flash fiction. The theme is TRANSFORMATION. Deadline July 15.

Glamour Magazine Essay contest.  FREE! Theme: "My Real Life Story". Prize is $5,000 and possible publication in Glamour Magazine for personal essays by women, between 2,500-3,500 words. Enter online or by mail. Open to US residents aged 18+.Deadline July 15th

MARK TWAIN HUMOR CONTEST  Entry fees: $12 Young Author or $22 Adult. 7,000 words (or fewer) of any original work of humor writing. Submissions must be in English. Submissions are not required to be in the style of Mark Twain or about Mark Twain. 1st Prize: $1,000 (Adult), $600 (Young Author). Other cash prizes! Deadline July 10, 2015

Saturday Evening Post Great American Fiction Contest. Entry fee $10. Your story should in some way touch upon the publication's mission: Celebrating America — past, present, and future. Think Norman Rockwell. No profanity or graphic sex. Any genre. No previously published stories, but they can have appeared on your blog. Between 1,500 and 5,000 words. Deadline July 1, 2015

Big Beautiful Wellness Creative Writing Contest. NO FEE Poems up to 30 lines Fiction or Nonfic between 1000 and 2000 words. $100 first prize. Theme: Body-positive living. Looking for inspirational, positive stories. Deadline July 1.

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Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Hope my muse can untie me from my Yoga pretzel.
I find a steady stream of idea-inducing music really helps. Something with a lot of power to it.
Great list of tips, Ruth!

June 28, 2015 at 10:08 AM  
Blogger Wm. L. Hahn said...

Hold the phone, Ruth. You sure you're NOT a fantasy author? I am never taking grief again for writing as if my characters actually exist, if someone I know and respect sounds like she's making up a bed in the guest room for a Muse! Fabulous, entertaining advice. But did I miss what you meant on those first two, or does my Muse get to read all the fun books while I have to eat my vegetables?

June 28, 2015 at 10:10 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Wm.L.—Nope! Our muses WANT us to have fun. How else can they expect to stay in primo operating condition?

June 28, 2015 at 10:25 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Alex—Muses can until *anything.* Including yoga pretzels. Especially when you add the right music! :-)

June 28, 2015 at 10:26 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Alex— until = untie. Stupid auto-correct. bleh.

June 28, 2015 at 10:28 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

I really needed this post this week, Ruth. I've just finished my new Camilla mystery that took me two years to write (Yes, I know that makes me a literary pipsqueak in the eyes of those indies who can write a book in a weekend.) But I think my muse is exhausted.

I sat down yesterday to try to outline my next book and I felt literally sick. Fatigue took over my body to the point I could hardly sit up. I think my muse REALLY needs a vacation. Or at least some chocolate and some downtime flipping through magazines. Thanks for this!

June 28, 2015 at 11:09 AM  
Blogger CS Perryess said...

Thanks, Ruth, for some grand advice.
Perhaps all artists should join the AAMA: Association to Abolish Muse Abuse

June 28, 2015 at 11:12 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Anne—Sounds like you & your muse are tapped out. Movies, tv, magazines, long walks, chocolate, wine, playtime in all its splendor is the cure! Go forth and indulge. Your muse will thank you!

June 28, 2015 at 11:23 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

CS—Thank *you*! Excellent idea. The muses of the world need to crack down and make sure their artists sign up! :-)

June 28, 2015 at 11:24 AM  
Blogger Anne OConnell said...

Love this post! I think our muses must have grown up together :)

June 28, 2015 at 6:46 PM  
Blogger Katarina West said...

Ruth - my muse loved this post! If there's some Declaration of Muses' Rights, this was it. I think my muse will have a long and hard conversation with me this evening, as to what could and should be improved...

June 29, 2015 at 12:58 AM  
Blogger G. B. Miller said...

My muse basically runs my writing life. If she's upset with me in any way, shape or form, she let's me know publicly on my blog (seriously). As for motivation, the great outdoors is what motivates my muse the most. So my creativity tends to be at its peak when I'm outside writing.

Father Nature's Corner

June 29, 2015 at 3:14 AM  
Blogger Anne Gallagher said...

I love my muse. He looks a lot like Colin Farrell. However, he's a stern taskmaster when we're working. Unfortunately, he's also a drunken Hemingway when he wants to be and fouls me up just as I'm getting going. I don't mind his penchant for being a baby at times, as long as he always shows up to help me out of a mess.

June 29, 2015 at 5:39 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Anne—Thank you! They probably did. And probably got into lots of trouble together, too. ;-)

June 29, 2015 at 6:36 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Katarina—Thanks! I always get a little scared when my muse decides to crack the whip. They can be very tough. It's probably their marine corps training! ;-)

June 29, 2015 at 6:37 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

G.B.—Geez, public humiliation? Your muse has no mercy. :-(

June 29, 2015 at 6:38 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Anne—That muse sounds like a definite bad boy but it sounds like you're stuck with him. For better or for worse but as long he sobers up enough to bail you out of messes, he's doing his job. ;-)

June 29, 2015 at 6:41 AM  
Blogger mindprinter said...

Ruth, this is such a fun post and one we all need. I've been dancing around this AM to Ella Fitzgerald, writing a blurb for a Christmas e book, chatting at Starbucks with pals and hugging folks at Trader Joe's as well as playing with my kids--shelties. My muse got a work out. And you know what? When I came home, she told me to send that damn book in now to my publisher. I'd been fiddling with it way too long. Great post. As always. Paul

June 29, 2015 at 8:53 AM  
Blogger Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I try to exercise everyday and let my muse free while I walk, jog or swim. Even mowing the grass gives me lots of time to think.

June 29, 2015 at 8:55 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Paul—Ooooh! Ella Fitzgerald! Plus Starbucks, Trader J's and sheltie-whispering. You sure know how to keep your muse fat and happy—and she know how to get your butt in gear!

That's why we need—and love—our muses. lol ;-)

June 29, 2015 at 10:24 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Susan—Good for you! You're keeping your muse in tip top shape and s/he will repay your efforts and attention. :-)

June 29, 2015 at 10:25 AM  
Blogger Debby Gies said...

Great post. I shall keep nourishing my muse. And thanks for putting your free book here. I can't wait to get to it this summer. :)

June 29, 2015 at 8:41 PM  
Blogger Bren Murphy said...

Hi Anne,
Great idea - love the suggestion to indulge in some yoga to keep the muse supple and flowing!
Bren Murphy

June 30, 2015 at 2:43 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Debby—Glad you enjoyed the post! Hope you enjoy H&L! :-)

June 30, 2015 at 4:33 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Bren--This clever post is all Ruth Harris's. I don't think I could do yoga if my life depended on it. My gouty knees don't bend. :-) I hope my muse is more flexible than I am.

June 30, 2015 at 10:22 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Here's a comment that came in via email from Melody Sargent: I agree with her about the chocolate. :-)

"OMG You have a muse much like mine. Works best on Chocolate, oh and Zinfandel. Love love love this post and so much to click and learn! Thank you, Anne and Ruth, you are, as always The Best!

June 30, 2015 at 12:36 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Melody—Thank you for the kind words & great ideas. My muse doesn't care about chocolate so more for you and Anne. She does go for Pinot Noir...expensive tastes...so I laid down the law and told her she has to make do with less exalted choices. AFAIK, she got the message and has adjusted well.

June 30, 2015 at 1:11 PM  
OpenID icysedgwick said...

I definitely subscribe to 'feed her'!! I subscribe to the weirdest collection of blogs (God knows what my Google history looks like) and just let all the info percolate. But I definitely don't like to feed her the news after midnight.

July 14, 2015 at 12:52 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

icys—Sounds like you are on exactly the right track. Muses adore variety and they need owners who understand that they require time to let the info percolate. Keep on keeping on! :-)

July 15, 2015 at 8:44 AM  

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