Tempting the Muse – A Quick Bit of Advice

Sharon Stone in the Albert Brooks 1999 movie, The Muse

I’m going to bet that your muse doesn’t always show up when you want her to.

Muses are tricky, fickle creatures. They are like cats in that they prefer to do things only when they damn well please and never according to anyone else’s schedules or needs. Also, like cats, they have a tendency to show up when you least expect them. How often have you been struck by inspiration in a moment when you absolutely cannot act on that inspiration (like in the middle of a business meeting, for instance)?

But then, when you’re ready to make your move and itching for that lightning-bolt-out-of-the-blue whack upside the head, your muse is nowhere to be seen. You’ve set up the perfect conditions: steaming mug of tea, a quiet environment, your lucky sweatshirt, several hours of uninterrupted time, and a handful of Dove dark chocolates. You’re ready to rock and roll, but … no muse.

It can be infuriating.

The thing is, your muse is not a creature of habit or a 9-to-5 worker who is going to clock in at the same time every day. She’s more wild and spontaneous than that, which is why you need to learn to work without her – butt in chair, fingers on keyboard, muse or no muse.

Your muse likes to sneak up on you while you’re in the shower, driving down the highway, or cutting cauliflower florets for dinner. It amuses her to stop you in the middle of doing something else and surprise you with an epiphany that leaves you frozen in thought under the shower head, missing your exit, or knife paused mid slice.

While I’ve learned to work without my muse and to adapt to her capricious ways, I’ve also recently realized that I can be sneaky, too. I’ve discovered that I can lure my muse to me with the right bait. Lately, the bait that has been most effective is a morning power walk to the epic sounds of my Lindsey Stirling station on Pandora. I walk and listen, and the world of my book opens up before my inner eye. Scenes play inside my head as though I’m watching them on a movie screen. Flashes of character insights pop into my mind unbidden. I keep moving. I keep listening. If my logical brain tries to veer into the mundane territory of the days To Do list, I gently lead it back down the rabbit hole of my story daydreaming.

And every once in a while, I take out my phone as casually as I can (don’t want to frighten my muse away) and type in a few notes to help me remember the things that I’ve discovered.

If you’re having trouble managing your muse, maybe a different approach will help you reconnect with your inspiration. Sometimes, inspiration is something that you can only see out of the corner of your eye. Squinting at it head on will only give you a headache, but if you just pretend you’re not paying attention, your muse may just sidle up and make herself comfortable.

Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. In addition to my bi-weekly weekday posts, you can also check out my Saturday Edition and Sunday Shareworthy archives. Off the blog, please introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.

38 thoughts on “Tempting the Muse – A Quick Bit of Advice

    • Thank you. Glad you found it interesting. Hope your “hunting” is a catch-and-release program.

  1. Good one! I am writing for Texas Hill Country Magazine lately and my next assignment is “Fall Colors”. Blah blah blah. Boring! I was looking for color at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center a few days ago and what popped into my head, but “Fall Color Scavenger Hunt”. I wrote that down right away and am going to finish with instructions on taking your fall color photos and putting them into a collage.

    • Hello, Robert!
      I love the idea that came to you- sounds like so much fun and a nice twist on an old theme. I write a biweekly column for my local paper, and I’ve written SO many seasonal pieces, it’s hard to come up with new angles. I’m embarrassed to say that I sometimes find myself a couple hundred words into a new draft before realizing that I’ve written almost the same piece a year or two before!

    • I do the same thing, though often on my phone. I have to be sure to get down enough of the thought so that it makes sense later. Some of my late-night notes are completely random in the morning!

  2. My muse is most often lured out by a holiday and art. So I try to do some coloring when I can and arrange trips out of the house when I can get away with it.
    These days such free time is a rarity but oh how I love it when my muse does come

    • There is definitely something to be said for a change of scenery. Even just walking in a different neighborhood can shift my brain into a different place. Holidays are especially wonderful treats because you’re both in a different environment and free to let your mind wander! 🙂

      • Yes exactly! I love my routine and house because it gives a sense of purpose but I know that if I don’t get out even if it’s just to a local park. I will get frustrated and my inspiration will start drying up. So generally I go out into the world and make notes and laugh and eat good food so I can come home tomorrow with a sense of inspiration.
        I don’t think it’s the surroundings themselves that inspire me but more the freedom and the ease that they give me.

      • That’s such an interesting point – that it’s not so much about your surroundings as it is about your mindset. I’ve never really thought about it that way, but you’re so right! My muse is in a completely different frame of mind when I’m dashing into my local coffee shop to grab a chai on the run than when I am sitting down for even just a few minutes of moodling time at the table by the window. 😉

  3. I also give thanks to my muses. Also after a good completion of writing or art I let it sit somewhere over night as a way for the muses to check it over. Give it those magical perfections that only a muse is capable of. A muse can be a person. They might never find out that they take me to inspiration. As a knight and his maiden…. love pure and chaste from afar… people muses fade but not the other kind…

    • What a lovely ritual. I really like the idea of “submitting” your work to the muse. I suppose I do that in my own way – giving my writing at least twenty-four hours to “settle” and letting the muse of my subconscious do its thing. 😉
      Thanks for sharing!

  4. You have put into words many of the exact thoughts I have experienced. I am new to writing since my background is actually more hands-on in producing visual items that may add humor to one’s day.

    • Welcome to the wacky world of writing, John! 🙂
      Glad to be channeling some of your thoughts alongside my own. It’s always nice to know I’m not alone in my craziness.

    • I’m glad if they helped. 🙂
      I have some writer friends who have personified both their muses and their inner critics … and had a lot of fun doing it. They give these entities names and personalities, and they describe them (and interact with them) in much the same way they describe and engage the characters in their stories. It makes the whole process a little more fun!

  5. Hilarious! My muse wakes me from my sleep…convinces me I’m too tired to get a pen to jot anything down so she taunts me in my dreams with ideas. When I awake ready to write I find she has run away with all of them. Perhaps Dove dark chocolate will do the trick…

    • It makes me crazy when my muse takes her ball and goes home.
      I highly recommend the Dove dark chocolate. Always works for me! 😉

  6. I love this and it is so true! I work in retail and when she strikes I’m always pinching reciept roll paper to scribble these ideas on and tucking them away so that they are not forgotten. Though, I get a little cranky at her when she wakes me in the middle of the night ha ha

    • I worked retail a long (long!) time ago, and always found that the trick was making it look like I was working when I was scribbling those notes. 😉

  7. I know who my muse is absolutely. Interesting post! Many writers of fantasy in the making I’m thinking. . My muse lives above and beyond the natural. Writers write because they are writers. Thanks Jamie.

    • Sounds like you’re on personal terms with your muse. That’s so nice! And even better that s/he is “above and beyond the natural.” 😉

  8. My muse quit on me, she said ‘Get rid of that nonsense and get a real job’, but she’s been a bit cranky for a while anyway. Do enjoy your writings though Jamie. 😉

    • Oh, dear. Maybe your muse needs a little TLC. Maybe you can bribe her with some chocolate, or some other treat. 😉 Hope she works through her crankiness so you can enjoy her company again.

    • Glad you liked it, Julie. 😉
      And even more glad that you’ve learned how to trick yours. Good going!

  9. For me it’s the opposite, as encapsulated by this quote:

    Biting my truant pen
    Beating my head for spite
    “Fool!” said my muse to me.
    “Look in thy heart and write.”
    (Sir Phillip Sydney)

  10. Pingback: Routine is a far better friend than inspiration | Blog of a College Writer

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