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.

Get Focused on What You (Truly) Want

Have you seen the movie Field of Dreams? There’s a voice whispering to the main character (who has a dream) throughout the movie: “If you build it, they will come.”

It’s a step above “fake it until you make it.”

And a couple of steps above visualization.

Journaling at the edge of the water

Capturing my thoughts while sitting at the water’s edge

A great starting point for getting what you want  is to write it down.

You can do this in a journal, or on a computer, or on a chalkboard or whiteboard, or simply on a single piece of paper.

Writing is powerful. Seeing your dream or goal in print in your own words helps you clarify what you are asking for — from yourself and from the universe.

When is the last time you wrote out a detailed description of your dream writing life? If it’s been a while, or never, why not take some time today (Mondays are great days for starting fresh, after all!) to think about what a day is going to be like once you are living your dream.

Some questions to help you get started detailing your ideal writing life include:

  • What kind of project are you working on?
  • Where are you writing? (cafe, room with a view, home, vacation spot, on the beach…)
  • Where do you live?
  • Are you traveling? (perhaps touring your book, or writing abroad)
  • What time of year is it?
  • Are you near/with other writers?
  • How does your day begin?
  • How do you wrap up your day?

Be as detailed as possible. Picture yourself in the moment in time and capture sights, sounds, tastes, feelings, and sensations. Whatever makes the moment real to you.

I bet that as you write about what you want, you’ll discover at least one way to start on the path to getting it.

Nothing to lose, but your dream life to gain! If you imagine your dream life, you’re taking a big step toward realizing that life.

My dream writing life includes a water view, walks in the sand, and kayaking at dawn.

Will you give it a shot?

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

Journaling: A Method for Creative Discoveries

I’ve been a journaler since my first diary as a young girl.

Journaling is a way to get thoughts out of my head and neatly tucked away; a way of removing words/thoughts that distract me. Once I have something written down, I can stop thinking about it and move on.

I have this visual of raising my hand next to my ear, reaching just inside the ear, and pinching the end of a string. When I pull the string, I discover it’s a string made of words. Pulling some words out of my head makes room for others.

Of course, there are some days where that string seems never ending, like those colorful handkerchiefs magicians pull out of a sleeve or a pocket — color after color after color with no apparent end. But there is always an end to the words that need to be cleared away so that new discoveries can be made.

As I browsed through a book store’s magazine section yesterday, I discovered Art Journaling Magazine. It’s a magazine full of examples from visual artists’ journals.

Sketches, multiple colors, ideas, thoughts… Some journals had a bit of a scrapbooking feel, others were done in black and white, most had numerous colors on a page. It inspired my inner muse who loves to find new ways to express myself.

LeatheretteJournalMy mother gave me a beautiful turquoise journal for Christmas. The edge is embossed with a design and each interior page has a light imprint of the design. The color is attractive, the design adds personality, the soft leather-like texture is welcoming, and the pages are spectacular to write on (some paper accepts ink better than others). What looks like a snap cover is a magnetized button closure, and it’s depressed into the cover a bit, so that the journal plays nice if in a stack. There is also a ribbon to use as a placeholder between pages. Everything about the journal is welcoming and comforting and begging to capture words.

ArtistWayMorningPageJournalAnother favorite journal of mine is the actual workbook used for Artist Way Morning Pages. This is a large 8.5 x 11 book, so has heft to it, but it allows for more expansion on creativity with pages. The paper is thick and reminds me, for some reason, of paper I used in first grade when learning to form the letters of the alphabet.

As I flipped through the journaling magazine in the store, a lot of ideas popped into my head about how to add a bit of pizzazz to my journals as I make entries.

I’ve heard a lot about the online LiveJournal tool, too. I’ve never tried it, but I know it allows for more than straight typing of thoughts into the cosmos. And since it’s an online tool, there’s the option to share some of your writing with others. This intrigues me since I could attach photographs to the entries. It’s something I’ll look into. Here’s a listing of those tagging themselves for the writing community.

I believe that any way to clear clutter from the mind to make room for new thoughts is a great exercise.

What is your favorite way to journal?

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. Journaling keeps everything in perspective. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

The Gratitude Journal – Giving Daily Thanks

With this week hosting Thanksgiving (in the States) it’s a good time to be thinking about what we’re thankful for — daily.

We may have talked about a gratitude journal before (heck, there can be a journal for anything, can’t there?) But I find the gratitude journal to be particularly inspiring, especially on difficult days.

open journalGratitude journals are the quickest kind of journaling I do (for the most part). I write in mine each night before turning the light out. It’s my way of ending the day on a positive note. And it’s particularly handy when the day had challenges.

I first started this type of journal when I was a corporate employee and had some struggles there and at home.

The goal is to write down 5 things each day that you are grateful for. And writing them down in the form of I am grateful for ………….

I remember a few entries looking like this:

  • I am grateful for my fleece socks.
  • I am grateful for my bowl of cereal.
  • I am grateful  for toothpaste.
  • I am grateful for toilet paper.
  • I am grateful for hot water.

Some days we can be so appreciative of the basics in life. Other times we may find ourselves going deeper into feelings, experiences, opportunities, friends, family… so many things.

My goal is always to find something new to be grateful for. If one day I’m grateful for a matching pair of ankle socks, the next day may be gratitude for a clean pair of dress socks or no run in the nylons. The winter gratitude lists definitely have more of a warm theme to them — warm hat, gloves, etc. Summer is a cool theme.

I can be thankful for the muse showing up, for my characters writing their own stories for me, or sometimes I’m grateful that the characters argue with me until I see their point.

Separate from the journal, I’m always thankful for a new day — and usually express that when I wake up. I say it out loud to the Universe: “Thank you for a new day to explore and experience.”

And then the evening is the writing of 5 particular things that pop into my head.

Fresh apple pieLast night’s list:

  • I am grateful for getting my bike tuned up and the old bikes donated.
  • I am grateful for Little Sis being inspired to be a writer – she says it’s because of me.
  • I am grateful for the 4 delicious pies Little Sis and I made – 2 to donate, 2 to share.
  • I am grateful for 3 new paying writing opportunities.
  • I am grateful for my floor agreeing to turn the heat up on such a cold day!

Of course you can make up your own ‘rules’ — it could be more or less than 5 items, you can duplicate items every day until something new pops in your head, it could be specific types of things.

I create my list by capturing whatever pops in my mind when I grab the notebook and pen to make the list. As soon as I’m done writing (and I write, not type), I am grateful, I generally don’t have to pause before something comes out. Not always the case, but most times.

And like I mentioned at the start, I find this particularly beneficial at the end of a challenging day – when I’m not happy about anything and stressed about what’s on tap for the next day. Focusing on finding something good/nice/positive about the day takes the edge off.

Some days I’m grateful for being able to blink; for being able to breathe, for being able to hold a pen; for having a pen that writes, for having paper to write on, for having someone wave hello to me, for my cat not waking me up early.

I’m also in the habit of saying “Thank you” out loud when something particular happens or comes my way. And the more I give thanks, the  more I find I have to be thankful for.

I hope that your life is full of things you’re grateful for!

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.

Laughter is good medicine for the body…and the muse

Go ahead...laugh. The extra 2 arms the woman has are mine. This is the only pic of me completing a recent 3K.

Go ahead…laugh. The extra 2 arms the woman has are mine. This is the only pic of me (my arms) completing a recent 3K.

I’m a happy person. I enjoy laughing and have no problem laughing at myself (just ask the walls and furniture that are always leaping out at me – or my crazy race photos).

I’ve known the old adage of “laughter is good medicine” for years, but last Thursday, I became a true believer.

Through a series of events, I ended up attending a live local theatrical production of “Monty Python’s Spamalot.”

I had no idea what to expect, nor did the 6 people who joined me. We like trying new things and figured we’d at least have a ‘different’ night out.

Five days before the theatre, I somehow tweaked my lower back. I would have laughed more at myself if it didn’t hurt so much — I think I looked like I was trying to do a robot dance most of the time that week with anything I did – awkward, stiff, slow-moving, boxy.

At the theatre, I laughed for most of the 2 hours of the production. It was hilarious! I also couldn’t get over how the actors were NOT cracking themselves up (although in one scene, there were a couple who did crack).

My cheeks hurt from smiling so much. I even had tears rolling down my face a time or two.

Even better was a few hours later when I was home and realized I could bend, turn, and twist again without any pain! It took a few deep knee bends and hula-like twists to convince myself it wasn’t my imagination.

The true test would be if I could move in the morning

And… I could! Pain free all that night and into the next day. And I’m still pain free.

Laughter did it.  Laughter healed what ailed me last week, and not just physically.

In this pic, my face is replaced by a black-gloved hand. My arms and legs are visible tho!

In this pic, my face is replaced by a black-gloved hand. My arms and legs are visible tho!

My muse was tickled (ooh, a pun — I love when they come naturally), too. She’s been voraciously dancing in my dreams the past few nights. She does a lot with coconuts and symbols/cymbals, in particular (wink wink).

I can attest that great belly laughs can go a long way to healing aches, pains, and creative blockages, so I plan to seek out a lot more humor going forward.

One of my goals is to continue getting myself some unique race photos. These are just 2 from 2 separate races this year. I laugh every time I look at them because – what are the odds of such perfect alignment?

Have you had any experiences where laughter was good medicine?

Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom where she gets to network with writing professionals on a weekly basis. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.

Visuals for goals make an impression

We’ve had several conversations on this blog about goal setting, the importance of writing your goals down and breaking those goals into quarterly/monthly/weekly/daily tasks.

We’ve also talked about ‘checking off’ those daily tasks and crossing items off ToDo lists.

And while I love crossing items off a list, or putting a check next to a “big goal”, I’ve found great value in other visuals, too.

For instance, for exercise – I give myself a star or a smiley face or a “great job” sticker on a day that I have at least 30 minutes of exercise. I have 12 small months taped to a kitchen door, so I can easily see how many days I’ve exercised throughout the year whenever I want. It’s quite inspiring.

Race bibs from 2012

Race bibs from 2012

Last year, I completed 2 races – a 5K and a triathlon. I tacked the race bibs to my bulletin board (as well as giving myself those stickies for exercising those days!)

I stopped exercising all together after the triathlon since I didn’t have any other races in mind. At year’s end, I knew I had to make 2013 better.

I decided that if I had (about) a race a month, I’d have to keep moving. My goal is to complete at least 12 races. (I’m new to running, so don’t feel I need to win, place, or show — just complete a race and focus on improving.)

Race bibs from 2013

Race bibs from 2013

This year, to date, I’ve completed 11 races, including a triathlon and a 5K obstacle course. When I look at the wall of all my bibs, I can’t help but smile, be proud of myself, and be motivated to keep exercising so my next race will be even better.

I’m currently registered for 2 more races, so will hit 13 total. I’m not superstitious about ’13’ at all, but I may try for 14.

1-Mile Pace listed on index card

1-Mile Pace listed on index card

Another visual I have is  an index card list of my “1-mile pace” numbers. I had my fastest pace yesterday!

Visuals make an impression!

I’m absolutely motivated to increase my fitness goals for next year.

For writing goals, I tape up class certificates, awards, as well as kudo notes and emails. And I track business/income submissions on green index cards, so at a glance at my corkboard I know how many projects I’ve completed that have generated income.

Posting visuals of any achievement is a great idea. Remember having grade school papers put on the refrigerator door? First drawings being proudly displayed on some wall in the house? How about those pencil marks on a door jam that showed how much we grew in a year? Did they motivate you to do more? Weren’t you curious to see how far/tall you could grow? (How far can you grow now as a writer?)

Let your inner child out a bit.

Show off your accomplishments, even if only to yourself  — every time you look at the wall where you’ve taped them, hung them, pinned them, or trapped them with a magnet – you’ll smile and feel proud.

Good idea?

Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom where she gets to network with writing professionals on a weekly basis. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.

Your Writer’s Mind

writer mind

dummy soundcloud writers mind

Writers are like aliens. We explore and dissect, question and document. We study the ways of the human heart and soul with a probing and unflinching eye. The writer’s mind is a many-faceted marvel that defies logic in order to create magic, all within the constraints of twenty-six letters and a few punctuation marks.

The writer’s mind is prone to wandering. Writers do not live life the same way non-writers do. We are more of the world and yet always slightly apart from it. We exist simultaneously in multiple worlds – the “Real World,” the world as we see it, and worlds of our own devising. It’s no wonder then, what with our minds being in two or more places at once, that we sometimes appear distracted or a bit dotty.

The writer’s mind is full of wonder. We are endlessly curious about everything and everyone. We are avid people watchers, stealing bits of dialog, mannerisms, and expressions. We collect the world piece by piece, tucking places, objects, and ideas away in the labyrinthine corridors of our brains. Most of all, we ask, “What if?” We question the truth and ponder the possibilities. We expand the universe with our thoughts and our words.

The writer’s mind is a working mind. It rarely sleeps, and even in slumber continues its efforts through dreams. Our minds perform their amazing feats of creation while balanced on the line between craft and imagination, practice and inspiration. Half artist, half linguistic scientist, we filter the world and all our experiences through the context of story – sifting and separating the details so we can see how the puzzle pieces fit together.

The writer’s mind is full of worry. It circles again and again around the same fears and doubts like a hunger-lean tiger, pacing and pacing, wearing a track in the floor. Will I ever have another idea? Will anyone understand? Will anyone care?  Am I good enough? We chew relentlessly on our anxieties and insecurities even though we know they offer no sustenance. The foreboding never goes away, no matter the scope or height of our success.

The writer’s mind is wily. When we don’t feel up to the task of writing, our minds are happy to offer all manner of distractions and diversions. We are masters of procrastination, being able to justify almost any activity (or inactivity) as “research” or “part of the process.” Left to their own devices, our writers’ minds might very well weasel their way out of finishing anything.

But, at the end of the day, the writer’s mind is wonderful. It is the source of our inspiration and the tool of our craft. Sometimes partially insane and always partly magic, our minds are home and haven to the wonder of our hearts and the wanderings of our intellect. Our writers’ minds hum busily in the background even when we are performing the most mundane tasks – clearing the table, waiting in line at the bank, mowing the lawn. Though we perceive sudden moments of insight as epiphany, they are really just the hard won fruits of our minds’ ceaseless labors.

The writer’s mind may lead us down rabbit holes and into dark corners. It may confound us with questions that have no answers and deceive us with doubts. It may taunt and torture us in the predawn hours as we wrestle with questions of plot and character, story arc and structure. But I don’t know a single writer who would trade her curious, creative, renegade writer’s mind for anything in the world.

I know I wouldn’t.

Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

Image  Credit: Cover from Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer (affiliate link)

Taking time to appreciate the moments to focus on writing

My week carried me away recently. I knew my calendar was packed and I had writing to do, but I didn’t realize I’d gotten overwhelmed until I was out on one of my walks.

Notice the path

Notice the path

I try to walk 45 to 60 minutes a day to (somewhat) balance all the sitting in front of the screen that I do. While out on one walk last week I caught myself having some heavy sighs — those sighs, or exhales that accompany a sound.

My first thought was the humidity was causing me to breath heavy. Then I thought I was walking too fast (if that’s possible). But then the “ah ha’ hit me, as I had another loud exhale, that my mind wasn’t focused. Thoughts were flying all over the place and I wasn’t even paying attention to my route, nevermind to my breathing or anything in the world around me. My body was physically in one place and my mind in another.

So I stopped where I was and took some purposeful deep breaths until I ‘noticed’ my breathing… and then birds chirping… the slight breeze … the scent of flowers … and so on.

Stop to smell the flowers

Stop to smell the flowers

It’s so easy to let life’s tasks overwhelm us at times, isn’t it?

I’d like to suggest something, for all of us who have these moments. Tomorrow, before starting the craziness that our days entail, let’s stop, take a breath, and appreciate the beauty of the moment we’re in.

Enjoy the morning cup of (iced) coffee, tea, or glass of milk instead of inhaling it on the go. Step outside and take a stroll around the house, through the garden, or down the driveway instead of doing a chore.

Savor every drop of the morning beverage and be aware of each step taken. Take the time to ‘see’ every single thing we can possibly take in with our eyes. Touch what we can, listen to the birds, stop and smell the flowers.

Let’s appreciate each and every moment for what it brings into our morning. Enjoy what flows into our bodies through all your senses. Keep taking those deep, fulfilling breaths.

Then, when we feel refreshed (and wide awake), then we can sit at the keyboard to type, or notepad to write, and turn a similar focus to what we’re writing, letting go of all thoughts of any other things we need or hope to do.

Soon enough, I know we’ll find words flowing. It will be as if time doesn’t exist. We’ll write and write and write. We’ll be in sync with our muses, and it’s quite possible that when we look up, we’ll find more time has passed than what we expect.

That’s what it’s like to live in the moment. I’ve done it before, and it’s an unsurpassed feeling. I’m going to strive to get that back in my mornings this week.

What do you do to get refocus on what’s important?

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is a self-employed writer and editor. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom where she gets to network with writing professionals on a weekly basis. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and Biznik.

How to brainstorm and write a story in 24 hours (or less)

I’m adding another ‘thank you‘ to Jamie’s to those of you who participated in the recent NHWN poll. Great feedback.

Onward! In April, I wrote about a 24-hour short story contest I find to be fun, stressful, inspiring, challenging, entertaining, and a great exercise for my muse. Do you see the ups and downs in that last sentence? I have a lot of emotions when writing for a contest, assignment, or a client. And I like that. If I didn’t have a mix of emotions, then I’d take that as a sign I’m too comfortable. Growth comes from pushing into the ‘uncomfy zone,’ not from the same ol’ same ol’.

With the next rendition of the contest coming this Saturday, and based on survey feedback, I thought I’d delve into some tips for writing a story or article with a deadline of a day or less.

These tips can also be applied to blog posts, interviews, and more.

  1. Know the assignment. If it’s a contest, be familiar with the rules. If it’s a client project, make sure you’re clear on the deliverable. If it’s an article, blog post, or interview, know the key points to be covered.

    Brainstorm on the screen or on paper

    Brainstorm on the screen or on paper

  2. Write out initial thoughts – brainstorm. Turn off your internal editor (easier said than done sometimes, I know) and start freewriting ideas. Make lists, mindmap, scribble, draw, whatever it takes to get initial ideas downloaded from your brain. Use a timer, or write until you run dry, whatever works best. For me, a timer keeps the internal editor from speaking too loudly.
  3. Step away. Turn the paper over, minimize the window, close the laptop, walk away from your desk, or close your eyes. I find it helpful to change gears completely and go for a walk, have a snack, listen to music, read e-mail, or anything that doesn’t relate to the project. The mind is still turning ideas over, and likes to do so when you aren’t paying close attention.
  4. Come back with fresh eyes. Read through your notes. Highlight the items from your brainstorming that catch your eye and cross off the ideas that are too typical. What else leaps to mind now? What strikes you as interesting, original, or fun? Shift perspectives — if you’re the reader, which of the items, which focus/approach, would be most interesting or refreshing?
  5. Pick one idea. Yes, just one. Which one floats to the top of the list? Start with that one. (You can always go back to the list later if you need to.)
  6. Free write.  Write on that one topic you’ve just chosen without worrying about what you don’t have. Assignments can need research, quotes, pictures, or other background material. Don’t worry about that now. Write your story/article/blog post with what you know at the moment. You’ll know where you need to insert details later. Leave a blank line, capital letters (XXX), or symbols (???), if you need to. Most important, is that you write without worrying about spelling or word count.
  7. Repeat step 3.
  8. Write your second draft. You know the topic now; your muse is partnering with you to get the story written. Fill in the blanks.
  9. Repeat step 3. A great time for a treat because you’re almost done.

    Deliciously cool key lime pie

    A treat — Deliciously cool key lime pie

  10. Read with an editor’s eye. Clean up the grammar and punctuation. Get within your word count. Give your story / article / assignment a nice polish.
  11. Sleep on it. Similar to step 3, but, it’s the final stretch. The words are on the page and fulfill the guidelines. You have time to relax and let the piece simmer.
  12. Make final revisions and submit before your deadline.

And my favorite step — 13. Celebrate the milestone. I do the “whoot whoot” and fist pump the air and/or do a happy dance. It’s a great feeling knowing a task / assignment / contest entry / what-have-you has been completed and submitted.

It’s like using the fine china or crystal today instead of waiting for “a special event”. Celebrate the moment, the accomplishment. The piece didn’t exist in any form 24 hours (or less) ago, and now it’s done, dusted, and submitted.

Now for the next project!

If you have specific questions, please ask.

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is a self-employed writer and editor. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom where she gets to network with writing professionals on a weekly basis. You can connect with her on Facebook, TwitterLinkedIn, and Biznik.

Playing With The Muse

Here’s a guest post written by my friend and colleague, Sylvie Kurtz. Enjoy!

Writers often rue the fickleness of the muse. I think of her like a child with ADD. I picture her a bit like Tinkerbell, bright and bouncy, flitting here and there, her attention diverted by anything that catches her attention.

My critic, on the other hand, looks like a pasty white blob poured into a throne-like chair. He wears a purple robe adorned with silver stars and, given half a chance, will expound on (and on, and on) any topic with enviable certainty.

Both the muse and the critic have their function when it comes to writing a story. But they tend not to play well together. If the muse shows up first and spills her vast reserves of glittery energy, that gives the critic something to work with. The trick is giving the muse a chance to do her thing before the critic tries to create order out of her chaos.

So how do you invite the muse out to play? Show up, open up, listen up, and follow up.

1. Show Up. Like an ADD child, the muse thrives on structure. If you make a play date at a specific time and place, she’s more likely to show up. And if you keep that date regular, it becomes habit, and she might already be waiting for you when you sit down.

You may want to create a ritual that allows you to quiet down and get into the present. The muse doesn’t think about yesterday or tomorrow. She’s all about the now. I have a salt lamp I turn on to let my muse know I’m here and I’m ready.

2. Open Up. The muse wants to play. Play is what she’s all about. But to engage her to play with you, you have to let her know that you want to play, too. So start writing. Doesn’t matter what you write; just write. Keep the pen (or fingers on the keyboard) moving.

When I first started writing, my confidence level bordered on the non-existent. I set a timer for fifteen minutes and forced myself to write. For the longest time, all I could do was write things like, “This is stupid. I can’t write. Who do I think I am?” But eventually, the critic got bored and took a nap. That’s when the muse started whispering, “If you were to write a real story . . .”

3. Listen Up. Like any kid, the muse wants to know someone’s listening to her. My son used to come home from school, flop into the rocking chair in my office and spill his day. This was a time I loved, but sometimes, especially when I was on deadline, I tried to multi-task—one ear on the conversation, the other on the work. And even though I could repeat what he’d told me, he’d sigh and say, “Mom, you’re not listening.” He needed eye contact to feel heard.

Transcribe what the muse gifts you, even if it doesn’t make sense. Write fast. The muse loves speed. Forget the “rules” of good writing. Forget proper punctuation. Feel the emotions she brings up. Ask her questions and let her answer. Feeling listened to will thrill her and make her want to play more often.

4. Follow Up. To make the muse feel as if you appreciate her, she wants you to do something with her gift. She doesn’t like to see her pearls lying unused. In the mess of words on the page, you’ll unearth gems.

And this is where she won’t mind the critic stepping in. Because patience and organization skill are the critic’s strong points, he can string those pearls into a satisfying whole.

The muse wants to play. All she’s waiting for is an invitation.

How do you invite your muse to play?

Sylvie_KurtzSylvie Kurtz writes adventures that explore the complexity of the human mind and the thrill of suspense. She likes dark chocolate, soft wool, and sappy movies. For more information, check out sylviekurtz.com. You can follow her @sylviekurtz on Twitter.

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon is a part-time writer who is grateful to learn from more experienced writers like Sylvie!