I wish I had the cigar-smoking muse Stephen King writes about. The one who lives in my basement, eats all my food, but is cool as hell.
Instead, my muse is more like a city librarian who watches classy porn in her free time. She’s meticulous, kempt, and executes the use of who and whom correctly. She goes home and fixes her baked free-range chicken atop organic wild rice and pops in a black-cased DVD that has sex and a story line.
I wanted a Betty Page. I got an Audrey Hepburn.
My Audrey chose her traits; I didn’t choose them for her. She enjoys great plots, better writing, and a little sex on side. If sex progresses the story line, it’s a bonus. If sex is just sex, she fast forwards the DVD to get to the interesting parts.
This is my muse, and I deal with her every day.
As writers (be it of novels, novellas, articles, editing, or otherwise), we can’t choose our muse. But we can harness her (or him…or it; there’s no judging the Muse selection).
Like writers, each muse is different, but there are a few things you can do to make sure yours sits down at the keyboard with you.
#1 Show up. Harnessing your muse can only happen if you show up ready to harness. Several writers write on a schedule. (I typically work from 8:30 – 5:00 with an hour for lunch.) The schedule exists because it makes writers write. Regardless if writers are busy, distracted, or have a house full of visitors, if their habitual writing time is near their focus will be on what they can write. If you’re trying to make (or already have made) writing your career–consider treating it like one and show up to work.
#2 Concentrate. While at work, harnessing your muse, focus on what you are writing. Writing is not social media. Writing is not checking emails. Writing is not answering phone calls or making grocery lists or even making your fourth cup of coffee. If you don’t concentrate on your project neither will your muse. And once your muse gets bored, she’ll leave, and you’re screwed.
#3 Quit on Time. Your muse is more likely to inspire you if she knows when her day will end. I can’t stress the importance of writing on a schedule. Sure, there’s always time off and overtime. But your muse, like you, knows hundreds of other muses who work nine-to-five day jobs. Forgive her, if she’s a little confused about her work-from-home schedule. Show up, concentrate, quit on time–give her a schedule.
#4 Endure. Like runners achieve a runner’s high, writers write through all the slush and mud to reach the writer’s high. As an author, you’ll recognize this by a double-your-average-word-count day. As an editor, I’ll see a jump in my pages per hour, or, as a writer, I’ll leave the shower to pound out the contents of an article (which is exactly what I’m doing now). Endure your set work hours, whether you’re writing shit or writing brilliance. Endurance will get you and your muse to the writer’s high.
#5 Be Decisive. Write when you don’t want to, or take your allotted time off. But do not waste your day avoiding writing. On avoidance days, you spend energy worrying or feeling guilty. You likely get nothing accomplished. If you wake up and today is not your writing day–decide it’s not your writing day and make it productive some other way. Then, when tomorrow is your writing day the dishes and laundry and last week’s television episodes won’t distract you.
There is no Muse, but Chase Her Anyway
Unfortunately, (or fortunately?) we don’t have literal muses. There’s no person in your head messing with you.
Like Christmas, we don’t believe in Santa Clause, but in what he represents–time with family and wrapped presents under a tree.
We don’t believe there are good and bad angels sitting on our shoulders, but we do believe in weighing consequences of our actions.
We don’t believe there’s a muse, but we believe in the epic writing process.
And that process is best reached if we actively pursue that perfect balance between writing and living and promotion and networking.
Good writing days are something to be chased.
Here’s to catching your muse.
What’ s your muse look like? Is she (or he or it) a mini you, or a six foot guy with a skull tattooed on his arm with the word mamma running through it?