Tag Archives: writer

Calling Your Writing Muse

I used to think that I had to be ‘inspired’ in order to write.  I waited for those all-too-rare moments of brilliance – I was foolish enough to believe that I needed them, or else I couldn’t write.

Turns out, that was totally a lie.  I have a lazy muse, that’s all; one who would rather lounge about her pajamas eating fried food and watching old Firefly episodes.  (Turns out my muse in uncomfortably like myself.)  Is it any wonder I never finished anything?  I’d start something in a high excitement, and then…the inspiration faded.

Since then I’ve discovered the secret of muse-management: Your muse is not some willowy blonde with a sheet and a sulky disposition, your muse is a dog.  If you call it, it comes, and if you train it, it learns to be obedient.

Set aside one hour a day.  It works best if it’s always the same time of day, so pick an hour that you can be consistently faithful to.  And when that hour comes, I don’t care what you feel like, you pick up your pen, or you sit down in front of your computer.  You tell your muse that if you and she write X number of pages (I used three, because I’m a pen and paper writer), you can leave as soon as they’re done, whether the hour is up or not.   If you don’t finish your pages, it doesn’t matter if you don’t write a single word, you will not budge from your desk or put down your pen.

It’s likely your muse will throw a tantrum at first, and you’ll feel all rebellious and like you’re wasting your time.  You may have an hour or two where your pages stay blank except for doodles.  But after a surprisingly short time, you’ll begin to write.  Sometimes it will feel like the most terrible writing you’ve done, and sometimes you’ll finish the minimum three pages and that will be it for the day.  But more often than not, because you called it, inspiration will come, and when the hour is up, you’ll still be writing feverishly and you won’t want to stop. Instead of three, you’ll get a fabulous six pages, or ten, or fourteen.

It works.  I only wish it hadn’t taken me so long to figure it out.

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Where do you get your ideas?

If you’ve ever put together a jigsaw puzzle, then you already know how a writer comes up her ideas.  It’s one meaningless piece at a time, pulled out of a jumbled cardboard box of everything a writer has seen, heard, touched, felt, dreamed, or imagined – because all writers are fearful magpies; we collect and hoard every little thing that crosses our paths, as though anything might be the last of everything.  Eventually, since all jigsaw boxes are finite, our box starts bulging at the dreams.  Things start leaking back through into our ordinary life; we find ourselves standing motionlessly in front of the running tap while we consider an image of a deep city of darkness falling away beneath our feet, or a man with a feather quill writing words into flesh with ink and blood.

And we know it’s time.

We pour out our box onto the table, and we start sorting through the pieces, looking for the ones that shine the brightest, or have the most lovely gloom.  They are a bit of overheard conversation, a magazine headline that we misread in an interesting way, or the sound of a mother calling her child home in the darkness.  We turn those pieces this way and that way, until they join together in our imaginations, and we see a little glimmer of the finished picture – no more than a single window in our mythical deep city, perhaps, but enough to show us where they connect, and the place that gives them meaning.

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And it’s in that place that a story is found.