24 Ways to Develop Your Muse

Dickens_dream
Charles Dickens’ Dream

The muse that lives deep in your subconscious is something of a sprite. You can write without her of course, if you don’t mind being methodical. But when the muse shows up, she takes your writing to a whole new level, offering plot surprises, adding in soulful wisdom you didn’t know you possessed, and giving your story a dreamlike quality.

The problem is that your muse is not easily tamed. She comes and goes at her own will. She is notoriously right-brained and knows nothing of schedules and deadlines. And yet, like the stray cat in your neighborhood, she can be lured in.

Over the years, I’ve learned a few things that work with my muse. Your muse, I’m sure, has his own personality, so your mileage may vary.

  • Let your mind drift. When your guard is down, as you take a shower, walk the dog or do dishes, great ideas will surface.
  • Ask yourself tough plot questions before you go to sleep. Your mind will get to work on it without your conscious self even being aware.
  • Flirt with writing challenges that are too difficult for you. Your muse will take the dare, if you give her time.
  • Explore scene kernels. Take a snatch of dialogue or a small piece of action and set your mind to simmer for a few days before trying to expand it into a full-fledged scene.
  • Fire your internal editor. You can invite him back later once your muse has completed her work.
  • Release guilt, self-doubt and worries. The muse likes to play, so be a child at play.
  • Read poetry. It will enrich the word creator within you.
  • Write lists of random evocative words. (See above).
  • Take entire writing days. Send the kids to Grandma’s. Take a vacation from your day job. The longer you immerse yourself in the writing, the more your muse will surface.
  • Take breaks from the writing. Muses need their rest too.
  • Write dangerously. Forget the market. Forget your audience. Break a few conventions. You can always scale back later, but a few writing leaps will give your muse room to expand your story.
  • Do your research. Whether you’re writing about a Viking ship or a modern day heart surgeon, your muse can be more creative if she’s well-informed.
  • Say no. No to committee meetings. No to the internet and solitaire. Writing time is golden, and it has to be protected.
  • Follow rabbit trails. Leave the outline, and see where the what-if leads. Sometimes the muse just knows.
  • Sleep well. A rested muse is more creative.
  • Conversely, stay up late. If you’re on a roll, don’t let the muse leave.
  • Do something you haven’t done before. If you’re not a singer, sing out loud. Cook exotic meals. Dance. Hike. Learn origami. Trying something new, especially something physical, releases another part of you.
  • Let your muse free while you immerse yourself in a new book or movie. She’ll extract ideas that become totally original when they mix in with your story.
  • Put it in writing. Notes have a way of kick-starting your subconscious into action.
  • Twist the story without a clue of how it will resolve itself.
  • Go outside. Sunlight and wind and grass invigorate us, and thus our stories.
  • Live mindfully. Taste what you eat. Turn off the TV and listen to the sounds in your home. Feel the words on your tongue as you talk. Bring your senses alive and it will build new grooves into your story.
  • Be patient. If your story is in knots, work on some other aspect. Meanwhile, your muse will be untangling the story threads under the surface.
  • Most of all, don’t try too hard to design the first draft. Ride the story’s waves. Control has its place, but the stories with the biggest hearts come from a place of freedom.

There is more to the mind than we know. It has multiple levels and works in ways we don’t always understand. Give those deeper levels permission, and your muse will work hard for you.

Don’t Let Your Muse be a Prima Donna

Granted, there’s nothing particularly sexy about the image here, but that’s exactly the point I hope to make today. I have plenty of writing mistakes behind me, and, no doubt, I’ll probably have more ahead of me, but my biggest mistake, by far, has to have been my slow recognition of how to live with a flighty muse.

I fell in love with words and books as a little kid, and the magic holds as much of a spell on me as it ever did. Even now, watching the letters group up into words and the words into sentences on this page pleases my eyes and settles my soul; only now I know there is nothing mysterious about the magic! I once thought of my muse as this elusive creature who must be cajoled into making an appearance. I had to attend to her every need with just the right coffee/surroundings/writing pad, etc.  Otherwise, like some spoiled prima donna, she might get offended and disappear as quickly as she arrived. There’s a good country word for that sort of thing: bologna!

If I might digress a moment to a much more important subject, I’ll use my last breath on this green earth helping my fellow believers understand that this same principle is applicable to our life in Christ Jesus. I believe it’s vain to wait on some supernatural hunger for God’s word and His fellowship in prayer to bonk us all on the head and propel us to our quiet places. And yet, I know that when we bend our will to His and seek Him diligently, He meets us and begins forming those very desires within us. Now, THAT is good news, any which way you slice it. And now, back to your regularly scheduled writing post.

My muse wears work clothes. She has to, y’all. Deadlines call from every corner. Oh, yes, I love words and writing as much as ever, the process will always feed my soul. But if I were waiting on a flighty muse to show up and perform, I’d be dead in the water.

Like so much else in this life, I’ve found that success comes when one foot, or word in our case, is placed in front of the other, time and time again. I can’t get the hours back that I’ve wasted in the past, waiting on my muse to show up and perform, but that’s okay. Experience is, after all, a mighty fine teacher. I may have stumbled towards the understanding, but I’ve learned that my muse, she is me. I’ve taken the power back, and it feels good. Who knows, if she’s good, I may even treat her to a caramel macchiato!

Do you wait for inspiration, or do you start without it?

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