Your Muse is Dead
You can find endless stories about how a certain person may have been a muse for a particular artist, and how this muse inspired said artist to create extraordinary pieces of work. Many artists themselves believe in the muse as something that fills their head with enlightened ideas that – poof – become extraordinary pieces of work. And if ideas vanish, artists will claim their muse died or left them, leaving their art stagnant.
I call bullshit.
Hear me out. While we’re all inspired by ideas we see, hear, and experience, the concept of a muse injecting ideas into your head is worthless and will leave you crippled as a writer. So, for those days when you’re certain your “muse” is absent, I offer ten magical ways to get your rear in gear and get to writing:
1. RITUALS—Bought that sexy Mr. Darcy candle at your local bookstore? Light it! Make a cup of tea or brew some coffee and get into a comfy spot. Sometimes the set up can inspire you to get going.
2. GET ON THE PAGE—Show the hell up. And show up. And show up. Oh, and show up. If you don’t make it a habit to get onto the page, ideas are not going to flow. Carve out 30 minutes a day somewhere if it’s important to you. Otherwise, admit that maybe it’s not as precious as you think it is.
3. PROMPTS—If you’re staring at a blank page, try writing to a prompt. One of my personal favorites is on twitter as @wewritedragons — they post a new prompt every hour!
4. READ—Get inspired from your favorite author or from great literature. I’ve read some posts lately where writers say they’re afraid they’ll accidentally steal an idea from another author. Honestly? There’s nothing new out there; just reworking of the old in your own voice with new twists. Everything you do is inspired by something else, so don’t be afraid to get inspired by someone else’s work.
5. MORNING PAGES—In Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, one of her tactics to bring art back into your life is to write three pages of longhand stream of consciousness first thing every morning. By doing this you are: 1) proving you can write habitually, and 2) you are doing a brain dump of all the things that might distract you.
6. TIME—Set a specific time to write every day. Make this an “off limits” time to family and friends as you concentrate on working. You can also set a timer for how long you should write—start with 30 minutes and build up from there. And don’t ever let anyone make you feel guilty about dedicating time to your craft.
7. GAMEPLAY—Turn it into a game! Can you type 1,000 words in two hours? Can you beat yesterday’s goal? If you did, give yourself a gold star on a chart. Sounds silly, but do it anyway.
8. COMMUNITY—Join a local writer’s or artist’s group where you can be inspired by others and kick around your ideas together. There isn’t a group in your area? Create one!
9. BRAINLESS TASKS—If you are super stumped, sometimes mindlessly doing a task around the house can spark great ideas. Do the dishes, fold the laundry, vacuum the living room. It’s not going to do itself, right? Just don’t forget to get back to your writing afterward.
10. RESEARCH—Dive into some research about your setting, get to know the time period better, learn about the customs, clothing, food, etc. Something you learn may lead to fresh words in your manuscript.
While I can’t promise that doing one, two, or all ten of these will magically make you a better, more productive writer, I can tell you that trying something could be just the prescription you need to get those ideas flowing. Because when you show up, that “muse” might, too.