Tips on Wooing the Muse
First, you have to turn off the editor. No, first, you have to turn on your writer’s eye. I’ll talk about when to turn on the editor later. In her book Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg says writers live twice. All artists and creatives live twice. When they learn to work around the impediments of busy day-to-day life, they use their second life to search out inspiration potential. The frenetic pace so many find themselves in often steals subsequent moments and blurs second sights, rendering them unavailable for later recall.
There is a way to arrive prepared when you allow time for creativity. Don’t worry if you lack regular time for your chosen art form. You might find the end of a day or a hectic week invites you to sit and switch on your other self. The self that doesn’t wear the hats of an employee for a regular paycheque, busy solopreneur, mother, father, wife, husband, partner but the space to be just you communing with your muse.
Arrive Ready for Your Creative Time
A technique for writing prolifically that I’m about to share with you builds on Goldberg’s idea. You must turn on your writer’s eye to see things twice (you do not need mind-altering substances to induce this). Call forth your curious eye and allow it to probe things with the concentration of a magnifying glass. Aim to make this focused double vision a ritualistic habit. A terrible thing will happen if you examine everything more than once; you’ll have a blog post, a poem, a music composition bubbling up, a story, or a writing idea for everything you look at, hear, or experience. This will be a good thing if you can also finish the things you start in a timely manner. (If you can do that, I’m taking pointers, thank you!)
Now take it one step further. If you want to write profusely, insist on the necessary action and write your second sight down. That’s the voice of your muse tickling your ear via the sustained curiosity of a creative. It’s the action I expect of myself when I see things twice. I challenged myself to utilize this technique for one year, and it enabled me to write more than 300 poems, begin several short stories, plan outlines for six books, finish five personal essays, and focus on a book project. All writing starts with the seeds of an idea that stay with you, begging for more attention. Remember, these seeds need a firm place to sit while they wait. If you try to trust memory or the muse to deliver them again, they only lose their shape and strength, becoming invisible.
Begin to See Your Creative Flow Times
You’ll recognize your own writer’s eye when you begin to pay more attention to any one event or sight. Write your observations down if it lingers on the diminutive woman across the street in the bright pink hat leaning against a bus bench. Writing it down is the tool to later coax your muse into a consistent partnership. You become the instrument of the muse when you make the time for second sight. Then, more than just an implement, you become adept at channeling those whispered conjectures into syntactical marks on paper, where they can later multiply into your chosen genre or social media content. Once you are actively writing your second sight down, it becomes a habit, and the pressure is off. Blank moments staring at your screen or doodling on your paper are history. Would your mind tarry like mine did when a check filled out with the shaky hand of age came across my desk at work with the spouse’s name crossed out? Do you pause and ask the possible reasons why an older man would cross out his wife’s name? Then stop and write it down! It may become your best blog post or marketing copy, an extra character sketch in a novel, or the basis of a short story. Also, please pay attention to past events as they tumble through your mind. Take a moment to ponder each for its value as writing fodder.
If you’re at a desk where you sell your time and can’t occasionally attend to your matters when something intrigues you, establish one little comfortable corner for your muse. For example, keep a notepad or scrap paper handy beside your work computer monitor for quickly recording enough of any concentrated moment to conjure up a replay later. Ensure this spot is where your eyes connect with numerous times during your workday. If your job requires you to be mobile, carry a mini-cassette recorder in a pocket or some of your paper on a clipboard that you can keep close at hand. It only takes seconds to write your observations down. Scribble enough of the thought, curiosity, and image to return to it when you take writing time for yourself on a lunch break, on a park bench, at your home writing desk or in your favourite chair.
Unless you have an incredible memory and ability to recall the emotions and details of the moments that impacted you, you might end up chasing wispy memories of a neglected muse in your writing time. The muse is capricious and unreliable and does not give repeat performances unless you capture enough of the moment on paper to entice the muse to stretch the ideas further. You’ll see that you can reliably and consistently woo the muse.
Routines Equal Discipline and This is a Good Thing
Now, establish a reliable routine for your captured thoughts to travel to your home writing space. This gathering scrap method works wonderfully whether or not you maintain a regular writing time. When you get home after your work commute or evening out, take your pile of scraps, small notepad, or whatever you used and place them to meet you when you next sit down to write. Use the Boy Scout’s Creed to banish writer’s block. In Becoming a Writer, Dorothea Brande emphatically states the importance of cultivating the habit of putting words to paper the moment you sit down to write. With secured thoughts and images on paper clamoring for your attention, you can fearlessly claim time to write with the anticipation that you have ideas to play with even before you sit down.
When you arrive at your writing place, you can invite inspiration to play with you and your ready supply of second-sight moments. Alternatively, some writers like to take their notebooks to cafes or libraries, feeling they write their best away from home. Julia Cameron in The Right to Write suggests you utilize many different workstations throughout your house, maybe even your community, as some will elicit more success than others, depending on your mood. Every day, I arrived first at my pen and paper desk right after breakfast. Now that I mostly fast, it’s my yoga mat first, then my gratitude journal, followed by writing before I look at any devices. Regardless of what time of day you write, it’s best to arrive fueled up on physical sustenance if hunger will distract you. That way, a growling stomach can’t derail your creativity. Unleash your first thought and let it travel through you to your creative place. Do you have more words to add to it? If not, move on to the next piece or idea.
All Creatives Are Like Magpies
Sometimes a scrap thought might take a week or two, even a month or more, before further inspiration makes it appeal to you. Margaret Atwood shares, "Writers are like magpies; they collect endless scraps and shreds – things that they don’t think would be useful but suddenly are.” Most ideas eventually link to another thought, and the words begin to dance, sometimes feverishly. After a short time of sifting through your notebook, an image or phrase will jump out or beg more in-depth attention. Let the first thought that does get your mind dancing move out your fingers onto your notepad or on the keys to float in pixels across the screen. Do try the magic of working with a favoured pen in hand on paper, especially if your habit is to go straight to the keyboard usually. An often-neglected mind-body connection seems capable of harnessing creative energies more than an electronic mode of writing. Listen to Dr. Caroline Leaf on Tom Bilyeu’s Impact Theory, where she explains the science of what happens in the brain when we write by hand. The whole show is valuable on controlling your age through your brain processes and she talks about writing by hand and the brain at 38 minutes in the show.
Write whatever comes to you; ignore and banish any voice that says anything less than, “This is good. This is an idea that shows potential.” Switch to your word processing desk when one of your captured moments expands and ignites into flowing prose or verse. Instead of arriving there blank or empty-handed, counting on inspiration to agree with your timing, the tools you’ve used to hunt and gather inspiration everywhere deliver you primed to write. If you haven’t already, equip every coat pocket, purse or wallet with a notepad, small pen or pencil. Somehow, people are okay if we write something down during an interaction but being on our devices during interactions can often be construed as rude. Plus, writing by hand does activate those different parts of our creative brain. This will enable you to tether inspiration as it dances in front of you and, like music boxes, make beautiful noise when later wound up to their full potential and opened. Use these tools as bait to successfully lure the muse to join you as you unfold ideas and scraps of thought. Flirting is a tool used in the single world to attract a potential mate. There’s nothing wrong with using similar tools to attract and keep your muse’s interest piqued.
When to Persist and When to Walk Away
Look it over when you have used up every word and image on your scrap paper and reached the end of the thought line for that particular trigger. If you’re not ready for an editor-like voice, turn the page or close the document saving it in a file of rough drafts. Many writers advise only to let the editor peek at your work after it sits for a two-three day span but while you still have an attachment to a piece. Then you can defend it but work companionably with the editor. Be careful to invite the editor to appear when it’s best for you. Some people can edit the minute they have a rough draft and maybe even finish a poem in the first sitting. Not me. I’m sure I would write far less if I invited the editor in too early.
Two or three days later, when you return to rough drafts, you may find more of what originally inspired you. You may see ways to take your piece deeper and add more detail. Never delete or crumple a piece, but add it to your writing files. Remember what Atwood said; it might be useful later. Enjoy the personal satisfaction that you are succeeding at writing abundantly by using your second sight consistently. You’ll find that some of these “rough drafts” hide a few diamond chips, and with further attention to detail and the mechanics of good writing, they often become much more. If you’re ready, look at earlier writing, and change a few steps and the rhythm of the thought. I revise best when I have a specific goal in mind and flip through all my rough drafts to find one that fits my current mood or plan. But this requires turning on the editor, and that’s a whole new topic. So whether you’re single or partnered, now that your muse is a constant companion, your bed might be a little fuller when you fall reluctantly into rest periods. You might even keep a pen and paper beside your bed. I can almost write legibly in the dark now.
Reference link in the body of the story above
Dr. Caroline Leaf: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXDWkx2jmeQ
An app to turn your computer into a typewriter: https://getcoldturkey.com/writer/
Learn more about Rusti:
Rusti L Lehay, a global editor and book and writing coach, created over 40 articles guiding writers to authordom. Witnessing writers find and speak in their own voice to serve the real boss, the audience, not the editor, is one of Rusti’s greatest joys. She offers bi-monthly online writing STAY-Treats and monthly lounges and teaches weekly creative writing classes. Her primary mission is to inspire, provide value and make writing fun and easy.
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