Training Your Muse

I hear so many writers complain that they aren’t getting any writing done because their muse isn’t showing up. Contemptuous beasts, these muses. They tease us and flirt with us, whispering beautiful prose in our ears one day and then crawling under a rock and refusing to come out no matter how hard we beckon and plead the next. So how’s a person supposed to get anything longer than flash fiction completed when the fickle muse refuses to play with us?

If your muse is present at this moment, stick your fingers in his (her?) ears, because he (she?) won’t want you to know about this. You can train your muse. Yes, it’s true. They may act like feral cats, but with some patience on your part, it is possible to have them behave and come when called.

Okay, so maybe I’m a little tongue-in-cheek today, but only a little.

Years ago I learned to meditate as part of my yoga practice. Meditation is hard! You sit and tell your brain to shut up so you can listen to the quiet. But spinning out thoughts is what the brain does and the more you insist it stop, the more it yammers. So you sit and breathe and watch the thoughts dance through your head and after a few minutes (maybe 20 or 30 or 120) you find about 15 seconds of inner silence. But as soon as you realize that all is quiet, the yammering starts again. You try it again the next day and the next and if you show up each day, eventually your brain figures out you’re serious about this and the moments of silence become more peaceful and more frequent and even a little longer. The two big tricks to establishing a meditation practice is 1.) SHOW UP and 2.) Be there at the same time each day. Yes, if you sit to meditate at the same time each day, your brain figures out that HEY, it’s 6:00AM. It must be time to meditate. And it settles down much sooner than if you meditate at six o’clock one day and nine o’clock the next, then skip two days and sit down again at four in the afternoon when you get back to it.

The same holds true when training your muse. The first part of the training process is to show up. You. Not your muse. Plant your tush in your chair and stare at the computer screen. Decide that you’re going to do this with or without your muse. Maybe you write some crap. Great. I’ll bet your muse will get really annoyed at being left out and eventually will show up to hiss in your ear that that last scene really stunk and would be so much better if you…

Ha! Fooled that muse into coming out of hiding.

Next, show up the next day at the same time. And the following day, too. Show up, plant tush in chair and stare at the screen every day at the same time. Soon, your muse will get the message that you are going to be there, writing every day at such and such an hour and before you know it, they will show up there, too. Sometimes they’re a few minutes late. I admit it, some days I’m a few minutes late, too. But you know what? If I’m not in my chair at my designated writing time, I’ve noticed that my muse tracks me down and whispers plot ideas in my ear no matter where I am. That’s where carrying a notebook comes in handy.

Give it a try. If you can train yourself to show up, training your muse is a piece of cake.


Paula Benson said…
What a great post! I really like your analogy. Do you find that writing each day at the same time is crucial to your progress? I've tried it, but more often find myself varying the schedule, due to life's demands. Now I'm tempted to commit to a specified time for a week and see if I notice a difference. Thanks!
Annette said…
Paula, I do. But I also have to vary my schedule way too frequently. However, I try, as much as possible, to be at my computer at 9AM and write for at least an hour. When I do this consistantly, even if something comes up (doctor's appointment for example), at 9:00, ideas start popping into my head. It's wild!
Paula Benson said…
Cool! You've convinced me! I'm going to try it! I'll let you know if I have a similarly "wild" experience. If not, will you give me some online instruction about meditation? Maybe that will help.
Kristine said…
Great post, Annette!
I've always believed that the body and mind are linked to creativity. Now if I can just write myself to a slimmer waistline.
Paula Benson said…
Kristine, if you find that connection, let us know so we help you to market it!
Annette said…
Yeah, unfortunately the key to writing is planting the tush in the chair and the key to losing weight is to keep the tush OUT of the chair. It's definitely a problem. Maybe if we designed a treadmill with a tray for our laptop...

Anyhow, Paula, I'd be happy to help you with meditation. It helped me break a very long bout of writer's block. Good luck with training your muse!
Joyce said…
It's amazing how we all seem to think alike. I just blogged the other day on procrastination. Waiting for the muse sounds like it should be added to the list of reasons we procrastinate!

Btw, I do read on my treadmill, but I'm not sure about trying to walk and type at the same time. I'm not that coordinated!

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