O Muse, Where Art Thou?

writing-museHas there ever been a time when your writing Muse just packed up and went on vacation? No warning. No fare-thee-well. Just left. You know what I’m talking about. It’s that dreaded feeling when you sit down at your computer or pull out your writing tablet only to stare at a blank screen or empty page for what seems like an eternity. Or as it happened for me, you write one or two paragraphs and no matter how you change or rearrange them, they still sound like crap.

Some call it writer’s block. I’d prefer to think of it as when that mysterious goddess of inspiration who aids with our writing epiphanies goes missing. And when our writing Muse goes MIA, we’re stuck with no inspiration, no creativity, and oftentimes no motivation.

I know the feeling all too well. Last year, I’d finished editing the first in a series of murder mysteries I was writing. When I started to write the second manuscript, I couldn’t get past the first two paragraphs.

After struggling for a couple of weeks to write an acceptable first chapter, and failing miserably, I decided to spend time developing the characters instead. This proved to be more productive as I was able to create a new partner for my protagonist, a pair of evil villains, and several minor characters. After that, I thought I’d return to developing the story’s opening chapter again. The same thing occurred. Nothing!

About two weeks later, my Muse returned. And what happened next surprised me! She didn’t return to help me write the first chapter of the novel I was working on. She brought me a completely different story. So, I started writing it instead.

You see, my Muse knew something I thought was my secret alone. My first manuscript wasn’t really finished. And until it was, she wasn’t going to move on to the next one in the series. So I had to go back and re-write what I knew could have … or better yet, should have been written better.

So my question for you is, what do you do when or if your Muse decides to, let’s say, go to Antigua without you? Do you chase after her and try to force her to come back? Or do you sit twiddling your thumbs while waiting for her to return? The answer to both questions is a resounding no! Never!

You don’t chase after her. This would be like chasing after a lover who’s dumped you — chasing never ends well. And neither do you sit around like Miss Havisham in her wedding gown waiting for the return of her groom-to-be in Great Expectations. You have to let her go and do whatever musely things she has to do. When she’s done, she will return.

Here are a few suggestions from my experience that may help you in the event your Muse goes on holiday:

1) Be An Easy Target

In his book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King tells us to write in the same place (in our home, at a coffee shop, or in the park) everyday. And he suggests also to write at the same time each day so our Muse will know where and when to find us. We should choose a time to write when we have the least distractions and our creativity is at optimum peak.

2) Edit Your Work

When I find my creativity is inaccessible, I work on editing my manuscript. Editing keeps me moving in a positive direction toward finishing, and more often than not it motivates me to get back to writing.

3) Read — A Lot

I’ve found that when I’m not reading, my creativity is stagnant. Reading widely, not just in my genre provides a deeper reservoir of expressions, backdrops, and ideas from which to find inspiration.

5) Seek Inspiration

Find inspiration by going to a museum, taking a walk in a park, or listening to music. Whatever creative outlet inspires you, do it!

6) Breathe

Do something fun and exhilarating! Go to an amusement park or meet friends at your favorite pub. Whatever you do, have a great time! Relax and take your mind off your writing project for a little while.

I think you’ll find as I did, that once you step away from the writing project for which your Muse is not available and focus on other things, your Muse will soon return rested and ready to inspire you to even greater heights!

PS – Drop me a comment and let me know about a time your Muse left you high and dry and what you did to woo her back.

5 thoughts on “O Muse, Where Art Thou?

  1. This happens to be at least once a year and usually for long enough that I start to question all things writing! I think usually when I’m on GO, and the words flow, sometimes I can be working on 2-3 writing projects at a time. Eventually either the muse wants a vacation, or life forces me to take one. And when the usual ‘open up WIPs and start reading, editing, writing’ isn’t getting me ANYWHERE. I stay away (sometimes I can’t even open my laptop!).

    I’ve learned to not stress about it (sometimes easier said than done). The stories are always playing around in the back of my mind, even if I’m not physically writing. And I take the time to fill the well with reading, listening music, colouring, or watching movies sometimes similar in genre to my story to keep some ideas churning. Eventually it gets to a point where I HAVE to write those ideas down…and soon the wheel is unstuck and the muse starts rolling once again.

    🙂

    • Hi Amy! Thanks for sharing your experience with me. It’s comforting, in an odd sort of way, to know that others experience this same lull in their writing experience. I know the feeling very well of not wanting to open my laptop. It’s the absolute worst!

      Thanks also for sharing your remedies for wooing your muse and getting back to work! I’ll add those to my arsenal. 🙂

      Catherine

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