Thursday, April 5, 2012

How to Train Your Muse

Face it.  Training a muse is like training a cat to play the violin, and doing so without any experience and only being available to train it part-time. 

Or is it?

If you'd have asked me yesterday why I've written so many posts recently about Miss Muse I'd have stammered a bit before answering.  Thinking about it now, many reasons jump to mind, but they're the obvious reasons.  They make for good stories, funny moments and provide a means to a (hopefully) insightful post about creativity and inspiration.  I think the real reason lies much deeper.

I've recently noticed I have an interesting tendency.  I've gone back and read things that I've written in chronological order--everywhere.  I'm not just talking blog posts or chapters from my novel.  Those are the obvious places to look.  I found that this tendency bleeds into emails at work and home, even the little notes I jot down when I get ideas for something new to write.

The tendency?  To continue on a theme for an extended period of time.

It doesn't matter what this theme is.  It doesn't matter where this theme comes from either.  Once it gets lodged in my brain it stays there.  Percolating.  Simmering.  Oozing out in things I say and words I write.

This manifests itself in odd ways.  The most common manifestation is that I use the same words over and over and over.  Everywhere.  Odd words that I rarely use.  Or words I'm suddenly using in different ways, invoking their non-primary definitions.  Lately it's been words like linger and ponder.

So, on what have I been pondering and lingering lately?  Creativity and inspiration.  Hands down, without a doubt.  I'm into the climax of my book.  Sweat beads from my brow as I try to craft the perfect ending to my tale.  It's not easy.  It makes me a little nervous.  I'm groping for that inspiration, that creative flash of revelation that's going to make the ending perfect.

From the depths of my subconscious I'm longing to capture Miss Muse, hold her hostage until I complete this huge undertaking to which I've committed myself.  But such drastic measures aren't really necessary.  She doesn't want me trap her.  She doesn't even want me to entice her.  She wants me to invite her.

Therefore, I must train myself, not my muse.  I must find the pattern of her visits, when she likes to stop by, when she's willing to interrupt--and most importantly--when I'm most apt to listen.  I must train myself to prepare for those visits of hers and to take advantage of them.

Facebook bores her.  Bring it up and she's gone.  Catching up on emails?  Same thing.  No one wants to tarry where they don't feel welcome.  Not even Miss Muse.

It always comes down to discipline, doesn't it?  So no, this post isn't really about training our muses.  It's about training ourselves.  We are our own muses.  So I hope I can train myself better than I can train a cat.

So tell me, folks.  How do you train your muse?


  1. Like you, I train myself to listen, but if I need an idea I make the conditions conducive. My muse only visits during a quiet time when I can hear myself think. TV is poison to a muse. Music actually helps, if it's the same kind of music that helps memory retention. My ideas come while I'm walking, in the shower, or in dreams. I keep paper and pen in my nightstand but usually forget to write my ideas down before I forget them due to interruptions. Fortunately, most of my ideas reoccur like your themes do.

    1. I've never been able to listen to music when I write anything serious. I do find inspiration quite often while driving or in the shower or when waking in the middle of the night though.

  2. Totally true. Train yourself, train the muse. It's a bit like being a radio - you don't tune the station to you, you tune yourself to the station.

  3. Well, before I read this, I thought that my muse was an alligator so I guess I can throw that out of the window. It helps to get out and walk and clear my head of the gazillion things that are going on in there before I write.

    My problem is time more than anything. There are a ton of ideas in my head, but no time to write.

    1. Keep the alligator! Shoes and purses can inspire too, right? ;-)

  4. Replies
    1. I don't know, Richard. My wife always said there was no training me, but she prances around these days like she succeeded in doing just that. Of course, she's had a long time to work at it.

  5. I've always joked about this with my family: My best ideas are when I'm shaving. Those ten minutes I spend in the mirror, gliding that blade against my skin, unlocks untold thoughts I sure enough write down when I'm done. I don't know what it is...can it be just the act of having a clear head in the morning or is it looking into a mirror? Well, whatever it is, it provides me with my scenes, my endings, my dialog in some cases. Shaving is the ritual for taming my muse.

    Now, you don't want to know what goes on in the shower! ;)

    1. LOL. Gazing into mirrors only inspires horror for me. There is something to be said for a clear head though--regardless of when it comes. Nights have traditionally been my most creative times, but mornings are finally getting better too.