Do you have a muse? Does your muse have a solid form: arms, legs, hair, clothes? Or it is an ethereal creature, more of a spirit moving quietly within your mind? Writers throughout time have held close this image of a muse and many have fervently believed their muse to be the wellspring of their ideas. The ancient Greeks believed in nine muses, the daughters of Zeus, who inspired writers, poets, artists and musicians. Perhaps the idea of a muse is to ease the pressure on ourselves. When the words won’t come, it’s not our fault – it’s because the muse has temporarily abandoned us.
My ideas originate from deep inside of me, swirling up out of a jumble of every sight, sound, taste, smell and thought I’ve ever had, from every image I’ve seen, every conversation I’ve overheard, every book I’ve read, every movie I’ve watched. Somehow, out of all of this confusion of experiences, comes an idea. Perhaps a single image or character, sometimes a place or time that begs me to explore. And gradually, as that idea lingers in my mind, it somehow weaves itself into a story, with other characters, a landscape, a mythology, a purpose. And that’s the magic of being a writer, isn’t it? Taking that single image or idea and turning it into something that’s beautiful or horrifying or wonderful, or maybe all three at once.
But what do you do when the muse refuses to talk? When you sit down at the computer, put your fingers to the keyboard, and the words won’t come? Some writers use a variety of exercises to get the creativity flowing: free writing, character backgrounds, writing a scene using nothing but dialogue. Some leave that project to work on another for a time, maybe a short story. Others subscribe to the good old theory of BICHOK: Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard.
I waiver between trying hard to adhere to the butt in chair philosophy and merely waiting: waiting for inspiration to return. The latter is never efficient and rarely effective, yet we writers are somehow able to justify to ourselves time spent doing absolutely nothing while waiting for the muse to return. What other profession could do this?
So how do you intend to cope when the muse next abandons you? Make a plan and you’re that much closer to surviving the absence of the fickle force we call creativity. What will it be: butt in chair, creativity exercises, reading quotes of inspiration? Share your plan and perhaps you’ll spread a little inspiration amongst us all.