Monday, March 9, 2020

How to Coax a Stubborn Muse

Although I wouldn't go so far as accusing my muse (Warren Peace) of "ghosting" me, it's certainly been uninspired and unreliable lately.

But it did reappear in small and significant ways this weekend, enough that I'm happy with the progress I'm making on one of my new novels (no time to open the second one).

How did I coax the muse out of hiding? It's mostly a matter of training and persistence, like teaching your kid to take out the trash.

Honestly, I have no idea why the muse decided to get busy this weekend, but I'm glad it did.

However, here's a few suggestions that often work for me.

1) Show up.

While that may seem like a no-brainer, that does help.

Sitting at the computer (or preferred writing area) and actually opening up the manuscript are good first steps.

2) Bring the muse its favorite drink.

Warren Peace likes dark roast coffee. Hot.

Find out what your muse likes and keep a nice supply handy - along with a microwave for warmups.

3) Put yourself in your muse's shoes.

Think about all the times the muse DID show up, and you DIDN'T.

My muse tends to nap on weekends and then show up at the most inconvenient times (such as when I'm on deadline at work or trying to sleep at night).

For all the "not now, dear; I'm busy" excuses I've given my muse when it's been ready to write, I should be more understanding when it tells me the same thing.

Could your muse too busy with distractions? Sulking at being stood up too many times?

Knowing the reason goes a long way to addressing it.

4) Take time to warm up.

As in any exercise, a few stretches helps the workout. Why should a mental one be any different?

Don't expect your muse to sprint at full speed.

Try this: Reread work from the past weeks and soon your muse will be racing.

5) Keep tidbits of inspiration handy.

People don't work well on an empty stomach. Well, a muse doesn't work well on an empty mind.

Have little inspirational snacks ready (a favorite quote, a deadline, a timer) to ensure the muse is able to work at a somewhat steady face.

But don't overfeed it when it's supposed to work.

Overfeeding the muse can quickly turn into a twelve-course meal of surfing social media and clicking from link to unrelated link, which may put your muse into snooze mode.

6) Give the muse room to wander.

You really want to finish chapter five but the muse has great dialogue for chapter twelve? Go with it!

You like to write in sequence but the muse has ideas for scenes in three different chapters you haven't even tackled yet? Explore that!

Or simply write as the muse dictates, in a free flowing way without expectations as to where the it (sentence, paragraph, chapter, etc.) will wind up. The best journeys sometimes come with no expectations.

7) Praise your muse.

We spend so much time "killing our darlings" that we forget to give our muse a pat on the wisp and let it know when it's done a good job, and we are really, really pleased.

"What a clever sentence" and "Great plot twist!" gives your muse the encouragement it needs to keep producing for you.

8) Don't be a relentless taskmaster.

Look for signs your muse is organically slowing down and know when to give it a rest. A rested muse is happier to work for you.

On the other hand...

9) Don't let your muse deceive you.

Muses are fickle by nature and, like many of us on the weekends, would rather chill and be lazy.

Get to know your muse well enough so you can differentiate between a muse that is exhausted and one that feigns fatigue so it can watch mindless hours of Netflix.

10) Reward your muse and give generously to it.

Muses love good music and good books. Keep a large supply on hand.

For AFTER the writing work is done.

Illustration by Christopher Gleason for "Staked!" Follow him at

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