I’m showing up for my muse in 2022 in a way I’ve never attempted before. I’ve not done a very good job of keeping myself open to inspiration, this guiding genius that had me scrambling for a pen and paper in the past.
My muse inspired me to write a 300,000-word piece of fanfiction that started me out on this writing journey in the first place and later a trilogy just as long over a summer.
My muse is powerful when she shows up.
Instead of listening to my muse, I’ve filled my days with activities, jobs, and adjusting to my empty nest. Things I’ve needed to do, but still, they get in the way of the creative spirit.
When I don’t allow myself downtime, I don’t ponder, daydream, or percolate. All to my detriment.
It’s no wonder my muse hasn’t felt welcome.
At the end of 2021, I started reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. In part, it focuses on creativity and getting past fear so creative juices can flow again. I’ve been stuck for years, so I decided to give it a go. I just needed a little push.
When she started talking about the muse, the genius, I nodded along, agreeing with everything she described.
I’ve felt this. I’ve loved this inspired sort of writing. It’s what I wish could happen every single day, but it doesn’t.
Instead, writers sit down most days without the muse sitting on their shoulders. Professionals write through that and wait, at the ready, for the muse to come back.
I’m a professional, dammit, but I sure as hell haven’t been acting like one! I’ve been waiting for inspiration to strike me again, and I know better. I haven’t even stepped into the starting blocks, though.
That’s what Elizabeth Gilbert talked about. Or I should really say, what she warned against. Sitting there waiting for inspiration to strike.
Instead, we should be showing up for our muse every day. If she decides to pop on our shoulder, fantastic. If not, at least we were there and we likely got some words on the page or some paint on a canvas or five new rows completed on our sweater. Were they inspired words or brush strokes or stitches? Maybe not, but they are done.
The last time my muse struck me was when I wrote Socks for an Otter. It was wonderful. November 2019 was a flurry of fingers, stacked dirty dishes, and half-drunk cups of coffee lining my desk, and 69,387 words later, I had a novel.
Quickly followed by the worst pneumonia of my life.
I was so terrified of my muse exiting stage right, I worked myself nearly to death. I ended up sick for months, relying on multiple nebulizer treatments each day to get me through. It took ages to come back from that, and I still don’t feel back to 100% two years later.
And it wasn’t the first time my muse has . . . overtaken my life, either.
So why would I willingly invite that? Because the payoff is worth it, pneumonia excluded.
Which is why I’m showing up for my muse in a different way now. I plan on showing up every day, hopefully in the morning, but I’m not limiting myself to that time like I have in the past. That was just disaster waiting to happen on days my writing session was slashed or needed to be postponed.
I’m hoping if I’m open to my muse more regularly, I’ll notice the times she’s just whispering rather than shouting.
I’m trusting the process and doing a few unconventional things along the way.
It’s a bit ritualistic. Maybe I need that.
Will any of this work? I honestly don’t know.
What I do know is that allowing all the other parts of my life to invade into my writing time only led to me not writing for years. I’m a workaholic, so my editing jobs are always red hot. My family is the center of my life, so I’ll drop everything for them. My house . . . you read the part about a pile of dirty dishes, right? But you wouldn’t believe how clean my house gets when I’m trying to avoid writing. Why would I want to avoid writing?
“Writing is easy; all you do is sit staring at the blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead.”—Gene Fowler
Writing is scary as shit.
You put your heart out there. Bleed on the page. It opens up wounds you’ve gone out of your way to not even look at, let alone acknowledge. And now suddenly that mess is woven into the very threads of your characters and plot. Each one of my current works in progress is at this stage: way too close to home.
But you need to be open for all of that. You have to ask for it, even. Your vulnerability factor will level up each time you start a new book. And when the doubt and fear creep in, you need to brush that aside or work through it.
Beyond that, writing is difficult and demanding work. It requires stamina.
Characters get testy and refuse to talk to you. Your plot gets so tangled up, you can’t tell up from down. You end up writing a tangent of 27,344 words you’re sure is going straight into the trash. And when you ask your critique partner for feedback, they agree.
So what’s the point?
Writing is magical.
That’s the point. And when your muse shows up, it’s spellbinding.
That tangent you thought was a waste may end up as the seed for a whole new series. That tangled plot uncovers a solution for your character you were blind to before all the knots formed. When your characters finally do speak, they reveal amazing secrets if you’re still enough to listen.
That’s what I’m attempting to do with all these little rituals. I’m listening. Or as my mom used to say, “Let’s listen to the quiet.” Because inside the quiet we will find answers we didn’t even know to ask.
So, yes, Muse, please feel welcome to stop by my place anytime. I’ll have cheese, chocolate, and cookies to share. Promise.
Also, Gilbert’s book is perfectly titled.