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  1. When the Muse is Missing, Try These Tips to Woo Her Back

    November 30, 2014 by Diane

    hand opening red curtain on white.

    To paraphrase Truman Capote: there’s writing, and there’s typing. Sometimes, as we labor behind the writer’s curtain, the story, the essay, the poem, flows. Other times, it looks less like writing and more like typing. You struggle to tap into your story again, to find the bone, the marrow, the soul. You want to find the Muse in all that meandering, and the secret is: you’ve got to court the Muse.

    You’ve got to woo her.

    Here then, are five tips to lure the Muse back.

    1. Show your delight in all she provides

    Start by showing interest, by saying “yes” to everything, beaming delight and agreement in all she provides. Don’t fear the worst; expect that whatever juice you get is going to be good. It’s all good during the creation process. Let the editor find the flaws. Leave it to him to separate the wheat from the chaff.

    So first thing, shower the Muse with attention. Flatter her. Lift her up onto that pedestal where she belongs, draped in the robes of all those creative geniuses from years past.

    2. Don’t force anything

    And then, back away. Be less invested. Show your indifference. Let her court you.

    How?

    Tell yourself, I won’t think about my story, blog, poem tonight. And then turn off the light and drift peacefully into sleep instead of huddling under the blankets, jaw and fists clenched, trying to squeeze one workable idea out of your brain. The best you’ll get from all that effort is a poor night’s sleep and bags under your eyes. Trust me: when you’ve dragged yourself from bed in the morning, and you’re stumbling around in the half-light brushing your teeth, that great idea will pop into your mind and the Muse will whisper, “remember me?”

    Eric Maisel, who wrote Fearless Creating (among a slew of other books for artists), says that when we sleep, we dream, and when we’re not in REM dreaming our dreams, we’re thinking. Mathematicians are solving math problems. Scientists are thinking scientific thoughts. And writers? You guessed it. We’re working on plot problems.

    So let go of the writing at night, and let sleep overcome you. The Muse will be eager to supply the goods between dreams, or first thing in the morning when you sit down to make your art.

    3. Show up consistently to establish trust

    Courting also involves showing up. You’ve got to show up with the flowers and the chocolate. You’ve got to open your heart. Let spill all of the gooey secrets inside.

    But you’ve got to show up more than once. You’ve got to show up every day, because when you show up every day the juice keeps flowing; it doesn’t stagnate like a swampy pond. It’s alive with little fishy critters flipping and vibrating in the brew of your creation. It’s all in there.

    4. Set the mood

    Use music to get the Muse into the right mood. In those seduction scenes in classic movies, as the bachelor dims the lights, you hear From Here to Eternity playing on the stereo. In the same way, you want to pick the right music for the result you want to achieve. The right music fires up the Muse; she’ll pour herself into you.

    5. Go with the flow

    When you get stuck: instead of pleading, or forcing, or demanding something from the Muse, take a break. Go about your business. When the energy is spent, it’s not gone. It’s merely changed form. It’s fattened up and solidified and petrified and you want those light, energetic molecules bouncing around inside your brain again. So get up. Move. Bring some air into those lungs, some blood into those tight muscles. Do jumping jacks. Widen your perspective. Go outside. Run around the neighborhood. Power-walk to the nearest coffeehouse and eavesdrop on conversations. Sometimes the Muse speaks through other people. Or through the remembered scent of vanilla and caramel. Or through the leafy maple tree in its blaze of orange and red.

    These are her love notes.

    Be mindful of them.

    Takeaways this week

    Creativity Coach Eric Maisel’s books for artists include Mastering Creative Anxiety, Fearless Creating, Making Your Creative Mark, Coaching the Artist Within, and Brainstorm: Harnessing the Power of Productive Obsessions. Along with Natalya Masiel, he co-wrote Sleep Thinking: the Revolutionary Program that Helps You Solve Problems, Reduce Stress, and Increase Creativity While You Sleep.


  2. Presence: Awareness Times Infinity

    March 17, 2019 by Diane

    Over one-third of the way through the LIFE XT program, I failed.

    I had started the program with high hopes after reviewing the book it’s based on, and agreeing to dive in and record my progress on the suggestion of one of the readers of this blog. I started with meditation in week one, added exercise in week two, questioned stressful thoughts in week three, and embarked on week four with these instructions:

    Add Presence: Use showering as the cue to Notice-Shift-Rewire to Presence.

    To build a new habit, the authors suggest anchoring it to a cue. In a perfect world, you Notice the cue, Shift your awareness to the new habit, and Rewire your brain by allowing the experience to sink in. Do this 21 times, or whatever magic number it takes, and you’ve developed a new habit.

    The only problem: I couldn’t remember the cue.

    Every night as I showered, I sang with gusto. Or worked through plot flaws. Or edited blog posts in my head. The only thing I noticed was that it was bloody cold with the overhead fan on, and the water was too hot.

    I was not present.

    I was failing week four.

    Friday rolled around, and I took my lunch outside to a picnic table on a rare sunny afternoon. My mind journeyed back to a time before funeral parlors, when the body of a loved-one was embalmed in the kitchen, which is why kitchens in the early 1900s had a big drain in the floor. Not an appetizing thought, but I was sitting across from the history house at the museum which triggered the image, and my thinking would have continued in that vein if I hadn’t dropped a chunk of barbecued tempeh on the table, right in the path of an ant.

    The tempeh, from an ant’s perspective, was the dimension of a two-story building. The ant seemed confused at first, then interested, then excited in the way ants get when they’ve found the Mother Lode of sustenance, and after navigating around the base of the object, the little guy climbed up and over and down and around and hurried off to summon the troops.

    I picked up the tempeh to toss in the garbage, thinking how disappointed the troops would be when they arrived to find nothing but the lingering scent of barbecue and fermented tofu. Would they send stressful ant-thoughts to the scout, labeling him stupid-stupid? No. Ants don’t have the capacity to judge. Their brains are ant-sized. They would inspect the area throughly and then march onward, looking for food elsewhere.

    Watching that ant brought me back to the present moment. It’s probably why children spend hours hunkered down over an anthill. You can’t get more present than watching ants. Or being a three-year-old. I finished the rest of my lunch, feeling the warmth of the sun, appreciating the birdsong, admiring the dusty blue cowboy sky. Time expanded. My body relaxed.

    This is what it meant to take my meditation off the mat.

    I wondered: if being present felt so expansive, why did I spend so much time opting out instead of in?

    Three reasons came to mind.

    One: I was preparing for the future with what-ifs. As long as I explored every possibility, like the ant examining the cube of tempeh, I’d survive whatever came next. It was a form of magical thinking, believing I could prevent bad things from happening just by dwelling on them. That was the kind of trouble my human-sized brain got me into.

    Two: I was attempting to reclaim my past self with coulda-beens. I visualized where I’d be now if I’d acted differently then, even though what I knew then was a fraction of what I know now so my choices, good or bad, were based on limited experience and could not have been otherwise.

    Three: I was avoiding whatever might be lacking in my own life by focusing on things outside myself. Like whether The Bachelor would lose his virginity. And did anybody really care? Wasn’t Bachelor Nation tuning in to see if he’d crash and burn, along with the snippy women who fawned over him, so our own lives would look pretty close to perfect?

    I pondered that possibility—and the awful realization that I had referred to myself and Bachelor Nation in the same sentence—while showering. And then I remembered: oh yeah, this is my cue to Notice, Shift and Rewire to Presence.

    Which I did.


  3. Rewriting: My non-advice

    August 13, 2017 by Diane

    Remember way back when, before the dinosaurs, I told you I was rewriting my novel? I scattered bread crumbs so you’d know which direction I was heading, secretly hoping you’d join me on the journey.

    I got as far as step 4.

    Then I stopped posting updates.

    The truth is, I got lost. I tried following the expert’s maps, but managed to wind up in a thick, dark forest, bumping from tree to tree, unable to find my way.

    I came to the painful realization: I need to take off the blinders. I need to forge my own path. I need to rewrite my novel the only way I know how: through draft after draft. It’s what I do well, drafting. Hopefully I’ll need fewer drafts to see the story take shape. But with each draft, I’ll get closer to discovering my unique craft as a writer.

    I can’t write about rewriting, because it’s a path that may lead me to places that aren’t on your agenda. It may lead us both astray, at a dead end gazing at each other, saying, “What now?” My map might not be your map. Where I take the scenic route, you might want to zip down the highway. Where I meander like a snail, you might want to soar like an eagle.

    So my advice is to give no advice.

    Instead, I’ll rewrite my novel.

    I thought I’d send you postcards of my  journey as I go, not with the purpose of getting you to join me, but more like, “Hey, this is where I am. What’s the view where you are?”

    But then I wouldn’t be rewriting my novel.

    I could distract myself by posting squirrelly escapades for your amusement.

    But then I wouldn’t be rewriting my novel.

    I could make up questions for Dear Digby since NO ONE is submitting any, and then post my squirrelly answers.

    But then I wouldn’t be rewriting my novel.

    What I’m saying, in a roundabout way, is that I’m going fishing (again). This time, to catch the big one.

    The novel.

    I’ve got a writing buddy to keep me accountable. I’ve got two short stories in the pipeline to submit to journals, to start building a writer’s platform and attract an agent’s attention.

    I don’t know how long I’ll be gone.

    But you’ll know when I’m back.

    Until next time,

    Happy Trails!