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.
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.