You’ve all heard of the muse: that which inspires an artist to create. It is the thing that ferrets out a single gem of an idea and coaxes it to blossom into a true story. When you cannot think of a single thing to write, your muse opens the door to inspiration. The muse manifests itself in different ways for different people. For some, it is a person, such as a family member, friend, or significant other. For others, it might be a place, a song, a book, or any object. It could be an activity. It could be anything. You can also have multiple muses. Perhaps you listen to happy songs when you want to write something happy, but reading a sad passage of your favorite book might inspire more melancholy words. There is no muse that has more or less merit than another; they’re all unique and on equal levels. You should recognize that and not limit yourself to one muse nor ridicule another’s muse when it is different from yours.
Now, I urge you to think for a moment. The last time you had an idea for a story, where were you? What were you doing? Who were you talking to or listening to? What was being said and how? What were you looking at?
If you don’t already know what acts as your muse, these questions are useful. Knowing what naturally inspires you is the key to being able to conjure inspiration, not at will, but at least more reliably than just “waiting for it to come to you.” Sometimes, you have to go looking for inspiration. How you use your muse, though…that’s a little trickier. I can’t tell you how to make your muse work. Inspiration isn’t a thing that you can threaten, bludgeon, or trap to get what you want. Inspiration is notoriously hard to trap; it slips through your fingers like mist. It doesn’t respond well to threats, merely runs and hides, cowering in a secret place. Bludgeoning just results in a dead muse. So how does this work, this muse?
You must be gentle and kind. Relaxed, but not quite passive. Be receptive to what’s around you. Don’t analyze. Don’t focus all your attention on it. Just enjoy it. Let your mind wander and go where it will. That’s natural. That’s the whole point. Your muse, essentially, is a tool that will remove the inhibitions you have built up over the years.
Do you remember when you were a child? You had so many ideas for stories that you couldn’t write them all down. You didn’t have to search for inspiration; it was just there. As you got older, you learned what the people around you expected. You had certain expectations that you had to meet, and to be honest, creativity isn’t usually one of them (even art and music classes limit your creativity). When you’ve assimilated all the things that you’re supposed to conform to, there’s no room left for your mind to be saturated openly in creativity. Your mind is regulated, and that makes it harder to find stories. Your muse, though, can work in two ways. You can either be relaxed to the point where your mind pulls down the walls that separate your regulated thoughts from your unregulated, creative thoughts, letting your creativity mingle peacefully all throughout your thoughts (this would be sparked most likely by music, art, etc.). Or you could be stimulated to break through the walls separating your thought and latch onto a streak of creativity that mirrors your muse (this would be more likely caused by a phrase you hear or a passage you read in a book, where the jump from muse to idea is pretty quick). One your muse has opened up your mind, it will steer your consciousness toward an idea that closely matches it.
Please note that I’m not a psychologist. This isn’t “officially” or “scientifically” what happens with your muse. This is simply what I’ve observed and what it seems like to me. The music that I listen to relaxes me and helps me to shut out the world and how the world has taught me to think. My thoughts wander toward an idea that I latch onto, develop, and write down.
Your muse doesn’t always work though. It won’t always throw ideas at you. This is normal. You may be too stressed by work/school/life/etc. or burned out from periods of hardcore writing to do anything new. That’s okay. Take a break. Go for a walk, read a book, let your friends know you haven’t forgotten them. It’s fine. Don’t worry. You can always try again later.
Happy writing, everyone. I hope your muses all decide to be helpful.
Fair warning: This next bit may seem a little schizophrenic. I apologize.
This is for when your usual muses aren’t working.
If you’ve gone for a long, long time without writing and can’t think of anything to write, I have an idea that may help (or it may just be fun). I’ve seen a lot of writers online talking about their muses in a way that’s unlike what I’ve been talking about here. They talk as though their muse is an actual person (or persons) inside their head, talking to them, encouraging them, guiding them, etc. Their Muse is a person completely separate from them. I personally think that if you honestly believe there’s a person inside your head apart from yourself, that’s not just a “writerly quirk,” and you need to talk to someone about it. However, I have experienced a time where none of my traditional muses were working, so I wrote a little conversation between myself and my “inner Muse.” It doesn’t matter if you believe in inner Muses; this is a way of temporarily personifying that inner self of you that is in charge of your inspiration. You’re turning yourself into a fictional character briefly to organize your thoughts and try to figure out why you’re not feeling inspired.
I can’t guarantee that this will be helpful in any way. It’s just something I thought I’d share (partly because it’s fun and is a good way to practice writing honest dialogue).
Happy writing, y’all. I’m out.