Overcome the Writing Blahs: 7 Ways to Make Yourself Irresistible to the Muse

Filed in Boost Creativity, When Writing Is Hard by on March 10, 2015 • views: 1918

Inspiration. Muse playing flute and inspires composer.Do you feel blocked lately, sapped of ideas, or like your project has stalled?

When you sit down to work, do you sigh deeply and resort to eating chocolates until your writing time is over?

In other words, has it been awhile since the muse graced your doorstep?

If so, it’s time to woo her back.

Because we all know—without her, there is no magic on the page.

How to Tell if the Muse Has Left You

Most likely, you already know if the muse has left, but since she can be ethereal at best, you may not be sure. Here are a few clues:

  • You haven’t had a new idea for awhile
  • You don’t feel excited when you return to your work in progress
  • You’re struggling with your project, and you don’t know how to fix it
  • Everything you create seems flat and boring lately
  • You’re often tired, and find it difficult to summon the energy to create
  • You’re beginning to doubt your talent (or you’re doubting it again)

If you can relate to one or more of these feelings, likely it’s been awhile since the muse was around.

How can you get her back?

What is a Muse?

You probably already know what a “muse” is, but just in case, a quick description: she’s the source of your creativity, inspiration, and overall magical talent. She is the unconscious within you, that secret dwelling where characters, colors, designs, and stories exist.

The term originally came from Greek mythology—a “muse” was one of the nine goddesses, daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, who presided over the arts and sciences.

Today, writers (and artists) tend to think of a more personal muse, an ethereal creature who bequeaths creative gems—or doesn’t.

We tend to imagine that the muse comes when she feels like it, and that her appearances are generally out of our control, but that’s only because we haven’t learned enough about her.

The muse comes when she’s attracted—and you can increase the likelihood that she’ll be attracted to you.

As science fiction and fantasy author Piers Anthony said: “One reason I don’t suffer Writer’s Block is that I don’t wait on the muse, I summon it at need.”

Have You Set Out Poison Bait?

Regular old daily life an take its toll on our ability to attract the muse. Our brains are likely full of things like laundry and cooking and piano lessons and work and bills and braces and doctor’s appointments and darn it, the water heater quit.

We can often feel harried, overweight, and tired, with a dull complexion, vacant eyes, and a less than compelling personality.

If you were the muse, would you be fixing your hair and donning a new outfit for an evening out with you?

“Some writers in the throes of writer’s block think their muses have died,” write Steven King in his article, The Writing Life, “but I don’t think that happens often; I think what happens is that the writers themselves sow the edges of their clearing with poison bait to keep their muses away, often without knowing they are doing it.”

Not to worry—indulge in the following seven steps and you’ll be turning their heads in no time.

1. Make space to do nothing.

This is number one on the list because it’s so hard to do in today’s society, but so necessary to attracting the muse. She’s a skittish character usually, and not likely to come around when there’s so much noise in your brain.

“You should treat a muse like a fairy,” Paul Coelho said.

Imagine sitting in the forest, waiting for her. You’d be quiet, right? You might even hold your breath waiting for a glimpse. You wouldn’t be listening to music or checking emails or working on a project for your boss. You need a similar atmosphere to attract her into your daily life.

Find a way to fit “do nothing” into your schedule. Doing nothing is the only way to gain space in your thoughts, which allows the muse to quietly step forward and whisper in your ear.

“Doing nothing has a way of synthesizing what is really important in my life and in my work and inspires me beyond measure,” says author Ali Edwards on zenhabits.net. “When I come back to work I am better equipped to weed out the non-essential stuff and focus on the things I most want to express creatively.”

Some things to try:

  • Go for a drive
  • Take a long, hot bath or shower
  • Meditate
  • Go for a walk
  • Spend a weekend somewhere else besides home with nothing planned

Whatever you do, the important thing is that you clear your calendar of appointments. Spend the time with yourself. Don’t take any calls. Don’t answer emails. Leave the social media behind. Give yourself some space to just be.

Above all, don’t feel guilty about it! We have a hard time allowing ourselves to do nothing, but if you want the muse to come around, you must!

2. Make your work space inviting.

I talked about this in a former post, but it’s worth repeating.

If your workspace is noisy, bright, and vulnerable to regular interruptions, you probably won’t find the muse hanging out there. Ditto if you feel stale and bored while you’re sitting there, or if the area is so overstocked with papers and files and other assorted junk that you can’t think about anything but how you need to clean up.

You know how you feel when you’re in the “zone.” Think back on where you were when that happened. Where were you sitting? What did you see? What was the lighting like? How about the smells and the sounds? Try to recall the magical places where your writing seemed to click, and then bring elements of those places into your daily workspace.

You may be surprised at how quickly the muse lets you know that she approves!

3. Make yourself inviting.

It’s time to take a look in the mirror.

Are you someone the muse would want to spend time with?

This isn’t to inspire more self-criticism. We do enough of that already. But you know how it goes. If you want to attract someone to you, you need to feel attractive, right? And right now, especially if your work is stalling, you may not feel as good about yourself as you’d like to.

It’s time to build up your confidence.

Face WaterThat may require a new haircut, cleaning out the wardrobe, losing a few pounds, getting a massage, or trying on a new exercise routine. Look at your eating habits. Are they energizing you or draining you? It isn’t self-indulgent to give yourself a little care. It’s critical to your writing.

If you feel good about yourself, your muse is likely to, as well. A little self-confidence also gives you more energy, which you can then devote to your writing.

4. Let it go.

What do you think about all day?

If you have a partner, what do you talk to him or her about?

Is it the magic of life? The spectacular view from the west side of town? What you’ve got planned for your next vacation?

Or is it more likely about the coworker you can’t stand, the fact that the house needs repainting, or that it’s the other person’s turn to clean out the cat box?

It’s amazing what can fill our heads all day long.

Whatever it is, the muse probably doesn’t want to hear about it. If you find your thoughts racing when you sit down to write, she’ll hear them and stay away.

To invite her to come closer, try to empty your mind. These tips may help:

  • Take five minutes for a quick meditation
  • Listen to music that fits with the project you’re working on
  • Write down everything that’s bothering you and then set it aside
  • Exercise for 20 minutes first and tire yourself out—a tired brain is less likely to ruminate over minutiae
  • Sing “Let it Go” from Frozen (grin—had to throw that in)

5. Get out in nature—and turn off the cell phone.

Nature does wonders for creativity.

A 2012 study found that the more you get away from the stresses in life and get out into nature, the more creative you are.

Researchers tested a group of hikers, and found that after four days on the trail, they scored nearly 50 percent higher in creativity on the same tests they had taken four days before.

Write Nature Sm“We think that it peaks after about three days of really getting away, turning off the cell phone, not hauling the iPad and not looking for Internet coverage,” said Ruth Ann Atchley, lead author of the study. “It’s when you have an extended period of time surrounded by that softly fascinating environment that you start seeing all kinds of positive effects in how your mind works.”

Getting out helps you look and feel more vibrant and alive. What muse could resist you then? Even better—you’re likely to come up with ideas while you’re out, so take some notepaper with you so you can jot them down.

6. Reconnect with what you love.

When was the last time you did something you really enjoyed doing?

Something more than just watching a movie or going out to dinner.

“Your interests and passions are what make life worth living and give brains what they need to keep from going stir crazy,” writes Joe Robinson in Don’t Miss Your Life. “The idea is to stop renting your life and start owning it. That means taking possession of your stint on this planet by not burning up discretionary hours on any old busywork or rote ‘spectating’ but by proactively finding and seizing the opportunities to activate life that are all around you.”

“Stories come from somewhere,” writes novelist Henning Koch. “Writers need to realize that there is a whole world out there where writing is not the main area of concern. Once this has been clearly understood, the writer can write with a clearer mind—that is, a mind free of the awareness that it is writing.”

Springtime is a great time to dive back into life in a new way. Get back into something you left behind, something that used to make you so happy you forgot about everything else. Or, try something entirely new. Novelty wakes up your brain, and helps you make new connections that may inspire your work.

7. Act as if.

If after trying these tips you still feel the muse has abandoned you, try this.

Act as if she is there, standing by your side.

The next time you sit down to work, watch your thoughts. Are you imagining that your story isn’t any good? That you’re stuck or empty? Take a deep breath, relax, and imagine the muse above you, giving you just exactly what you need.

“Once you start thinking your Muse is with you,” writes author Kim Falconer, “there she’ll be. The trick is to pivot away from negative thoughts and focus on the creative venture that awaits….What you say to yourself and others is what you are reinforcing. To bring back the muse, you need to turn your thoughts towards her with delight and appreciation.”

Do you have other ideas for attracting the muse when you need her? Please share your thoughts.

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Comments (10)

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  1. Sally Crum says:

    Thanks, Colleen, great advice! I recently bought a pingpong table at a yard sale. My wary friends are soon addicted and it is the best way to get rid of annoying thoughts. You have to focus and it’s so much fun. Pure escape.

  2. Jo says:

    Loved this Colleen! Such lovely and necessary reminders. Especially being in nature, and connecting with what we love. Beautiful. 😀

  3. Chere Hagopian says:

    Great ideas! I especially find that numbers six and seven work for me. I get most of my inspiration when I’m outside in nature. Being outdoors feeds the soul!

    A friend recently suggested a great cure for writer’s block- taking a break to write about something you loved to do as a child. She was right- I felt like it opened up my brain and tapped into my most authentic and creative self. And it was fun!

  4. Kate says:

    I agree with all of it – particularly with number 1. I don’t know about you, but I feel most inspired after a good vacation.

    • Colleen says:

      I’ve heard a good vacation can be very restorative. I find I’m brimming with ideas while away, but when I have to return to the full work load they vanish quickly! (ha) I’m thinking the solution is more vacations! Thanks, Kate. :O)

  5. Anita says:

    Love this! I especially love getting out into nature. The smell of wet dirt is like perfume for my soul!