Muses are fickle creatures. My own muse is a flighty, skittish night-owl with a proclivity toward anti-social behaviors who delights in flinging plot bunnies at me when I’m elbow deep in baby poop and haven’t eaten in fourteen hours. She’s awfully inconsiderate.
But then, that’s real life. Most writers aren’t dedicated novelists who get to work full time on their next best-seller. Most of us have other jobs and other responsibilities and a general collection of hindrances that suck away time and soul. (I love you, familyyyy!) So what can we do to stoke the creative fire and coax the muse away from that America’s Next Top Model marathon she wants to watch?
Oh, gosh, I wish I knew.
I know I don’t have the corner market on being busy, but I have a newborn. Nothing sucker punches everything else quite like an infant. But it got me thinking. I may not be that great at summoning the muse right now, but I’m pretty sure I know some excellent techniques for shoving her in a garbage bag and into a river.
Don’t Eat Maybe you’re one of those people who can skip meals. Maybe you’re one of those people who just forgets to eat every now and then. Maybe you can go more than three hours without cramming seven hundred calories into your face. I am not one of those people. I get cranky and uncreative. I’m sure my conversations during those moments are sheer genius. I’m also pretty sure I’ve written my most horrible and violent pieces while hungry. They’re not good.
Don’t Sleep I’ve heard that new parents’ brains actually shrink from all the sleep starvation. I’ve also heard that severe prolonged sleep deprivation can cause dementia and eventual death. Not allowing prisoners to sleep is considered torture and is a war crime. So yeah. If you want to become a demented, stupid, possibly dead hunk of victim, don’t sleep. Then you’ll be so fogged over and zombified that you couldn’t hear your muse if she whacked you across the rump with a rubber chicken. (Caffeine can get you through for a while, but seriously, get some real sleep every now and then.)
Foster Constant Distraction Honest-to-goodness, real-life inner monologue as I stared at my computer last week: ‘Man. I could use a bagel right now. Maybe I should make some. Hm. Do I have oranges? I could make orange bagels. With the little- aw, geez, Will, what is that? What is- Is that lunch? Did he spit out his lunch when I wasn’t looking? Where are the paper towels? Sigh. Who keeps using all the- Oy. What happened in this bathroom? Bathroom. I should take a bath. When was the last time I showered? Yikes, is that smell me? Wait, where’s the baby?’ I have train-wrecks of thought like this all the time when I sit down to write. Embrace the squirrel-thought! Don’t put in the effort to focus. If you have the time to write, then indulge in meandering pointless wonderings instead.
Put Everything Else Ahead of Writing (Granted, some things should have higher priority than writing. I’m not going to sit down for a session of writing and leave my preschooler to play in traffic. Sure, it’d be quiet, but… yeah, no.) Most of us have some degree of flexibility in our schedules. So maybe instead of choosing to write something, I could watch several episodes of SciShow and pretend to myself that it’s research! Elevate the nonurgent. Wash those dirty dishes right now. Organize the sock drawer and sift the mail. Clean the house immediately.
Following this advice is a surefire way to keep that Grecian flake well away. So maybe if I try doing NOT THOSE THINGS, I’ll be a little more creative. It’s worth a try. I’ll let you know how the experiment goes. In about six months.