Carol Collett

Life as I know it

Manipulating My Muse

In the introduction of MAKING A LITERARY LIFE, Carolyn See advises “a discipline of a thousand words a day, five days a week.” What does she mean “discipline?” Isn’t writing all creative and ethereal?

In the early days of my dream of a writing career I developed the idea that writing, like all art, must be mystical, dreamy, maybe magical even. I would think about characters and what their lives were like. I would jot down notes in the ever present idea notebook. But I never wrote stories. I wrote scenes and snippets. I wrote two or three sentences of plot points I wanted to incorporate. But I still didn’t write stories.

My problem? I sat around waiting for my muse, whatever that was. I thought the story would just flow out of my fingers onto the page and I would bask in its perfection. I wasn’t as egotistical as it sounds, I just thought my muse was something outside of me that I had to wait on to take over my characters and plot ideas in order to create the story.

I was wrong.

I’ve learned I can manipulate my muse. Gasp…my muse is a tool within me that I can control. Sacrilege!

One quite effective way I can manipulate my muse is to change up the time of day I write. My day job is long and stressful. I tried to write at night after work, but I was always so tired I couldn’t even think. After reading a blog post by Mike Snyder on The Master’s Artist about how he decided to get up early to write, I followed his lead.

Getting up early for me means 3:30, an absolutely unholy time of the morning, but since I have to leave for work at 6:00, that’s how it has to be. The big surprise is that I can write longer and more easily in the early morning.

How do you manipulate your muse to work for you? How do you jumpstart your creativity when your writing stalls?

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2 thoughts on “Manipulating My Muse

  1. I’ve learned over the years that what Madeleine L’Engle said about it is true: inspiration (i.e., “the muse”) comes *during* the work, not before it. So when I’m museless (unamused?), that’s when I have to MAKE myself sit down to write, even when I don’t feel like it. I need to be writing 1,000 words a day to make my deadline (actually more than that now, since I’m more than 10 days behind on that goal), and I find that when I’m struggling at around 500 words, it’s easy to tell myself I only need 500 more. And then once I hit 1,000 (usually a little over), it’s easier to tell myself if I can write 500 more words, I’ll be at 1,500. And then when I reach that, it’s easy to do another 500 words. And suddenly I’ve written 2,000 words instead of 1,000.

    But while I may still be up at 3:30 a.m. playing with my muse, WAKING UP at 3:30 a.m. to try to write isn’t going to happen for me!

    • Carol on said:

      I’ve noticed that the first 100 words seem to be the most difficult. Once I get past 100 words I finally feel like I’m writing.
      I think the only reason I can get up at 3:30 to write is because I’m actually still asleep and just don’t realize I’m up.

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