My muse is none of these things (though I did go through a phase where I REALLY liked the band, Muse. I even named my cat after the lead singer, but we won’t go there.)
My muse is needy, but he’s fickle. He wants to play when I haven’t the time, and when I am ready to write, he’s often content to laze about. He follows me everywhere. He points at trees and buildings, objects and words. And he says, “Remember that, would you?” He’s also a shapeshifter, and in my mind’s eye, he frequently takes the shape of my current protagonist. (In the case of The Lovelace & Wick Series, it varies. Usually, the muse speaks in Mr. Wick’s voice, but recently Mr. Lovelace has had his say.) We have long conversations. We have eureka moments. We don’t always see eye to eye.
But at the end of the day, I know (and he knows) that I am his master. I’m the one in control.
Write that down, and never forget it: You are in control of your muse. You are in control of your craft.
Writers are not flotsam and jetsam, rolling about in the tide of our muse’s fancies. We have control. Yes, there are days that are more difficult than others. Words and inspiration don’t always want to cooperate, but never think that you don’t have the upper hand. You do.
Today we’re going to talk about using ritual in order to make sure you and your muse are on the same page when it’s time to write.
Now, when I say ritual, I mean a variety of things. There are sensory experiences which appeal to your muse, yes? They make you suddenly think--even for a brief moment--"Ah! I really want to write." For me, scents do the trick.
Nag champa incense. Sandalwood candles. Tea tree oil. Patchouli. The scent of Earl Grey. These are a few of the things which make my muse perk up. When I smell these scents, they put me in the mood to write. Recent marketing research indicates that smell plays a huge part in a brand or shop’s ability to sell. Why? Well, for one, we’re so overwhelmed by visual stimuli that visual marketing isn’t as effective as it once was. But it is also a testament to the power of association.
Once we assign the meaning that it's time to write to certain smells, places, and practices, your muse will want to create whenever those factors are at work. That’s how writing rituals are created. So, if you’re having a great writing day, look around you. Assess your surroundings. Capture that creative juice and bottle it, so to speak.
Where are you? By designating a specific writing space, your mind begins to associate that space with the creative process. When you're in that space, your muse will realize that it’s time to get working. Be sure, however, that you don’t use that space for much of anything else. That muddies the association.
What are you drinking? Is it coffee? It’s coffee, isn’t it? A lot of writers will admit that they drink coffee when they write, particularly those of us with membership to the #5amWritersClub. If coffee gets you ready to write, go for it! Although, again, your writing rituals should be exclusive to the writing process. If that means using no creamer or a certain mug, then go for that. In my personal experience, I find that I drink coffee too frequently for it to really be a muse jumpstarter. (I admit, I may have a slight problem.) My go-to drink for writing is tea, preferably Earl Grey.
Are you an early bird or a night owl? Designate a specific writing time. What works best for you? Myself, I wake up at 5:30 every morning to write. By designating that certain time, you’re one again tricking your mind (and your muse) into thinking, “Huh! It’s time to write!”
Write it down! If something really puts you in the mood to create, don’t lose sight of it! Keep a journal of your favorite muse foods. We’ll talk more about journal writing later in the series.
But Jenny, I hear you say, this is nothing but a bunch of mind tricks! I’m tricking my muse into doing what I want them to do!
Yes, you are! That’s what these rituals are all about. You’re luring your muse out of their hole with something shiny. And sometimes these rituals don’t work, and that’s okay. In those cases, I always make a judgment call: do I just need to take a break, or do I need to hunker down and write, no matter what? A lot of times I go with the latter option. Eventually the muse will begrudgingly come to play.
What are your favorite writing rituals? How do they help you? What does your muse feed on?
Until next time!