7 Musings on the Muse

I often feel that writing is something that takes me on a journey. I begin walking along the path, looking at the flowers, loving the scenery, the deep blue hills in the distance and the narrow winding path that goes up and down, taking me to places of it’s own accord. 

It is a lovely experience but the places I go to depend on the path. 

There are days when I wish I had more control over the process of writing and I had more courage to take the off shoots in the writing path. I wish I knew if I wanted to continue from there or to get back to where I was before. 

In other words, I want to be creative when I want to and not wait for inspiration to strike me. 

1. Finding My Muse 

    The first thing, of course, is that I cannot wait for my muse to find me. I just go and find her myself. I often wonder as to what she looks like. What must be her physical characteristics and what must be her benevolent qualities? And just because I do not know what she looks like, I should not despair in not knowing where to look for her. 

    Let us go down that path again. The writing path, the one with many delights. Which bush, which tree does she hide behind? Are there signs so that I may find her? I do not know, so I decide to take out my lute and lure her to me. 

    That might have sounded a little far fetched but in daily life this is what I need, bringing my muse to me. I must know what brings her to me and know what she likes so that she may stay. 

    2. When does the Muse Come 

    The question I have asked myself many times, when does the Muse come? Or more apt to ask, when would I call her? 

    For this, I needed to know when I write during the day and when I write best in a flow. 

    Sometimes, I feel that the time to write is hard to come by. I feel that I am always busy. So when do I find the time to write? I don’t. I make the time to write. 

    I have been writing on my blog for a couple of years now. Some days I do great, and some months I manage to churn out post after post. At times, on my less productive days and when things got busier and my schedule more crowded, I would struggle to write a 600-700 word blog post in five days. For professional writing or for doing the writing that pays, there are commitments and there are deadlines. I cannot just wait for time to be given to me. 

    To make sure that I wrote consistently, I started by identifying the time slots in the day when I could write. To my surprise, I found five such slots during my day. For two slots I could write endlessly or as much as I desired to and for the other three, I could write under a time constraint. That was like finding jewels. 
    The next few days, I focussed enough on those slots to start writing. It was a wonderful feeling to be able to write regularly and to notch up a good word count each day. Once I knew that I had those time slots, I guarded them zealously. I started each day envisioning the writing I would be doing in those slots. 

    In a few days I knew which times were best for me to write. I might have short time slots available for eg. During a commute, waiting for the school bus, waiting for the children outside their gym, the gap between two snack times when the children are lazy enough not to pester me or the short tv time that the children are allowed during the day. So I did have plenty of slots available but it was only by using all of them on a regular basis that I could find which ones worked best for me. 

    I understood that I liked the longer slots better when I could write more and I could get into a flow. The shorter slots were good to put in a few points to boost up the word count when that was required but I really loved the more relaxed time to write. I did not like to think that I had a few minutes left and I must write the next couple of hundred words in that. So both kinds of times were good but they served a different purpose and it helped to know which did what. 

    I also knew which time saw me at my productive best. I have always considered myself to be a morning person but somehow I wrote better in the nights. It had something to do with the infinite stretching of the night, well at least a few hours more than I would have gotten in the mornings. 

    3. How to make the Muse Stay 

    I made sure that I was focussed on my writing and there were minimum distractions. 

    It helped when the Internet was turned off. It also helped when I did not sit down to write after I had scanned my newsfeed, my messages and my mail. Doing all this just before my writing session was very distracting. 

    It helped to have the phone off the hook of course. I don’t like to listen to music when I write and I like to drink lots of water and sometimes I get up to pace about. 

    4. What keeps the Muse happy

    After a long time and some trial and error, I have realised that what makes me happy makes the muse happy too. She is intrinsically tied to me. She comes to me when I am relaxed, joyful, in the moment or when I have a deep need to express anything that has touched me deeply. 

    Looking at my writing and the times that I have been prolific gives me an idea of when my muse is happy and staying. The days I feel a deep satisfaction at having written well or expressed something completely are the days when I find my flow and my voice urges me and I can write on and on. These are the days when ideas come to me in dozens and I feel invincible where writing is concerned. 

    In writing, there are certain things that I can naturally express well. Some can write a memoir piece really well, musing and going down the memory lane. For others, informing and disseminating information comes easy. Some people are very rational and some write poetically. So, I write what I really want to write about. I write about the things I feel passionately for. I write so that it is expressed most beautifully and if it does not come out the way I would have liked to, I keep at it still. Because bad writing leads to good writing. The days I find my voice well are the days I write what I love to talk about. 

    This is not to say that I stick to one thing and never diversify into other ways of writing. It is only to say that I try to make everything my own before writing, in my mind so that the joy of ownership flows into the words. 

    5. How would the Muse stay comfortable 

    Which brings me to the next thing that is related to making the matter my own. It is deciding what I am going to write about when I sit down. I create an outline in my mind or on paper, if that helps better. Knowing what I am going to write about, what would be the structure of the piece, how the ideas are going to flow and how I want to tie up the diverse ideas or arguments as they arise. It is good to have an idea of how I would want to end it. Even then, sometimes new and unexpected things arise in the mind as I write and often I stumble upon a gem of an idea which closes the piece I am writing in an unexpected way. 

    So, I have an outline ready and also trust my instincts as I write. 

    6. Woo your Muse 

    The Muse is like a fountain of creativity and I can feed that creativity through writing. I also feed the muse in other ways by keeping the creative spark alive. That I usually do by indulging myself in other creative pursuits. 

    My favourite creative pursuit is to read. It is to fill my mind with impressions, thoughts, an amalgam of influences that come together to make my writing original. My inspiration comes from a cross section of arts and of raw passion that I encounter in the outpouring of the thoughts of the masters. 

    7. Passion and the Muse 

    I feel it is completely fine to lay bare my soul and write to take weight off my mind. It is completely fine to make writing a kind of a crutch on which to lean on, when going on seems impossible in life. I make it the place where I dump it all, the desires and the insecurities and the deepest fears. It is completely fine to dress these emotions a bit or a lot and to let them masquerade as characters with plenty of foibles. The thoughts are out there and they have taken wings. 

    Also, some days, I write for my own self. i don’t think of who I am writing for, who the target audience is going to be and how others are going to receive what I put out. I write so that it is my soul that is doing the talking. 

    Lastly, I have realized that it may take time for the writing to mature. Our perceptions change and our philosophies too and there is always something around the bend of our mind that surprises or charms our writing selves. 

    Disclaimer : The Muse is referred to as ‘she’. That is just an artistic view of her. For many others, eg, the writer, Stephen King, the Muse is ‘he’. 

    What are the ways you find your Muse and make her stay? Let us talk. 

    This listicle is part of Friday Listicles, a weekly feature that professes our love for anything that is presented in a numbered or bulleted form, paving the way for a happy weekend. 

    5 ways to Greater Creativity 

    As writers, we string together words and put our hearts and souls into them so that we may find catharsis and resonance. 

    We have the ideas. We have the words. We know what we want to write but do we sit down and write? Are there not times when we hit the block, or times we just don’t find the time or times when what we want to say does not come out right or times when we feel too lazy and that makes us go out of practice or we encounter a boredom so deep that we question our abilities or worse still our desire to write. 

    There are ways to stoke our creativity so that we can continue to be the creators, bringing forth beauty and even feel drunk on the joy of creation. How to reach that stage? How to create or write (because I am addressing writers here) so that we are consistent and content with the process? 

    How to put the words to paper? 

    1. Don’t let go 

    Don’t let go of your passion, of what nurtures you. Don’t be satisfied and rest on your laurels. Don’t be stress free all the time. Writing is meant to bring joy but if you stick at the easy, you won’t challenge yourself ever. When there is no challenge, boredom sets in and that feeling of wanting to write dissolves fast. 

    If writing is important to you, then keep at it, even on the days it feels like a chore. Step away for sometime and you might have stepped too far. 

    2. Stay open

    We rush through our days. Time is short and the lists are long. There is always a sense of urgency. We like being busy. It makes us feel that we are productive. And yet these are the very days that are a blur when we look back. We don’t remember them for the joy of creation. In being busy and in living with a purpose of accomplishing more and more, we might forget the real meaning and the purpose of our lives. These busy days are the ones when we are closed. 

    So, stay open. It is not possible to clear our calendars. But it is possible to carve out a state of mind where creative thinking can flourish. This state is when we are not ticking off things on a list. It is when we are content to ‘be’. At its best, the open state is when we are in communion with our deeper selves and we are open to new thoughts, perceptions and ideas. 

    3. Time and Space 

    To be in a open frame of mind, carve out some time for yourself. It could be early mornings or late nights or the lazy noons when things are not so rushed and can slow down and watch your thoughts. Make space for your thoughts. And in a literal sense, have a physical space where you can be in peace and harmony. 

    It could be a walk path that works for you, early in the mornings. But these are the places and this is the time when you find your thoughts expanding through the perceived barriers of your deadlines. Cherish these times. These would help later with the flow of words. 
    4. Have fun with mistakes 

    It is needed that there are no worries about mistakes and there is no room for doubts when you write. Sure, there are second thoughts but do not be hemmed in by expectations or your perceived limitations. 

    Take courage in your hands and experiment. Prepare to fail. There, at the other end of the spectrum lies real magic. 

    5. Stick around till it is done 

    Don’t give in fast. You owe it to yourself. The idea is to challenge yourself every now and then so that the going does not stay easy and lead to boredom. Step out of your comfort zone and grow. 

    Thanks to Rose for the discussion on writing and for suggesting the subject of this listicle. 

    Is there a particular listicle that you have always wanted to read but could never find it? Let us talk of them

    This listicle is part of Friday Listicles, a weekly feature that professes our love for anything that is presented in a numbered or bulleted form, paving the way for a happy weekend. 

    Writer’s Block

    “Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all”
    Charles Bukowski

    I am a writer, though not the highly revered published author, but one that writes nevertheless. I like writing because I love to, because it is a form of self expression and because I feel that every person has a right to express himself/herself. The days I go with whatever life brings me, reacting and defending, are the days I feel I have lost touch with myself.

    I used to read about writer’s block and laugh secretly, thinking a lot of fuss was being made about short periods of unproductivity. What was the big deal-I thought, after all, people in all professions burn out. Take a break and rejuvenate, simple, is it not? And writers being writers, custodians of words, twisters of sentences, inventors of ideas; we are the ones who defined writer’s block, glorified it and made a monster out of it.

    Till I started my blog, I was a prolific writer-in my journal. I would write as and when I felt like and would feel pleased after a finished piece of work. When I started my blog, I was pretty confident about being a productive blogger. Just a matter of sitting down and writing. I was cruising along fairly well and then it struck me! I was down with Writer’s Block!

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    Calvin's take on the Writer's Block

    Hmm..I was important, after all. The most talked about malaise in the writer’s fraternity had hit me. I walked about with a smile on my face for a couple of days. The third day I sat down to write something. The words wouldn’t come. I was not worried. After all, I had just ended a very productive period when I wrote at all times of the day. Another day passed. I sat down to write. That day I managed to scrunch up a few sheets of paper and throw them around. The floor looked pretty. I must have a home office soon, for I am a bona fide writer now-I made a mental note to myself.

    The real worry started a few days later or was it a few hours? If I do not produce something soon, my followers are going to desert me. My blog would wrap up. I would be back to zilch-cooking and cleaning and taking care of kids. I would not be able to look down upon people mentally and repeat the magic word ‘blogger’ when I made the introductions. Anxiety came in waves. And the waves got bigger each passing hour.

    I did some research on the dreaded block. It said that writers must know how to generate ideas and explore their own thoughts so as to retain creativity and stay inspired. Okay, I filled up pages with prompts. I examined my thought processes. Zilch! I was scared of writing something that would not be good. I was afraid I would put out something not worthy of me. I knew people were reading me and that frightened the wits out of me. My nerveless fingers dropped the pencil…umm..OK..I can avoid the dramatisation.

    I tried to relax. To nurture myself, mind, body and soul. I did not drown myself in decadent activities like TV or parties. I walked, I spent time with myself, I ate good food, I listened to good music, I read my favourite authors and I made myself feel loved.

    And magic happened…

    Relax. Put pen to paper. Smile. You are now going to produce a masterpiece. Or a terrible first draft that might have to be published as it is. In any case, I love free writing exercises. Either way, I am writing and I am a writer again.