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. 

    How to break out of a Blogging Break

    My blogging break was unintended. In my mind, I was fully dedicated to my blog. I could write under all circumstances. Standing, in a crowd, cooking, eating…. And then, it happened. The pin prick in ego’s balloon.

    I got a little busy. Just a minor crisis. The kind we can tide over if only we wait long enough for things to sort themselves out. But, I had made up my mind to be unhappy over it. Be disturbed even because life of late had been easy and smooth and there is nothing like pathos to spice things up or to feel more alive.

    Well, the pathos turned real and the whirlpool sucked me in. Days turned to weeks and then to months. I could get back anytime I wanted, I thought, but each day gone made it more difficult. The stitch that should have been put in time was not and things unravelled.

    Things unravelled in my life too. Writing was a safety valve, a mechanism to stay sane and its absence brought on things that put together could only be part of a syndrome.

    I thought about it and then some more. Analysed the problem from different angles. Writer’s block? Blogging ennui? The Dip? A search for greener pastures and worthier goals? The need to hide? The need to be heard on a different platform? But the fact remained that writing was the reward. The end to the means.

    There was the problem of an artistic temperament as well. An artist is supposed to be in exalted company, creating at will, and the will subservient to certain conditions considered conducive to creation. Was I an artist? I was tempted to say yes but the depths of my conscious mind screamed no. I realised that I was not exalted after all and I could create with practice and a teeny bit of talent. And some wit thrown in. Mix in the bubbling cauldron that is the mind. Not for me was the luxury of waiting for the muse to strike me. I was destined to chase it down.

    What about my readers then? I would still much rather go across to them and say hello and appreciate their work for every reader is also a writer, more so on WordPress. Especially when I have written something cringe worthy. Or something that mirrors the style of the most boring and non versatile writing pieces I come across.

    Deliberation has been difficult. Getting back has been easy. As easy as picking up a pen and putting it to paper and thinking and writing that down. Or the ‘butt in chair’ technique. Or the advice about writing regularly. And practicing your writing muscle. Reading others. Reaching out to say hello.

    “If you wait by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by”- Sun Tzu

    How the Muse deserts you…sometimes

    Writer’s Block is a much talked about phenomena. I myself have wondered about it earlier. Apparently, there are different kinds of writer’s blocks. When I last searched the web for answers, I came upon an article listing ten (!) types of writer’s block. As I read on, I felt giddy but I was able to categorise my denseness and the block into recognisable excuses.

    There are many reasons too, for the dreaded block. Some of the commonly cited ones (cited by me, not by an article by some know-all) are imbalanced yin and yang, decreased flow of energy, more receiving than giving.

    And for the past couple of months, I have been suffering more from writer’s block than writer’s unblock (there, another word coined). But why? It could be that I have nothing to write about. Is that possible in the world of daily writing prompts, weekly prompts, photo prompts and numerous articles about a successful writing process? I have been exhorted to delve deep in my past and memories to write my life story and if that sounds too daunting, to just write a memoir.

    What if then, a deep lethargy overcomes you, even the act of putting pen to paper seems indomitable? What if you do write a bit, then cross it out, write some more but the words seem all wrong? You find that the energy and passion is missing!

    On the WordPress, I read about ‘seeding’ a prompt box. It seemed like a good idea. You put in a box, multiple slips of paper, written with words that trigger strong feelings in your mind. When you do not know what to write, pick up a slip and elaborate on that word. A readymade prompt!

    Yet, in all this time of dark meanderings, I have found only a couple of things that work for me.

    The first one is free writing exercises. This is precious. It may seem silly to be writing whatever comes to mind. But with time, the words flow easier and faster. There is no pressure to write perfect sentences or even meaningful ones. There is no thought of a structure or even making a point. So, it is just the ideas that flow and make ready a blueprint.

    The other thing that works for me is regularity. Yes, the ‘butt in chair’ idea works well. And if done regularly, the writer’s block melts, as if it were ice in the heat of your ideas.

    Writing is all about expression, of putting out whatever is in the mind and whatever has affected us deeply. And if at the same time, it touches the reader and he can recognise a part of himself in it, then that comes in the realm of good writing.