Creativity erupts from some people like magma from a volcano; it requires no encouragement and you couldn’t stop it if you tried. Loathsome aren’t they? For most of us creativity is more like a puppy. It will frolic and play around the room, it may chew up our favorite slippers if left unattended, or it may wander off, curl up in its bed and nap. We have little control over what our cute little Muse will choose to do, and it rarely chooses to help pull the dogsled we call a Work In Progress.
But, through the use of some training and encouragement Muse can grow into a useful and dependable companion.
Housebreaking Your Muse
The first step is to instill some basic rules about what is and is not acceptable. This will take some patience on your part, and some flexibility. Muse may scratch at the door at 3:00 AM, ignoring him because the floors are cold and the bed is warm is not a good idea. You don’t want this to become a habit, but occasionally answering the call is better than the alternative.
Keep a notebook handy for jotting down those flashes of inspiration that bark in the back of your mind while doing important non-writing tasks that cannot be abandoned in order to open the door for Muse.
Leash Training Your Muse
It is lots of fun to roll in the grass and let Muse lick your face, but eventually you will need to get her adjusted to the fact that all of life is not a constant frolic. When you sit down to your keyboard to go for a literary jog, it is best if Muse will trot along beside you.
Unlike a puppy, use of a choke collar is discouraged; for Muse is a delicate creature. Positive reinforcement and rewards work well. Take occasional breaks from the W.I.P. run to allow Muse to play. Chaining the both of you to your keyboard for eight or more hours a day is not good for either of you. Go for a walk, take a look at the world around you, let Muse play among the scenery.
Teaching Muse to Come When Called
If Muse is reluctant to join you when it’s time to write – sometimes the W.I.P. is about as enticing to Muse as a bath – try some free-run exercises to entice him. There are many; here are just a few:
1) Pick up the daily paper, select three headlines at random and challenge yourself to set a scene or write dialog between characters based on those headlines.
2) Pick two rival historical figures, put them in a confined situation; perhaps a life boat at sea, and imagine what they would say to one another.
3) Imagine how the world would be different if something common did not exist – say any and all paper products.
Letting muse off the leash to play for a bit often encourages him to be more cooperative and less inclined to run away when he knows you expect something of him.
Include Plenty of Play Time
Keep Muse fit and invigorated by spending time reading good writings of others, enjoying a variety of art and music, and getting involved with children. Youngsters are a veritable fountain of imagination. Play with them. Allow your muse to wrestle and run with theirs. We were like them once: unfettered, freely imaginative, seeing and exploring the wonder that is our world.
Feed, nurture and love your Muse and it will become your loyal companion.
Allan Douglas has been an author, writer, and prattler since the 1970’s. Published mostly in magazines but has three books to date with more on the way. He lives on a mountainside in the Cherokee National Forest in East Tennessee with his wonderful wife, a genius border collie and a Prima donna hound dog who is queen of the mountain. He serves as an ordained Elder and Session Clerk (writer of minutes) in his church, is a master woodworker/furniture maker, and once dreamt of sailing the world in a Bristol Channel Cutter and writing of his adventures. Stories about this and his life as a mountain man wannabe are posted to his Simple Life Prattle blog. He also offers advice to writers at The Write Stuff. His latest book is Writing for Profit or Pleasure, Where (and how) to Publish What You Write.
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