I’ve always had the sense that the muse of the tormented artist—while the artist himself is throwing temper tantrums—is sitting quietly in the corner of the studio, buffering its fingernails, patiently waiting for the guy to calm down and sober up so everyone can get back to work. — Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic.
Welcome to lesson six of the Writer Starting Guide series! I’m so glad you joined!
In this lesson, I’m going to talk about what the muse is and how you can take care of it. Creativity and inspiration are so important to us writers, so learning how to embrace creativity and nurture your muse is a must!
What is the muse?
I believe the muse is your friend. She whispers inspiration into your ear when you least expect it, and keeps your creative energy flowing through a particularly good writing session. But, like most friends, if you don’t treat her well, your muse will decide it’s time for you two to get some space until you can be less of an asshole.
Elizabeth Gilbert describes the muse beautifully in her TED talk as an entity separate from the artist. She mentions the ancient Greeks and ancient Romans, who considered the muse to be a divine spirit, a “daemon” or a “genius” that spoke wisdom to the artist from nearby and assisted them in their work. She says that this idea protected the artist from too much narcissism and self-loathing.
I would happen to agree.
Do I believe I have a daemon following me around? No. That would be cool as hell, but definitely not. I do, however, believe that the muse is knotted tightly around my life and the way I live it. I believe that by taking care of myself and by living my most authentic life, I am in turn nurturing my muse.
How can you nurture your muse?
Taking care of your muse is so important as an artist. Everyone is different, but here are a few things you can try.
Yes, I realize I’m probably starting to sound like a broken record here in this series. But I’m gonna hammer this nail in just a little further. Self care. Self care. Self care. Do it! Put yourself first, for once! Get 7+ hours of sleep a night. Eat healthy. Drink lots of water. Exercise. Find some time to relax.
Additionally, try to find time to do the things you love and spend time with the people you love. Life isn’t perfect—we all have to do things or be around people we don’t like from time to time—but we can choose how we want to spend the rest of our time. And your muse wants you to choose things that make you happy, not everyone else.
As a dear friend just told me when I confessed to her that I felt selfish for choosing to do things that made me happy, because (in my mind) they came at the expense of someone else’s happiness: “Fuck that!”
Wiser words have never been said. 😂 She then went on to say this: “You should never feel guilty for living your life, for putting yourself first. You’ve only got this one life.”
Embrace your creativity
Find other artists to hang out with. Admit to yourself and to others that you’re a writer. Read. Try other creative outlets like painting, photography, graphic design, the cello, even candle making. Whatever. Just don’t run away from art. Especially your own.
You guessed it. There’s nothing that makes writers want to write more than reading a good book!
Journaling is a great way to get your thoughts down on the page, especially all those negative ones that block creativity. Putting them to paper helps you acknowledge them, and hopefully release them, even if it’s just for a short while.
The muse and exercise are directly linked. Stephen King, in his memoir, On Writing, mentioned that he goes for long walks every day to free up his mind. Minus the unfortunate accident that happened to him (if you don’t know what I’m talking about you should probably read the book), this is a really good idea! I love going for long walks, but I love going for runs even more. It clears my head and makes enough space for creative thoughts to creep their way in.
Get some peace and quiet
Being alone with your thoughts in a peaceful environment—whatever that is for you (for some, this can be in the forest, on a beach, in a coffee shop, in the park, or even in the bathroom)—is a great way to let your mind wander. The muse tends to find us when we drop our mind walls.
Listen to music
Many writers are inspired by music. And no wonder! Music is often just poetry with a beat. Listen to your favorite song. What images do you see when you listen to it? What does it make you feel?
Finally, don’t force it
The muse is a finicky thing. If you’re embracing your creativity, practicing self-care, and doing the work, your muse will find you. Just give it time.
Thanks so much for joining me for this lesson! I hope you enjoyed it.
Be sure to catch the next lesson: Find More Time to Write. Coming soon!
That’s a wrap!
It’s been real, it’s been fun. Until next time, writers.