I had an opportunity to present at a writing conference assembled by a group called Wasatch Writers Fellowship on Saturday. We met at a library, and I was the first one to get up with my subject.
The room had different levels of seats, and while there weren’t as many people as seats, I still had to use a microphone. Talk about intimidating! But my heart rate slowed to its usual rhythm after a minute or two, and I was able to enjoy myself without dreading the loss of consciousness from nerves.
My title was Make the Muse Behave. I chose it because I’ve been struggling with writer’s block off and on quite severely, and I was hoping to help myself by teaching others how to inspire their muses. And I think I’ve actually come away with something! I hope others found something out about themselves and their muses, too.
Below I will include the outline to my presentation. Much of it relied on me asking questions of our audience, and interacting with them based on their responses. But this will give you an idea of how it went:
I looked up the following word in dictionary.com:
- Classical Mythology.
- sister goddesses, originally given as Aoede (song), Melete (meditation), and Mneme (memory), but latterly and more commonly as the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne who presided over various arts: Calliope (epic poetry), Clio (history), Erato (lyric poetry), Euterpe (music), Melpomene (tragedy), Polyhymnia (religious music), Terpsichore (dance), Thalia (comedy), and Urania (astronomy).
- any goddess presiding over a particular art.
- The goddess or the power regarded as inspiring a poet, artist, thinker, or the like.
- The genius or powers characteristic of a poet.
What are some of the traits of your muse?
Is there more than one? Is it loud? Quiet? Easily frightened away? Only interested in coming out in the middle of the night? Explain my muse for inspiration to what I’m looking for from them. Mine is like a cloud. Sometimes not there at all, sometimes present but wispy, other times thick and covers up everything else in the sky. Sometimes lightly colored and pleasant, sometimes dark and moody.
On one side of their paper, have them illustrate their muse, be it with a drawing or a list of the traits they talked about.
Talk about writer’s block. Give experiences I’ve had suffering from writer’s block, and ask them to talk about their most frustrating times not being able to write.
- Writer’s block makes me feel as if I’ve lost my talent
- When I get in that mood, I decide I don’t even want to write. And then I feel depressed as I give up the one thing I’ve always enjoyed and really would like to do
- So to hopefully conquer that horrible feeling, I get on the computer and stare at a blank document (or partially filled document) and wait for something to click. My mood sinks lower when I can’t force anything out
On the opposite side of their paper, have them begin to jot down a list of ways to put their muse in a good mood. Ask them how they inspire themselves and their muse, and get the group to brainstorm together. Provide my own list of ideas and allow them to write down what would suit them best.
- Music: Find tracks that inspire that certain story. Sometimes it helps me when I listen to music without lyrics because then I’m not tempted to sing along
- Take a shower and talk to yourself. I know that sounds crazy! But play some of that music and have a conversation with you. A lot of my ideas come from when I’m standing under hot water and whispering good lines
- Step away from the computer and the entire writing space. Do yoga, go on a walk, dance like a crazy person, play fetch with your dog, punch a pillow, etc. Do something away from the writing space that helps you relax, or gets rid of some of the frustration that builds the longer you’re not able to write
- Word vomit. Just like throwing up sometimes helps a sick stomach, getting any and all words out of your system can remove the block in the process
- If you’re stuck on a scene that you can’t make work, no matter how hard you try, mark it on your document and move on. Start a different scene. Go back to the problematic part later. Odds are, as you work on other problems, you will eventually find a solution to the first one when you’re not sitting there stewing in it
- Talk to people. When you realize you have support (from family, from friends, from fellow writers), and if you listen to their advice, the block might finally lift. For me, I know I can talk to my mom, and she’ll even give solutions to the story if I can’t see a way to go about writing it
- Read a book or watch a movie. Immersing yourself in another story can sometimes inspire you with your own
- Find a different angle. If your muse is disinterested in your story, figure out what would make that muse happy. Does it want a tragic and unexpected death of a favorite character? Does it want someone to fall in love that you hadn’t planned on? Switch things up enough that it’ll create new interest
- Let yourself be bored. While it’s a total opposite of finding a different activity, sometimes distracting yourself doesn’t end up helping. When nothing else works, maybe it’s time to sit by yourself in a room without any form of entertainment. Stare at the wall until you feel like you’ll go mad, and then let your mind wander. In your daydreams, see if something pops up that you can work with
Much of the battling with writing comes from discouragements and self-doubt. Boost them. They are the only ones that can tell their individual stories the way they want to tell it. Their words, phrases, characters, and creative choices make them unique. Even as a struggling writer, you are still a writer.
Respond in writing to the prompt: Record what you like about your writing