Coaxing Out the Muses

Muses are rather like Great Pyrenees dogs: the more you try to bend them to your will, the more stubborn they become. Two weeks ago, I wrote about the missing muses. Great news! My muses are no longer missing. Instead, they’re being reticent. Or shy. Or. . .stubborn, and thus the comparison. The Great Pyrenees dog is bred to guard livestock. These dogs often live with their flocks or herds from puppy-hood onward, and they’re bred to think independently, to make decisions on how to protect their charges.  These are the kind of dogs that, if you throw a tennis ball, they will give you a look that clearly says, “Why on earth would you throw that ball? Now someone has to go get it! Foolish human.” They will then lie down and wait for someone – a human – to get the ball. (For those unfamiliar with the breed – they look a bit like polar bears – click here for more info.)

Likewise, the more I tried to force some new ideas to appear, the higher my stress levels and frustration became, and the less present my muses became. They were not going to be forced into delivering great ideas, simply because I wanted them to do so. Clearly, a new approach was needed. Instead of writing, I read. In fact, you could say I binge-read short stories for the two weeks.

I’d forgotten how much I love reading short stories.

After the first week of reading, I noticed something delightful – I not only wanted to write, but was excited to write. Off I went to the closest Barnes and Noble, where I spent two glorious hours away from home and work and chores; after re-reading the story I’d been working on, it was obvious that it was long past time to write the protagonists’ back story. Hurray! I had a writing purpose, idea, and inspiration!

After an hour, I had a lovely character sketch  drafted, and I’d learned some things about my character, Rachel. It was so much fun to dig into who she was and how she became the person I see.  I’m anxious to do an interview with her next, which is a technique that author Gerry Boyle taught at a lovely conference called Maine Crime Wave a few years ago. Fantastic technique, and I don’t use it nearly often enough. (NOTE: If you haven’t read Gerry’s books, go – right now – and purchase or borrow one. I’ll wait. His books are that good!) With Rachel’s sketch fresh in my mind, I’m ready to jump back into the story, and begin layering in all sorts of delicious details.

Later, I went home and read more short stories. Now, ideas are buzzing around me like  insects in a summer garden; whizzing and whirring and buzzing, my brain, like that garden, is full of wonderful energy again. The lesson, for me, is to remember that the writing comes from reading. If I don’t maintain a balance of reading great stories that inspire me as a writer, along with actual writing, I can get lost – and the Muses decide to play hide and seek. (My Great Pyrenees mix will watch, and wait for me to figure things out all over again.)

Lovely readers, where do you find inspiration – for writing or other creative pursuits?

 

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Author: Pamela A. Oberg

Pamela is a portfolio manager at an educational assessment company by day, writer by night. Founder of Writers on Words (a discussion and critique group), Pamela enjoys spinning tales of murder and mayhem, with an occasional foray into the world of the paranormal.

12 thoughts on “Coaxing Out the Muses”

  1. What a great inspiration! Great Pyrenees are gorgeous dogs, too. So easy to see how they could become muses. The wisdom in those faces is amazing.

    I haven’t found inspiration in fiction, that’s my comfort and escape zone. Non-fiction, another story – inspiration springs from enthusiastic blogs like this one, or books like Stephen King’s On Writing, biographies, sometimes even reading the backlist of writers I enjoy will do it. None of those things will prime the pump though, just get the desire jumpstarted. Someone recently suggested writing down five ideas a day, with a quick word sketch of the story. It’s a thought…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reading is a great way to find inspiration, and I’m so glad you’ve captured your muses. I get inspired when I immerse myself in the setting of my story and imagine myself living inside my story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! TV, definitely. And I’ve found that social media is a dangerous thing, too. Later in the evening, when I’m too tired to do creative things, and really ought to be sleeping, I’ll often be on my phone, surfing FB. The next thing I know, and hour or more has passed! Nothing good comes of that time spent (well, perhaps the occasion to read a tiny bit of inspiring news or wish a friend happy birthday), when sleep would have been a much better idea. Even reading would have fed my creative self more than the time-suck that is mindless surfing of social media.

      Of course, I’m not against social media! I love many how powerful it can be, also. But, specifically when I use it to either avoid doing something hard or something, I find it to be unhealthy. This perspective also gives me more sympathy for my teen, as I know first-hand how hard it can be to avoid being sucked in!

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    2. That’s interesting, Liz. I find watching TV can be very helpful to me. Often I try to figure out how I’d do something in writing like they’ve done visually. It’s a great writing exercise!

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  3. Great post! I can’t draw a direct line from having read something to writing something but I believe at a subconscious level, I’m soaking up how other authors mine their characters and their stories and it gets incorporated into my stories. Eventually.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Fun post! I get antsy to write when I read about writing, whether in a professional magazine, or a craft book, or a fictional account of a writer like Becky Clark’s wonderful FICTION CAN BE MURDER.

    Did I do that right, Becky?

    Like

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