In Love, Actually (possibly the best movie EVER, but I might be biased), Colin Firth’s character (hence, my bias) is a writer. After he finds his girlfriend in bed with his brother, he heads for his house in France, where he works on his latest novel, his typewriter stationed on the shore of the lake in his back yard, presumably whenever inspiration strikes.
If real writers waited for inspiration, they’d never get through a first draft.
There’s a lot of discussion about when you can call yourself a “writer”, but the truth is that real writers write. Published, aspiring, beginner or bestseller, the common denominator is that they write. Every day. Whether the muse visits or not.
Most of us have jobs and families and hobbies that fill up our waking hours. If you’ve got a 45 minutes before you have to leave for work, you can’t afford to gamble that muse will stop by at that moment. I don’t know about you, but mine prefers to visit while I’m driving or while I’m supposed to be sleeping.
So what can you do to train your muse to show up when you tell her to?
- Make a soundtrack for your work in progress. Let the music pull you into the world of your manuscript.
- Light a smelly candle, or make a cup of herbal tea. Last week I caught the smell of World Champion Pepi in a tack store and felt like I was standing in the aisle at a horse show. Smells have a strong memory association.
- Keep a routine. Just like training a horse, consistency is key. If you write at the same time and place every day, the muse will get used to showing up.
- Just write. Especially when you’re working on a rough draft, just make sure that during your schedule writing time, you’re actually writing. This is where I have trouble – email, Facebook, Twitter, I always want to click away. But you can’t edit a blank page. The most important thing is to just write.
I’m off to follow my own advise … feel free to share your muse training trips for next time I find myself staring at a blank screen!