Manipulating My Muse

In the introduction of MAKING A LITERARY LIFE, Carolyn See advises “a discipline of a thousand words a day, five days a week.” What does she mean “discipline?” Isn’t writing all creative and ethereal?

In the early days of my dream of a writing career I developed the idea that writing, like all art, must be mystical, dreamy, maybe magical even. I would think about characters and what their lives were like. I would jot down notes in the ever present idea notebook. But I never wrote stories. I wrote scenes and snippets. I wrote two or three sentences of plot points I wanted to incorporate. But I still didn’t write stories.

My problem? I sat around waiting for my muse, whatever that was. I thought the story would just flow out of my fingers onto the page and I would bask in its perfection. I wasn’t as egotistical as it sounds, I just thought my muse was something outside of me that I had to wait on to take over my characters and plot ideas in order to create the story.

I was wrong.

I’ve learned I can manipulate my muse. Gasp…my muse is a tool within me that I can control. Sacrilege!

One quite effective way I can manipulate my muse is to change up the time of day I write. My day job is long and stressful. I tried to write at night after work, but I was always so tired I couldn’t even think. After reading a blog post by Mike Snyder on The Master’s Artist about how he decided to get up early to write, I followed his lead.

Getting up early for me means 3:30, an absolutely unholy time of the morning, but since I have to leave for work at 6:00, that’s how it has to be. The big surprise is that I can write longer and more easily in the early morning.

How do you manipulate your muse to work for you? How do you jumpstart your creativity when your writing stalls?


  1. I’ve learned over the years that what Madeleine L’Engle said about it is true: inspiration (i.e., “the muse”) comes *during* the work, not before it. So when I’m museless (unamused?), that’s when I have to MAKE myself sit down to write, even when I don’t feel like it. I need to be writing 1,000 words a day to make my deadline (actually more than that now, since I’m more than 10 days behind on that goal), and I find that when I’m struggling at around 500 words, it’s easy to tell myself I only need 500 more. And then once I hit 1,000 (usually a little over), it’s easier to tell myself if I can write 500 more words, I’ll be at 1,500. And then when I reach that, it’s easy to do another 500 words. And suddenly I’ve written 2,000 words instead of 1,000.

    But while I may still be up at 3:30 a.m. playing with my muse, WAKING UP at 3:30 a.m. to try to write isn’t going to happen for me!

    1. I’ve noticed that the first 100 words seem to be the most difficult. Once I get past 100 words I finally feel like I’m writing.
      I think the only reason I can get up at 3:30 to write is because I’m actually still asleep and just don’t realize I’m up.

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