Some writers talk about their “Muse”. This winged siren appears to be a mix of Snoopy, Tinkerbell, Holmes, and Hemingway. She carries handfuls of inspirational fairy dust in silky glass vials. An enchanted cocaine if you will, designed to send the writer to creative nirvana. She is unpredictable and no one knows when her writers will get their hit. Snorting the white magic, writers awaken to brilliant ideas; sheer creative insight. Pure ecstasy reigns, as they visualize their greatest creative accomplishments.
To hear these writers tell it, this Muse is a necessary part of everything they write. She provides exactly what they need to delve into a new project, or finish an existing one. That rapturous high makes it all worth it.
I know I’m exaggerating, but waiting for writing advice from an ethereal creature… Seriously?
Science has tried to figure out where inspiration originates for a long time. The Greeks and Romans, personified the idea of inspiration in the form of minor goddesses who granted ideas to thinkers, poets, playwrights, etc. This fit with the rest of the culture’s spiritual beliefs. They believed humankind to be at the mercy of cosmic forces, and that man labored under the whims of the divine; the fates if you will. If a poet couldn’t write a poem, it wasn’t his fault (an excuse still wildly popular today). The muse hadn’t graced him with inspiration.
This is 2015 – beliefs have changed. We’re grown up now and can no longer blame our imaginary friends for anything.
I don’t know exactly how inspiration is born inside our brains. Through personal experience, I find the more I read, the more I plot, and the more I write, the easier it becomes to find new ideas. Life experiences and dramatic emotional situations also add to my list.
I’ve never experienced cosmic manifestations or paranormal whispers – Thank Goodness!
Writers complain about lack of ideas. Is that the problem, or do they lack motivation? They want to write, but they can’t. There are always excuses, usually starting with – It’s not their fault. They just have to wait for that inspiring vision from their personal writing muse.
These writers desperately need to stop complaining and take responsibility for their own writing career. If the current scene in that book in progress feels wrong, it’s not because the forces of inspiration have aligned against them. They need to find a solution – a real solution – not a mystical one. Are they ready to begin a new project? Are they still waiting for the apple to fall on their head? They have to find the topic. It can’t find them. It can’t even walk until they give it legs.
Most writers keep their fingers on the keys when the project is fun. For some, as soon as they hit a snag, or the going gets rough, their enthusiasm tends to wane. They go out with friends, watch TV, or start plotting a different book; anything to avoid continuing with the current, boring, and possibly difficult project. The difference between being a successful writer and a not quite successful one really boils down to how they handle that situation.
A writer doesn’t need magic fairy dust to write a good book. What they need is skill, dedication, and long hours in front of their machines. The jolt of inspiration is addictive, and an electric high every writer knows well. We need to be able to work whether or not we’ve had that magic fix. Inspiration gets easier to find the harder we work.
How hard are you willing to work to get the job done?
Are you willing to take responsibility for that work?
My advice to all the writers out there: fire that muse, and keep writing…
A couple years ago, I wrote a humorous blog about Writer’s Block (here). I’m repeating the advice I gave back then. I gave a list of suggestions to help writers find new inspirations (no muse mentioned). If you’re feeling tapped out of ideas, maybe these will help.
How to find new story ideas:
• The simple and usually best idea is to go to your book shelf and find old classic books that no one remembers (be sure the author is dead) – use the story line but add a couple vampires or a few zombies – perfect!
• Read a non-writing magazine like Style, or Sports Illustrated (no real writer reads these) and try to steal an idea from those pointless articles.
• Phone other writers (especially actual friends who may trust you) and casually ask them about their latest ideas. Be sure to act really enthusiastic and interested. Their super-egos will tell everything – they can’t help themselves.
• Phone non-writer friends and bring up the subject “Did you ever have an idea for a great story?” The answer is usually quite ridiculous, but a good writer knows ideas can come from nonsense. They say everyone has a book in them – they didn’t say good book, just a book.
• Try the internet, and go to the obscure sites and try to find ideas there. Try them all – even the Weather Network, Public TV, and Treehouse. Ideas can come from anywhere.
My last strategy might actually be the best. Try a Google search by typing in “Ideas for a book/blog/short story”. I’m confident the sheer quantity of suggestions will boggle your mind. After all, I hear over and over (it still scares the daylights out of me) Google knows everything…
Excerpts from: Writer’s Block – Symptoms and Cures – March 22, 2014
Excerpts from Neal Litherland’s post – Sept 23, 2015