The muse, that mysterious source of inspiration and creative ideas, can be elusive and irritatingly mercurial. She refuses your regular office hours, but wakes you up in the middle of the night when you are groggy and lack proper tools to scribe her demands.
Although the muse might never be tamed, I believe there are ways to woo inspiration on a schedule that doesn’t leave you completely sleep deprived. My focus is in the realm of poetry, memoir, and creative writing, but I believe these twelve tips can be applied across a wide range of disciplines requiring the occasional visit from the muse.
1. Explore the best examples in your interest area
So you want to write poetry. Good for you. First, find the best examples of the types of poetry you wish to write, and read your heart out. The point isn’t to be a parrot, though, but to get the rhythms into your system and let the images inform your imagination. (If writing poetry isn’t your thing, replace the words “poetry” and “writing” with whatever is your “thing.” The principle stands.)
2. Read widely in other subjects
The more material you have composting in your brain matter, the more you have to draw on when inspiration is needed for that special project. Also, stepping away from your particular domain of expertise can provide a fresh view on your subject. You start to draw parallels; make connections. It is how benchmarking works, and it is frequently where the muse waits.
Whatever your area of interest, there are others out there finding new ways of doing that thing you do, exploring different aspects of your craft, and simply enjoying each other’s company. I hear the muse hangs out with them, too.
Many aspects of creative work require great attention to instruction prior to getting to the “creative” part. For example, with proposals, grant applications, white papers, and other highly structured forms of writing, compliance with the form has to come first. Same thing can be said for sonnets and other structured poetry. When I get these required things out of the way first, I find inspiration built into this compliant scaffolding.