Strangling My Muse

I swear when my toothbrush saw me first thing this morning it sighed, disappointed I’d spent another uncreative weekend followed by another restless Sunday night and now I was going to use it to brush away the grit of failure stuck between my teeth once again.

I knew what my toothbrush was thinking. What happened? Your creativity was supposed to explode once you became a full-time freelance writer, wasn’t it? You work at home. Your time is your own. It’s been three years now—why haven’t you gotten back to that novel?

I felt a few defensive gremlins creeping up my shoulders. After all, I have been creative in the last three years. I earn a living creatively, writing copy about movies and books. Even though I think of myself as a fiction writer, I went through a year-long personal essay/poetry/lyric essay phase. I’ve written hilarious and fascinating e-mails to my friends on occasion.

But I could almost hear my toothbrush’s next comment: Yeah? What have you done lately? What have you done in the past week—in the past month—to fuel the creative fire that burns in your belly?

I knew I’d lost the argument.

Me, Before They Took My Crayons Away

Me, Before They Took My Crayons Away

The truth is that creativity—deep, sustained, meaningful creativity that feeds the soul—really only functions well when it’s nurtured and given space to grow. It’s like a relationship, or a plant: you can’t just set it on a shelf for a month and expect it not to have withered a little—or a lot—when you return from your vacation in the Desert of Too Busy, Too Tired and Not Inspired. But you also can’t give up your job, your relationships, your personal obligations to tend to a small, demanding ficus tree that no one but you can see or truly understand.

Face it, our society is not set up to facilitate having a creative existence. Once we hit puberty, they take our crayons away and make us start planning our adult lives. We’re told we can be creative on the side: after we’ve finished all the responsibilities of earning a living, taking care of a family, being a productive member of society. For those of us who have a loud, insistent Muse, we’re guided to slowly strangle that voice that wakes us in the middle of the night, enticing us to create. We’re told to tamp it down until it fits into a tiny space between “When I’ve finished my To Do List” and Never.

When I worked regular 9-to-5 office jobs, it was hard to make time to nurture my soul-writing. Now that I freelance at home full time, it’s still hard. Each lifestyle has its own challenges. But I’ve also experienced periods when my life was bursting: working full-time, freelancing another 10 or 15 hours a week on the side, dealing with family obligations, a social life, even hobbies—and I still managed to sneak enough moments of creativity into my life to dance through my days, inspired.

So that’s what this blog is about. I want to explore how to make creativity—deep, soul-fulfilling creativity—a part of my life, for the rest of my life. I want to stay creative through easy periods of fertile inspiration and also through the dark times, when work is overwhelming and life keeps throwing curve balls and everyone is always cranky.

I want to stop strangling my Muse.

Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World,

17 Responses to “Strangling My Muse”

  1. 1 Kathy Holmes May 25, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    I totally hear what you’re saying. But I’ve also discovered that I can’t ignore my muse – even when I want to. Why would I want to? Because after years of writing, I don’t want to listen to my muse without a guarantee that it’ll lead me to writing success. But when I try to ignore it, it grabs me by the throat and won’t let me go until I write. So write I must just to retain my sanity. And the creative soul must be satisfied with or without commercial success as the end result.

  2. 2 stranglingmymuse May 26, 2009 at 12:01 am

    Thanks for posting the very first comment on my blog, Kathy! Unfortunately, I’ve been all too successful at ignoring my Muse when life gets overwhelming. Luckily I have a very persistent Muse, however, so I’ve also had long periods of fertile creativity. I do feel more sane when I’m writing from my soul. And I truly find myself living in a black-and-white world when I’m not listening to my Muse, as opposed to a glorious Technicolor one when I am.

  3. 3 Keith Ackers May 26, 2009 at 6:56 am

    Given that your muse appears to be a youthful Linda Blair, thoughts of strangulation are probably to be expected. However, good thoughts on the constant struggle.

    “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” -Pablo Picasso

    (Seriously, if your muse starts spitting pea soup, I’d say go ahead and strangle her just in case.)

    • 4 stranglingmymuse May 27, 2009 at 12:37 am

      Ha! You would see Linda Blair! I’ll have you know that’s not my Muse trapped in that drop of water at the top of my blog, that’s my poor creative soul, struggling to get out…okay, it’s really just a photo I liked…

      But I promise to let you know if any pea soup starts spewing around here…


  4. 5 DQ May 26, 2009 at 8:01 am

    Thank you, Sandy!! You are speaking directly to my sad, withered little creative spirit. Here is an excerpt from the “Goals – Summer ’09” list I was drafting last night at midnight:
    • develop weekly writing routine
    • start idea file
    • schedule writing sessions on calendar

    Along with exercise & flossing, I just can’t seem to get into a groove with the things I want/need to be doing most. I feel sure having your blog to read will provide inspiration and comfort … just like having tea with an old friend who really ‘gets’ you. Can’t wait to read more!

    • 6 stranglingmymuse May 27, 2009 at 12:44 am

      DQ! Great to hear from you! So remember that little writing group of 4 we were in a million years ago?! I think it gradually evolved into hanging out more than writing, but it was still fun!

      Those are great summer goals — but I know how hard they can be to keep, along with flossing and exercising…

      I’m glad you’ll be reading my blog! And I hope you’ll add your always entertaining voice to the comments here whenever you feel inspired to do that.


  5. 7 Bryan Session May 26, 2009 at 8:27 am

    I am so glad that you are sharing this gift.

    Love you Madly

    Bryan Session

    • 8 stranglingmymuse May 27, 2009 at 12:46 am

      Thanks for all the support — now and for the last two decades!
      Mad love right back at you…

  6. 9 Rochelle Ritchie Spencer May 26, 2009 at 10:42 am

    Sandy, I will never look at my toothbrush the same way again!

    Good for you on beginning your blog – I look forward to many more insightful, inspiring, and amusing posts (but no pressure!).

    Yesterday was the first day since I began my writing “program” that I didn’t have something planned to write about – no article, no blog post, so I just sat in front of a blank screen and fretted. Then I started to type anything just to have words on the screen and eventually coherent sentences began emerging, mcch to my surprise. I don’t know if it will end up being anything but I felt like my toothbrush would be proud.

    • 10 stranglingmymuse May 27, 2009 at 12:49 am

      Wonderful, Rochelle! We all need to make our toothbrushes proud. I am following in your footsteps here, right behind you, so I’m glad to hear how well it’s going!

  7. 11 Rochelle Ritchie Spencer May 26, 2009 at 10:46 am

    OH! And thank you for putting my blog link on your site!!! I’ll be doing the same.

  8. 13 Felice May 26, 2009 at 11:29 am

    Cute! Love it.
    Thanks for sending. I’ll be a loyal reader!
    Are you on Facebook?

    • 14 stranglingmymuse May 27, 2009 at 12:58 am

      Thanks, Felice — I’m honored you’ll be a loyal reader! Yes, I’m on Facebook…but I don’t see you there, so why don’t you friend me?

  9. 15 Mom May 26, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    Your Muse has never been strangled, Sandy. She started strong long before they took your crayons away when you were staging hand puppet shows and writing stories like “The Unhappy Inkblot” which wound up in the Woodbrook School Library. She has continued strong even after the crayons disappeared and were replaced first by ball point pens and then PCs. Lots of life has intervened since then. Maybe the Muse coughed and choked a little with all the competition, but she’s still plenty healthy. I think she knows you’ll always come back to her. Witness this blog.

    Congratulations on a great piece of writing to both you and Muse.

    • 16 stranglingmymuse May 27, 2009 at 1:08 am

      Thanks, Mom! I’m sure anyone reading this will agree that having such a supportive mother has a lot to do with why my Muse is still around after all these years of overwhelming life competing with creativity!

      Oh, and extra special thanks for passing on that excellent writing gene to me!!!

      –Sandy xo

  1. 1 7 Creative Links—The Problogger Challenge « Strangling My Muse Trackback on July 22, 2010 at 6:03 am

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About Sandy Ackers


Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach and Writer.

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