Posts Tagged 'Muse'

Trying to Capture the Elusive Muse

In a dream, I swim through a beautiful ocean of words, until I meet a very old tortoise who whispers the perfect sentence in my ear. I can’t remember the sentence when I wake, but my hair is wet.
** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **

One of my greatest frustrations with my muse arises when she provides incomplete information. When inspiration strikes, I want to see the whole picture. To visualize the complete story, imagine exactly how the scene unfolds or clearly hear the voice of an important character. But the truth is that muses almost always provide only fragments. That’s actually the muse’s job. To offer a spark of inspiration. Then we must turn the spark into something more. So many of my best pieces of creative writing have arisen when I started with just a hint of an idea, a hazy image, a line of dialogue or a brief moment of action that I first told myself wasn’t worth pursuing. But when I push aside the voice that tells me “No,” and insist on following the flash of inspiration, I often find something lovely unfolding. Writers frequently talk about how their wonderful novels, memoirs, plays, screenplays and poems originated with such snippets. I find it really helps me to remember that when I’m annoyed at my Muse for only providing me with wet hair while leaving the perfect sentence balanced on the tip of my tongue.

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Who Is Your Muse?

I love this exercise, which I’ve posted here in the past. I like to go back to it occasionally and keep answering the question in my journal. And I’d love to hear from you: Who is your muse?

Here’s the challenge:

Write “My muse is…” and quickly finish the thought with the first thing that comes to your mind. Continue writing “My muse is…” and completing the sentence at least 15 or 20 times. Keep your pen moving. Don’t pause; don’t think too much about it; don’t censor yourself! Allow yourself to write things that are silly, stupid, profound, nonsensical … just keep going and see what you come up with. Most of all, have fun with this!

Then post your favorites in the comments below — I love it when you share your creativity!

Here are some of mine:

My muse is an anteater sniffing around to find the perfect anthill full of crunchy little creative ideas.

My muse is a banana peel waiting for someone to slip on it.

My muse is a ballerina with three legs, creating new dances that only she can dance.

My muse is a little girl with tights that won’t stay up and a pencil box full of stars.

My muse is a guitar made out of cardboard and rubber bands.

My muse is a crumpled piece of paper with the formula for happiness written on it in hieroglyphics.

My muse is a conversation between two people who don’t yet know their hearts have begun to intertwine.

My muse is a moonbeam grinning down at me from the dark night sky.


DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

Push the Creativity Reset Button Every Day

I’m rerunning one of my most popular posts today (originally published August 16, 2012):

Has this ever happened to you? You’re determined to start writing or painting or pursuing another creative passion on a regular basis. So you sit down to treaty negotiations with your Muse, and the two of you draw up a plan: Your Muse agrees to visit you for half an hour before work every day to provide inspiration, and you agree to show up with paper and pen or paints.

The two of you sign and notarize the document, your Muse flits off to study the funky aardvark dance that’s sweeping Madagascar, and you give yourself a celebratory high-five in the mirror before going to bed feeling great.

Things work wonderfully for the first week. You set your alarm early, get up, and write or paint your heart out.

The next Sunday night, your cat has a hairball emergency requiring your middle-of-the-night supervision. Obviously, after all the midnight drama, you’re way too tired to get up the next morning and be creative. But that’s okay. You decide to write or paint for a full hour the next day.

On Monday night, however, after a late-night salami pizza with extra garlic and anchovies, you keep waking throughout the wee hours between disturbing dreams of monkeys juggling hamsters, and pigs in tuxedos giving speeches at state dinners.

Too exhausted to get up early Tuesday morning, you tell yourself you’ll just write or paint for an hour for the next TWO days. No problem. But the next morning, you hit the snooze button on your alarm clock. Really, can anyone be expected to get up at this ungodly hour? You see your Muse standing next to your bed, tapping her foot and looking put out, but you ignore her. For two mornings in a row.

The next day is Friday, and you really deserve a break – it’s been a tough week, what with all the hairballs and talking pigs. Not to mention the terrified hamsters. You’ll double down next week and catch up on all the creative time you missed.

Once Monday morning rolls around again, the amount of work you need to do to catch up seems so daunting that you bury your head under your pillow while your Muse screams into your ear. Finally, she gives up and flies away with a pout.

You’ve broken your Creativity Treaty. Your Muse is drowning her sorrows at the Muse Pub, and beginning to flirt with an artist who speaks in haiku while turning napkins into abstract art.

Meanwhile, you’re stuck under the covers. You wonder if you are even meant to be a writer/artist/musician. What were you thinking? You’re way too busy. The world seems set against you pursuing your creativity. You’re not really even a very good writer/artist/musician anyway.

This is when you need to push the Reset Button.

It’s time to text your Muse and ask her to come back and renegotiate. This time, include this clause in your treaty: “Every Day is a Restart.”

If you miss a day, you start fresh the next day. Do the already-planned 30 minutes that morning, not 15-and-a-half hours because you’re so far behind.

Because the thing is: You won’t do 15-and-a-half hours. And feeling that you should just adds creativity-killing pressure.

Creativity-killing pressure has been known to cause people to curl up into tense little balls while their Inner Critics hurl horrific insults at their tender insides. And creativity-killing pressure always frightens muses away.

But if you can treat every day as the first day of a new treaty, you lower the pressure on yourself and put a smile on your Muse’s face.

Muses love daily restarts. Because muses exist in the Now. Creativity exists in the Now. Every day is a fresh start. Every moment is a fresh moment.

So, hit the reset button, pick up your pen or brush, and start. Now.

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

10 Ways to Woo Your Muse

metal sculpture

Rerunning one of my most popular posts:

  1. Do something you haven’t done since you were a child. Slide down a slide. Eat a peanut butter and banana sandwich. Play in a sprinkler. Sing a song you liked when you were a kid.
  2. Keep a notebook next to your bed, and write about whatever wakes you up.
  3. Take a little time to stop “doing” and just “be” for a while. Meditate. Walk. Stare at the wall. Soak in a bubble bath.
  4. Spend some time doing anything you consider fun, even if it seems frivolous. Especially if it seems frivolous.
  5. Go for a walk and look at everything in your path as if you’re seeing it for the first time.
  6. Enjoy some childlike creativity. Color. Dance. Play with Play-Doh.
  7. Pay attention to your dreams—both the night kind and the day kind.
  8. Rip up your To Do list for the day or for the afternoon or for half an hour and do whatever you feel like doing.
  9. Go outside at night and count the stars. Or waltz in the rain. Or share your secrets with the moon.
  10. Do something silly. Talk in a funny voice. Walk down the street backwards. See if you can balance a spoon on your nose.

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

Push the Creativity Reset Button Every Day

Has this ever happened to you? You’re determined to start writing or painting or pursuing another creative passion on a regular basis. So you sit down to treaty negotiations with your Muse, and the two of you draw up a plan: Your Muse agrees to visit you for half an hour before work every day to provide inspiration, and you agree to show up with paper and pen or paints.

The two of you sign and notarize the document, your Muse flits off to study the funky aardvark dance that’s sweeping Madagascar, and you give yourself a celebratory high-five in the mirror before going to bed feeling great.

Things work wonderfully for the first week. You set your alarm early, get up, and write or paint your heart out.

The next Sunday night, your cat has a hairball emergency requiring your middle-of-the-night supervision. Obviously, after all the midnight drama, you’re way too tired to get up the next morning and be creative. But that’s okay. You decide to write or paint for a full hour the next day.

On Monday night, however, after a late-night salami pizza with extra garlic and anchovies, you keep waking throughout the wee hours between disturbing dreams of monkeys juggling hamsters, and pigs in tuxedos giving speeches at state dinners.

Too exhausted to get up early Tuesday morning, you tell yourself you’ll just write or paint for an hour for the next TWO days. No problem. But the next morning, you hit the snooze button on your alarm clock. Really, can anyone be expected to get up at this ungodly hour? You see your Muse standing next to your bed, tapping her foot and looking put out, but you ignore her. For two mornings in a row.

The next day is Friday, and you really deserve a break – it’s been a tough week, what with all the hairballs and talking pigs. Not to mention the terrified hamsters. You’ll double down next week and catch up on all the creative time you missed.

Once Monday morning rolls around again, the amount of work you need to do to catch up seems so daunting that you bury your head under your pillow while your Muse screams into your ear. Finally, she gives up and flies away with a pout.

You’ve broken your Creativity Treaty. Your Muse is drowning her sorrows at the Muse Pub, and beginning to flirt with an artist who speaks in haiku while turning napkins into abstract art.

Meanwhile, you’re stuck under the covers. You wonder if you are even meant to be a writer/artist/musician. What were you thinking? You’re way too busy. The world seems set against you pursuing your creativity. You’re not really even a very good writer/artist/musician anyway.

This is when you need to push the Reset Button.

It’s time to text your Muse and ask her to come back and renegotiate. This time, include this clause in your treaty: “Every Day is a Restart.”

If you miss a day, you start fresh the next day. Do the already-planned 30 minutes that morning, not 15-and-a-half hours because you’re so far behind.

Because the thing is: You won’t do 15-and-a-half hours. And feeling that you should just adds creativity-killing pressure.

Creativity-killing pressure has been known to cause people to curl up into tense little balls while their Inner Critics hurl horrific insults at their tender insides. And creativity-killing pressure always frightens muses away.

But if you can treat every day as the first day of a new treaty, you lower the pressure on yourself and put a smile on your Muse’s face.

Muses love daily restarts. Because muses exist in the Now. Creativity exists in the Now. Every day is a fresh start. Every moment is a fresh moment.

So, hit the reset button, pick up your pen or brush, and start. Now.

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

10 Types of Muses—Which One is Yours?

Rays of Light

Lately, I’ve been thinking about my muse. Or muses. I wrote about my muse a few years ago, but he/she has changed since then. (Even my muse’s gender changes regularly!) At that time, I needed a muse who was forceful and would get me out of bed to write early in the morning. Who was, as I wrote, “a cross between a take-no-prisoners drill sergeant and a thoroughly enticing lover.”

But my muse has changed over the years. More recently, my muse has segued into a whimsical child who tugs on my sleeve and whispers in my ear. (Or yells, if I’m not listening!) And sometimes she’s simply a light breeze that carries inspirational tidbits to me. But still, I occasionally call on my drill sergeant muse when I need a little creative kick in the butt.

So I started thinking about the different personalities of my muses over the years, and I came up with this list. For me, my muse is like a divine artistic guide crossed with an imaginary friend. But with a chameleon personality that becomes what I need.

Does your muse have one of these personalities? Or is s/he a cross between two or three of these? How would you describe your muse? I’d love to hear about him/her!

  1. A take-no-prisoners drill sergeant.
  2. A thoroughly enticing lover.
  3. A mischievous buddy.
  4. A loyal comrade-in-arms.
  5. A whimsical child who tugs on my sleeve.
  6. Whispers on a warm breeze.
  7. A hyperactive pest.
  8. A free-spirited wild woman.
  9. A temperamental diva.
  10. A grounded, wise old oak tree who speaks to me.

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

Write Naked

I’m rerunning this popular post because I know some of you out there want to know how to capture your shower and bath musings!  

Okay, I know I gave this post a provocative title. Provocative, but not misleading, because I’m going to talk about writing while in the shower.

shower

In my post Friday, I mentioned dragging my Muse into the shower to sneak in a creative moment. Writing in the shower came up in the comments to that post, too. Since it was on my mind, I did a little Internet research about shower writing. And I found products!

I’ve always written in my head in the shower, repeating a few sentences over and over until I’m finished so I won’t forget them. It never occurred to me to actually physically write in the shower. But apparently it occurred to other people, because you can buy the items below to help with your shower-time creativity.

Links to Shower Writing Tools:

Erasable Shower Note Tablet: Like a small whiteboard, with waterproof crayons, a crayon caddy and suction cup mounts included.

AquaNotes: A pad of waterproof paper with suction cups to attach it to the shower wall. Comes with a water-resistant cedar pencil and a suction cup pencil holder. You can buy the regular AquaNotes or the “LoveNotes” to leave a message for that special someone in the shower!

Underwater Dive Slate: A search for “dive slate” turns up dozens of different dive slates made for scuba divers. But they’ll work fine in the shower, too.

waterfall

These are products designed for construction professionals who need to take notes in all sorts of weather:

Waterproof Bound Book

Waterproof Notepad

All-Weather Pen: A ballpoint pen that “writes on wet paper, and upside down in temperatures from -50 to 400°F.” I think at 400°F, the pen might be fine, but the writer would have melted into a puddle!

I also found advice to use kids’ washable crayons or old-fashioned grease pencils to write on tile shower walls.

So choose your method and don’t let a little water dampen your creativity!
 

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

Make a Valentine for Your Muse

 

I just came across this post from a couple of years ago, and I’m re-posting it to offer some ideas for celebrating your muse this Valentine’s Day!

We like to celebrate our special loved ones on Valentine’s Day, so why not give our muses a little Valentine’s Day love, too? I made this collage and included a Rumi poem as an offering to my Muse for all the inspiration in the last year.

You could also write a poem, a love letter, a couple of sentences, a haiku, a short story or anything else to celebrate your muse.

You could create a happy inspiration dance, paint a picture of your muse, write a celebratory song, or take a contemplative walk with your muse by your side.

How will you celebrate your muse this Valentine’s Day?

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

Push the Creativity Reset Button Every Day

Has this ever happened to you? You’re determined to start writing or painting or pursuing another creative passion on a regular basis. So you sit down to treaty negotiations with your Muse, and the two of you draw up a plan: Your Muse agrees to visit you for half an hour before work every day to provide inspiration, and you agree to show up with paper and pen or paints.

The two of you sign and notarize the document, your Muse flits off to study the funky aardvark dance that’s sweeping Madagascar, and you give yourself a celebratory high-five in the mirror before going to bed feeling great.

Things work wonderfully for the first week. You set your alarm early, get up, and write or paint your heart out.

The next Sunday night, your cat has a hairball emergency requiring your middle-of-the-night supervision. Obviously, after all the midnight drama, you’re way too tired to get up the next morning and be creative. But that’s okay. You decide to write or paint for a full hour the next day.

On Monday night, however, after a late-night salami pizza with extra garlic and anchovies, you keep waking throughout the wee hours between disturbing dreams of monkeys juggling hamsters, and pigs in tuxedos giving speeches at state dinners.

Too exhausted to get up early Tuesday morning, you tell yourself you’ll just write or paint for an hour for the next TWO days. No problem. But the next morning, you hit the snooze button on your alarm clock. Really, can anyone be expected to get up at this ungodly hour? You see your Muse standing next to your bed, tapping her foot and looking put out, but you ignore her. For two mornings in a row.

The next day is Friday, and you really deserve a break – it’s been a tough week, what with all the hairballs and talking pigs. Not to mention the terrified hamsters. You’ll double down next week and catch up on all the creative time you missed.

Once Monday morning rolls around again, the amount of work you need to do to catch up seems so daunting that you bury your head under your pillow while your Muse screams into your ear. Finally, she gives up and flies away with a pout.

You’ve broken your Creativity Treaty. Your Muse is drowning her sorrows at the Muse Pub, and beginning to flirt with an artist who speaks in haiku while turning napkins into abstract art.

Meanwhile, you’re stuck under the covers. You wonder if you are even meant to be a writer/artist/musician. What were you thinking? You’re way too busy. The world seems set against you pursuing your creativity. You’re not really even a very good writer/artist/musician anyway.

This is when you need to push the Reset Button.

It’s time to text your Muse and ask her to come back and renegotiate. This time, include this clause in your treaty: “Every Day is a Restart.”

If you miss a day, you start fresh the next day. Do the already-planned 30 minutes that morning, not 15-and-a-half hours because you’re so far behind.

Because the thing is: You won’t do 15-and-a-half hours. And feeling that you should just adds creativity-killing pressure.

Creativity-killing pressure has been known to cause people to curl up into tense little balls while their Inner Critics hurl horrific insults at their tender insides. And creativity-killing pressure always frightens muses away.

But if you can treat every day as the first day of a new treaty, you lower the pressure on yourself and put a smile on your Muse’s face.

Muses love daily restarts. Because muses exist in the Now. Creativity exists in the Now. Every day is a fresh start. Every moment is a fresh moment.

So, hit the reset button, pick up your pen or brush, and start. Now.

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

Who Is Your Muse?

I love this exercise, which I posted here last year. I like to go back to it occasionally and keep answering the question in my journal. And I’d love to hear from you: Who is your muse?

Here’s the challenge:

Write “My muse is…” and quickly finish the thought with the first thing that comes to your mind. Continue writing “My muse is…” and completing the sentence at least 15 or 20 times. Keep your pen moving. Don’t pause; don’t think too much about it; don’t censor yourself! Allow yourself to write things that are silly, stupid, profound, nonsensical…just keep going and see what you come up with. Most of all, have fun with this!

Then post your favorites in the comments below — I love it when you share your creativity!

Here are some of mine:

My muse is an anteater sniffing around to find the perfect anthill full of crunchy little creative ideas.

My muse is a banana peel waiting for someone to slip on it.

My muse is a ballerina with three legs, creating new dances that only she can dance.

My muse is a little girl with tights that won’t stay up and a pencil box full of stars.

My muse is a guitar made out of cardboard and rubber bands.

My muse is a crumpled piece of paper with the formula for happiness written on it in hieroglyphics.

My muse is a conversation between two people who don’t yet know their hearts have begun to intertwine.

My muse is a moonbeam grinning down at me from the dark night sky.


STOP STRANGLING YOUR MUSE!
I’ll help you slay your Perfectionism Dragon,
Herd your Inner Critics into a soundproof room,
Send your Procrastination Monster whimpering back to his cave,
And defuse all your creative blocks.

To schedule a free 30-minute telephone creativity coaching session with me, or for more information, click here.

Make a Valentine for Your Muse

We like to celebrate our special loved ones on Valentine’s Day, so why not give our muses a little Valentine’s Day love, too? I made this collage and included a Rumi poem as an offering to my Muse for all the inspiration in the last year.

You could also write a poem, a love letter, a couple of sentences, a haiku, a short story or anything else to celebrate your muse.

You could create a happy inspiration dance, paint a picture of your muse, write a celebratory song or take a contemplative walk with your muse by your side.

How will you celebrate your muse this Valentine’s Day?


Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Sandbox Challenge #23: Who Is Your Muse?

Here’s the challenge:

Write “My muse is…” and quickly finish the thought with the first thing that comes to your mind. Continue writing “My muse is…” and completing the sentence at least 15 or 20 times. Keep your pen moving. Don’t pause; don’t think too much about it; don’t censor yourself! Allow yourself to write things that are silly, stupid, profound, nonsensical…just keep going and see what you come up with. Most of all, have fun with this!

Then post your favorites in the comments below — I love it when you share your creativity!

Here are some of mine:

My muse is an anteater sniffing around to find the perfect anthill full of crunchy little creative ideas.

My muse is a banana peel waiting for someone to slip on it.

My muse is a ballerina with three legs, creating new dances that only she can dance.

My muse is a little girl with tights that won’t stay up and a pencil box full of stars.

My muse is a guitar made out of cardboard and rubber bands.

My muse is a crumpled piece of paper with the formula for happiness written on it in hieroglyphics.

My muse is a conversation between two people who don’t yet know their hearts have begun to intertwine.

My muse is a moonbeam grinning down at me from the dark night sky.


Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Ten Ways to Woo Your Muse

metal sculpture

Life is interfering with my desire to get a new post written, so instead I’m offering one of my most popular lists:

  1. Do something you haven’t done since you were a child. Slide down a slide.  Eat a peanut butter and banana sandwich. Play in a sprinkler. Sing a song you liked when you were a kid.
  2. Keep a notebook next to your bed, and write about whatever wakes you up.
  3. Take a little time to stop “doing” and just “be” for a while.  Meditate. Walk. Stare at the wall. Soak in a bubble bath.
  4. Spend some time doing anything you consider fun, even if it seems frivolous. Especially if it seems frivolous.
  5. Go for a walk and look at everything in your path as if you’re seeing it for the first time.
  6. Do something creative. Color. Dance. Play with Play-Doh.
  7. Pay attention to your dreams—both the night kind and the day kind.
  8. Rip up your To Do list for the day or for the afternoon and do whatever you feel like doing.
  9. Go outside at night and count the stars. Or waltz in the rain. Or share your secrets with the moon.
  10. Do something silly. Talk in a funny voice. Walk down the street backwards.  See if you can balance a spoon on your nose.

Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Why I Don’t Speak Cello.

I’m on vacation, visiting family, friends and old college pals in my home state of Virginia, so I’m offering one of my most popular posts:

On Tuesday morning, a cello sat on the sidewalk outside my house. I considered engaging in a musical conversation, but instead rushed off to work.

On Wednesday morning, the sidewalk looked up at me with empty eyes.

**   **   **   **   **   **

I have a confession to make. Lately, I haven’t been practicing what I preach on this blog. Circumstances in my life at the moment have had me working long hours six or seven days a week, every week, for a while. Life has been particularly stressful. And I haven’t been maintaining a creative practice.

This blog itself does give me a bit of an outlet. But I haven’t devoted any time at all to what I call my soul-writing. The fragments of fiction and poetry, the phrases of metaphor and memory my Muse hands to me. Moments of creativity that may become pieces of a larger project or may just feed my deepest self by merely existing.

But this past weekend, I didn’t work at all, taking two days in a row off for the first time in quite a while. And guess what happened? My Muse took the opportunity to begin nudging me. Or maybe he’s been nudging me all along, and I just haven’t been listening. At any rate, a couple of metaphorical micro-stories flowed into my mind. And once I started writing them down, more arrived.

Perhaps not surprisingly, they all speak to issues of creativity and writing. I’ve shared one above, and I plan to continue sharing them and write about the issue each describes. “Why I Don’t Speak Cello” illustrates my current period of overworked stress. Something extraordinary sits on the periphery of my life, and I’ve been refusing to engage with it. Creativity is always extraordinary, you know.

My life hasn’t slowed down, in spite of the fact that I actually had a real weekend. And my stress level remains high. But this little story my Muse handed me reminds me that I can still take 15 minutes to talk to the cello before I rush to work.

15 minutes a day. That’s how you learn to speak cello—or become a writer, or maintain a creative practice—no matter how much crazy life throws at you.

And if you do ignore the cello until it disappears, just remember to stop and talk to the timpani and the trombone when they arrive.

Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Write Naked

I’m on vacation, visiting family, friends and old college pals in my home state of Virginia, so I’m offering one of my most popular posts:

Okay, I know I gave this post a provocative title. Provocative, but not misleading, because I’m going to talk about writing while in the shower.

shower

In my post Friday, I mentioned dragging my Muse into the shower to sneak in a creative moment. Writing in the shower came up in the comments to that post, too. Since it was on my mind, I did a little Internet research about shower writing. And I found products!

I’ve always written in my head in the shower, repeating a few sentences over and over until I’m finished so I won’t forget them. It never occurred to me to actually physically write in the shower. But apparently it occurred to other people, because you can buy the items below to help with your shower-time creativity.

Links to Shower Writing Tools:

Erasable Shower Note Tablet: Like a small whiteboard, with waterproof crayons, a crayon caddy and suction cup mounts included. (Looks like they’re out of stock at the time of this writing.)

AquaNotes: A pad of waterproof paper with suction cups to attach it to the shower wall. Comes with a water-resistant cedar pencil and a suction cup pencil holder. You can buy the regular AquaNotes or the “LoveNotes” to leave a message for that special someone in the shower!

Underwater Dive Slate: A search for “dive slate” turns up dozens of different dive slates made for scuba divers. But they’ll work fine in the shower, too.

waterfall

These are products designed for construction professionals who need to take notes in all sorts of weather:

Waterproof Bound Book

Waterproof Notepad

All-Weather Pen: A ballpoint pen that “writes on wet paper, and upside down in temperatures from -50 to 400°F.” I think at 400°F, the pen might be fine, but the writer would have melted into a puddle.

I also found advice to use kids’ washable crayons or old-fashioned grease pencils to write on tile shower walls. So choose your method and don’t let a little water dampen your creativity!

Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Trying to Capture the Elusive Muse

In a dream, I swim through a beautiful ocean of words, until I meet a very old tortoise who whispers the perfect sentence in my ear. I can’t remember the sentence when I wake, but my hair is wet.
** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **

One of my greatest frustrations with my Muse arises when he provides incomplete information. When inspiration strikes, I want to see the whole picture. To visualize the complete story, imagine exactly how the scene unfolds or clearly hear the voice of an important character. But the truth is that muses almost always provide only fragments. That’s actually the muse’s job. To offer a spark of inspiration. Then we must turn the spark into something more. So many of my best pieces of creative writing have arisen when I started with just a hint of an idea, a hazy image, a line of dialogue or a brief moment of action that I first told myself wasn’t worth pursuing. But when I push aside the voice that tells me “No,” and insist on following the flash of inspiration, I often find something lovely unfolding. Writers frequently talk about how their wonderful novels, memoirs, plays, screenplays and poems originated with such snippets. I find it really helps me to remember that when I’m annoyed at my Muse for only providing me with wet hair while leaving the perfect sentence balanced on the tip of my tongue.

Copyright @ Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Why I Don’t Speak Cello

On Tuesday morning, a cello sat on the sidewalk outside my house. I considered engaging in a musical conversation, but instead rushed off to work.

On Wednesday morning, the sidewalk looked up at me with empty eyes.

**   **   **   **   **   **

I have a confession to make. Lately, I haven’t been practicing what I preach on this blog. Circumstances in my life at the moment have had me working long hours six or seven days a week, every week, for a while. Life has been particularly stressful. And I haven’t been maintaining a creative practice.

This blog itself does give me a bit of an outlet. But I haven’t devoted any time at all to what I call my soul-writing. The fragments of fiction and poetry, the phrases of metaphor and memory my Muse hands to me. Moments of creativity that may become pieces of a larger project or may just feed my deepest self by merely existing.

But this past weekend, I didn’t work at all, taking two days in a row off for the first time in quite a while. And guess what happened? My Muse took the opportunity to begin nudging me. Or maybe he’s been nudging me all along, and I just haven’t been listening. At any rate, a couple of metaphorical micro-stories flowed into my mind. And once I started writing them down, more arrived.

Perhaps not surprisingly, they all speak to issues of creativity and writing. I’ve shared one above, and I plan to continue sharing them and write about the issue each describes. “Why I Don’t Speak Cello” illustrates my current period of overworked stress. Something extraordinary sits on the periphery of my life, and I’ve been refusing to engage with it. Creativity is always extraordinary, you know.

My life hasn’t slowed down, in spite of the fact that I actually had a real weekend. And my stress level remains high. But this little story my Muse handed me reminds me that I can still take 15 minutes to talk to the cello before I rush to work.

15 minutes a day. That’s how you learn to speak cello—or become a writer, or maintain a creative practice—no matter how much crazy life throws at you.

And if you do ignore the cello until it disappears, just remember to stop and talk to the timpani and the trombone when they arrive.


STOP STRANGLING YOUR MUSE!
I’ll help you slay your Perfectionism Dragon,
Herd your Inner Critics into a soundproof room,
Send your Procrastination Monster whimpering back to his cave,
And defuse all your creative blocks.

To schedule a free 30-minute telephone creativity coaching session with me, or for more information, click here.

Seeking Lost Writing Mojo

It seems my Muse has run away with my creative mojo for some kind of secret assignation, leaving me in the lurch as I struggle to write something meaningful and interesting. Or at least a coherent blog post with a beginning, middle and end.

So, while I’m hacking my way through the tall grass in search of the fugitive pair, I’ll leave you with this photo for inspiration. I’m sure there’s a good metaphor or two in the picture below. Can anyone articulate one?

labrador in snow

10 Ways to Woo Your Muse

  1. Do something you haven’t done since you were a child. Slide down a slide.  Eat a peanut butter and banana sandwich. Play in a sprinkler. Sing a song you liked when you were a kid.
  2. Keep a notebook next to your bed, and write about whatever wakes you up.
  3. Take a little time to stop “doing” and just “be” for a while.  Meditate. Walk. Stare at the wall. Soak in a bubble bath.
  4. metal sculpture

  5. Spend some time doing anything you consider fun, even if it seems frivolous. Especially if it seems frivolous.
  6. Go for a walk and look at everything in your path as if you’re seeing it for the first time.
  7. Do something creative. Color. Dance. Play with Play-Doh.
  8. Pay attention to your dreams—both the night kind and the day kind.
  9. Rip up your To Do list for the day or for the afternoon and do whatever you feel like doing.
  10. Go outside at night and count the stars. Or waltz in the rain. Or share your secrets with the moon.
  11. Do something silly. Talk in a funny voice. Walk down the street backwards.  See if you can balance a spoon on your nose.

Copyright @ Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Write Naked!

Okay, I know I gave this post a provocative title.  Provocative, but not misleading, because I’m going to talk about writing while in the shower—and presumably naked.

shower

In my post Friday, I mentioned dragging my Muse into the shower to sneak in a creative moment. Writing in the shower came up in the comments to that post, too. Since it was on my mind, I did a little Internet research about shower writing. And I found products!

I’ve always written in my head in the shower, repeating a few sentences over and over until I’m finished so I won’t forget them. It never occurred to me to actually physically write in the shower. But apparently it occurred to other people, because you can buy the items below to help with your shower-time creativity.

Links to Shower Writing Tools:

Erasable Shower Note Tablet: Like a small whiteboard, with waterproof crayons, a crayon caddy and suction cup mounts included. (Looks like they’re out of stock at the time of this writing.)

AquaNotes: A pad of waterproof paper with suction cups to attach it to the shower wall. Comes with a water-resistant cedar pencil and a suction cup pencil holder. You can buy the regular AquaNotes or the “LoveNotes” to leave a message for that special someone in the shower!

Underwater Dive Slate: A search for “dive slate” turns up dozens of different dive slates made for scuba divers. But they’ll work fine in the shower, too.

waterfall

These are products designed for construction professionals who need to take notes in all sorts of weather:

Waterproof Bound Book

Waterproof Notepad

All-Weather Pen: A ballpoint pen that “writes on wet paper, and upside down in temperatures from -50 to 400°F.” I think at 400°F, the pen might be fine, but the writer would have melted into a puddle!

I also saw advice to use kids’ washable crayons or old-fashioned grease pencils to write on tile shower walls. I think I’m going to try out the AquaNotes. And I didn’t even know waterproof paper existed until yesterday!

Copyright @ Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Write. Rinse. Repeat.

Sometimes when life overwhelms me, I’ve just gotta drag my Muse into the shower to sneak in a creative moment.  I’ve crafted some of my best paragraphs while showering, repeating them over and over in my head as I rinse off.  Then dashing, dripping wet, to the closest piece of paper I can find and recording my words before I forget them.

I’ve also forced my Muse to tag along on my morning commute in the past.  One sultry morning years ago, I began writing in my head while jammed up against dozens of commuters.  My bangs started melting into my eyes from the humidity of the combined body heat in the subway car. I used my realization that I desperately needed a haircut to come up with a metaphor for this micro-story titled “Denial”.

bangs

A British publication paid me ₤10 for those two sentences!  Though I’m not always sure if that payment provided adequate compensation for the pitying looks I’ve gotten on occasion from people who read the tiny story.  It is fiction, really.

I’ve been thinking about these captured moments of creativity, and I decided to come up with a list.  Tiny bits of time we overworked, stressed-out writers (that’s all of us, right?!) could used to craft a few sentences in our heads.

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

  • In the shower
  • While driving or riding a bus/subway/taxi
  • While washing/clearing dishes
  • While vacuuming or dusting
  • While folding laundry
  • During commercials (30-second creative bursts!)
  • While blowdrying your hair
  • While walking the dog
  • While grooming the dog/cat
  • While grooming yourself
  • While tweezing (this one depends on how much unwanted hair you have!)

If anyone has other ideas or has found unique moments in your life when you can write a sentence or two, please share them in the comments!

Copyright @ Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Memo to My Muse

Last Thursday morning, my Muse woke me a full two hours before I normally get up to make an announcement: “You WILL write this. NOW.”

morning sun

A couple of phrases floated through my mind, a barely formed thought. But as my Muse continued poking my shoulder while I swatted him away and tried to go back to sleep, more words kept popping into my head. The idea began to come together.

I rubbed my eyes and grabbed the notebook and pen I keep on my bedside table. I began to realize I was inside the head of one of my protagonists, feeling her angst over a failing relationship.

So I went to the living room and scribbled this:

I reach out for you, but find myself grabbing empty handfuls of air. Your words, which used to flow around me like the comforting water of a familiar brook, have become drips from a leaky faucet. I can’t decide whether to keep banging on the tap, trying to force it open, or to fix the leak and silence it forever. My desire to drink deeply straight from your lips never ceases. But for now, I can only hold my parched tongue under the faucet. I carefully catch each and every unsatisfying drop as it falls.

The poetic style of this piece differs from the lighter tone of the story my unhappy protagonist inhabits. So it won’t wind up as part of her written tale. But I understand her better because of writing this. And it became a nice little piece of its own, even making an appearance here at Six Sentences.

emergence

I recently discovered Six Sentences, dedicated to stories told in—you guessed it—six sentences. I’ve enjoyed reading the work there, diverse pieces with quality writing. I briefly considered trying to write something for them. Then I filed that thought in the back of my mind: behind work, this blog and wondering what’s on TV tonight. But I must have unintentionally sent a memo to my Muse. Because the piece he woke me to write turned out to be exactly six sentences.

What an amazing thing a Muse is! Or creative inspiration, or the subconscious mind or whatever you prefer to call it. I woke to write, almost fully formed, a piece that both fits into this 6-sentence structure and gives me insight into one of my characters!

My paltry role in the creative process consisted of actually getting up and taking dictation from my Muse. Not a small feat for a slight insomniac who loves to sleep in! Then I suffered through a sleepy day because of the early wake-up. A positive tradeoff: a little drowsy grumpiness for a moment of creative inspiration.

Now that I read my 6-sentence piece again, I realize it could be about me and my Muse and our sometimes fractured relationship.

Hmmmm…

Maybe my Muse was the one sending a memo to me…

Copyright @ Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

My Muse is Back!!

sunflower

A brief piece of poetic fiction I wrote is published here today.

In my next post, I’ll write about how my Muse woke me up last week and forced me to write it!

Making Peace with the Coppery-Breathed Anti-Muses

Climbing into my head when I wake in the morning can be like a trip to the oddball carnival. I’ll admit it: a parade of eccentric voices tends to ramble through my mind on a leisurely circuit of creative chatter. My Muse, characters from my stories, any number of strands from pieces I’m currently writing or considering. But the voices have assured me I’m not crazy. I’m just a writer.

Creative Daydreaming

My post Friday about my Muse led to some humorous remarks in the comments section about movie stars who could become inspirational muses. Rochelle Ritchie Spencer at Slacker Chick even blogged about it. Reading others’ thoughts on this topic got me thinking about the many voices in my head.

Of course my Muse inspires me, and my characters fascinate me as they come and go, often insisting on having creative input in my stories. But a darker strand of conversation takes place in my head simultaneously. The persistent, nagging voices of the critics, the detractors and the creative skeptics sure I’ll be unable to produce any writing worth reading.

In her book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott talks about these voices: “…your mental illnesses arrive at the desk like your sickest, most secretive relatives. And they pull up chairs in a semicircle around the computer, and they try to be quiet but you know they are there with their weird coppery breath, leering at you behind your back.”

I love this quote, but I have to say that my “mental illnesses” have never been accused of being quiet! They loudly point out every flaw in my writing and throw in a few personality faults for good measure. Even when they’re happy with my writing, they pessimistically insist the successful prose must be a fluke. An uncharacteristic moment of good writing I lack the chops to reproduce.

critic

They’re already forecasting the demise of this blog. I’m happy with what I’ve written so far, but my coppery-breathed critics insist it won’t last. “Really, Sandy, you know you’ve only got six or seven good ideas,” they screech in my ears with their shrill voices. “Maybe 10 at the outside. After you’ve written them all down in this little experiment of yours, you’ll quickly falter and become the laughingstock of the blogosphere.”

I have a theory about these voices. I believe they lack the qualifications for their current employment—but they can still be put to good use. Deep down, these critics and nay-sayers actually possess great editorial skills. Unfortunately, they’re notorious line-cutters. They always wind up at the front of the creative queue when they actually belong in the back. They belong far behind the Muse, the unformed ideas, the characters and every other voice contributing to the creation of a piece of writing.

The Creators at the front and middle of the line should be allowed to say anything they want, even if it’s childish, weird or downright shocking. Only once they’ve had free reign on the playground for a lengthy period of time should the critics be allowed to enter.

Stop Sign

So I’m posting this stop sign here right now. Aiming it at my critics, skeptics, creative atheists and all the other anti-Muses competing with the wonderful, lively circus of characters in my head. I’ll take it down now and then, when my Muse and his friends have finished their delightful dance in the sun. But only after they’ve filled the sandbox with their footprints.

Only then will I let the anti-Muse editors in and allow them to use their skills of judgment in a productive way. To sharpen the edges of my stories. To polish up any rough ideas. To finally work with my Muse instead of battling him every step of the way.

Copyright @ Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

My Muse Strangles Me

I have a confession to make.

My Muse is verbally abusive.

I’m not a victim, though, because I created him that way.  Yes, him.  If creative men throughout the years could become inspired by their vision of a beautiful, ethereal woman hovering over their shoulder as they wrote, painted, composed and otherwise created magnificent things, I don’t see why I can’t have a hot guy hovering over mine.  But I actually didn’t create my hot, verbally abusive Muse for the fantasy eye candy factor, anyway.  At the time I called him up, I was in desperate need of some male energy in my writing life.

This was more than a decade ago, as I floated through a period of writing dreamy, sensual, surreal fictional sequences that went on forever.  I can’t call them stories, because they never ended.  Lots of lengthy sentences.  Gorgeous descriptions bursting with colors and textures and fragrances.  I knew how to write.  I could write until the cows came home.  But I needed structure.  I needed closure.  I needed endings.

Cows

At the same time, I worked lengthy hours at an architecture firm, the only job I’ve ever had that had absolutely nothing to do with writing.  Maybe the fact that I spent a lot of time dealing with contractors—a testosterone-filled bunch if ever I’ve seen one—had some influence on my Muse as he appeared to me.

Desperate to make writing a bigger part of my life, I decided to start getting up at 5 AM to sneak in an hour or two of writing before work.

Did I mention I’m not a morning person?!

Waking at 5 AM when I was already exhausted by a full life and an unfulfilling job proved to be quite a challenge.  I needed a cross between a take-no-prisoners drill sergeant and a thoroughly enticing lover to pry me out of bed that early.

That’s when I called on my Muse.

Rays of Light

Make no mistake, I created him.  But he also came alive and participated in his own creation.  I don’t know how anyone else experiences a personal muse, but mine is like a divine artistic guide crossed with an imaginary friend.  At any rate, he came to me as I needed him then: seductive, and yes, verbally abusive.

Every morning when my alarm rang at 5 AM, my Muse began yelling in my ear: “Get the #@*% up, Sandy. Do you think your #@*%ing stories are going to write themselves?!?!!”

He wouldn’t let me roll over for five minutes; he yelled and yelled until I jumped up.  But once I sat in my favorite writing spot in the living room bay window with a cup of tea and a notebook in my lap, my Muse started purring sweetly in my ear, encouraging the words that flowed from my pen.

And thus began a lengthy and fertile creative period in my life, a time when my writing matured and I finally, happily, mastered endings.

joy

It’s been a long time since those days, and my writing technique has continued to grow and evolve, but my Muse still hangs around.  I don’t get up at 5 AM any more, and he doesn’t yell at me any more either.  Instead we’ve settled into a comfortable relationship.  At times, he’s absent for months.  At other times I feel him hovering over my shoulder when I write, and now and then he even shows up in my dreams.

But though he’s still present, my Muse lives primarily above the garage in the back of my mind these days, and I’m realizing now as I consider my desire for sustained creativity in my life that it’s time to allow him a bigger role again.  A reinvented role, because I don’t need the drill sergeant now as much as I need the lover.

Okay, maybe I still need a little drill sergeant for those days when I just don’t feel like being creative and I want to hide behind my work and other responsibilities and whine about how I have no time for my soul-writing.  But I don’t think I need the yelling any more.

I’m almost sure I don’t need the yelling any more…

Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com


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About Sandy Ackers

Sandy

Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach and Writer.

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Copyright © 2009-2017 Sandy Ackers. All rights reserved, with the following exceptions:

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