Mordecai Richler once said, “If I sat around waiting for inspiration, I’d never write a bloody word.” Too often writers believe that the muse has to be sitting on your shoulder before you can start typing. But here’s a secret. You can actually call the muses to you—if you know how to do it.
Here’s what I’ve found works best for me:
Set a Time – Unless you’re one of the self-motivated few who writes at every possible moment, setting a time and even a daily writing schedule is important. It doesn’t have to be rigorous or onerous. Say to yourself: “At 7 p.m. tomorrow evening, I’m going to write.” Then, when 7 p.m. tomorrow comes, go to write. It’s that simple.
Get Prepared – I get a cup of coffee and maybe a bite to eat. For you it might be a glass of wine. It might be your favourite stuffy that sits on your desk, or your Post-It Note on your monitor with words of inspiration. Preparation entails doing whatever it takes to get you balanced and in the mood to write.
Get into Your Physical Space – I have a home office because I work from home, so that’s my quiet space away from the world. For you it might be a corner desk or even a coffee shop. Don’t worry about what works best for other people: quiet vs. noisy, great view vs. blank walls, hardback chair vs. comfy couch. What’s important is finding the writing space that works for you.
You don't need a fancy office to write. Find a space that works for you.
Don’t Look Around for Your Muse – Muses are slippery creatures. The more you search for them and try to grab them, the more they’ll think you’re playing. They’ll hide behind lamps and get on your bookshelf, maybe even sneak into your printer (and you wondered why it starts to whir all of a sudden…). Ignore your muse, and it will more likely to try to get your attention.
Write – This is the hardest step for some people. Honestly, if you’re prone to writer’s block or anxiety over a blank page, it’s a step you’ll have to work out for yourself. What I can tell you though is:
Write whatever comes to your mind, whether it’s related to your topic or not.
Don’t worry about getting it right – you can revise later. In fact, most of what you write at this point will be chucked. It’s a way to help you find the path into the real writing.
Don’t give up. Writing is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Do the work.
So, as you’re sitting there, pounding the keyboard, searching your mind for things to write, a curious thing happens. Your muse will peek out from that bookshelf. But you’ll be too busy to see it. Your muse will shout at you or wave its hands. Your muse might push your mouse even (or whir the printer). You won’t even notice.
Finally, it will give up trying to get your attention, sit on your shoulder, and start whispering in your ear. Even then, you won’t really have a conscious sense of it. But your fingers will. Your poetry or prose will start flowing from you to the page. Maybe in drips and drabs, maybe in a steady stream. Maybe it will be a torrent even. But it will flow.
Go on – try it right now! Your muse doesn’t want to hide in your bookshelf forever.
When you’re done, set your writing out into the world by entering it in the 19th Annual NOWW Writing Contest (Deadline: March 31, 2017). Find out more at:
Graham Strong is a full-time freelance marketing writer, journalist, and ghostwriter and has been a writer his entire life. Graham is a former Editor-in-Chief of Argus, the Student Newspaper of Lakehead University, and helped transition it into one of the first digitally produced newspapers in North America. Graham won an Honourable Mention in NOWW’s first writing contest in 1998 for his short story Hat Trick. Professionally, Graham provides marketing writing services to businesses and organizations around the world. He also writes for several news outlets including the Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal and the Northern Ontario Medical Journal, and has written for Canadian Press. In his spare time he is writing his first novel. Graham lives in Thunder Bay with local potter Noël Keag and their three incredible sons. His favourite writers are Paul Quarrington, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Hunter S. Thompson.