“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.”
—Virginia Woolf

What Do You Do When Your Muse Is On Vacation?

I asked a friend yesterday if she mainly wrote out of inspiration, or if she’d mastered the discipline of sitzfleisch. She was quick to say, “I write when I’m inspired.”

muse vacation

Photo by Julien Haler

Another friend finally finished her manuscript after years of sporadic visits from the muse, claiming that trying to work without the presence of magic was to produce sheer mediocrity.

Word of the Day: Sitzfleisch

Sitzfleisch is a German word which means to sit still and get through the task at hand. It’s often the difference between a wannabe writer and a professional writer.

You sit long enough to prime the pump and get those creative juices flowing. Whatever it takes. My aids are a burning tea light and quiet, a cup of magic brew (Columbian espresso), and leisure. Oh, and reading a masterfully written book thaws any frozen pump.

Advice from the Pros

Charles Frazier said he set the writing mood with music. In Cold Mountain, it was Appalachian style that inspired that well of words.

Julia Cameron has sold many on the idea of morning pages, three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing. Not high art, just releasing random thoughts on paper and skimming off the dross of life to clear the way for the sublime.

Natalie Goldberg compares writing practice to a daily exercise. “If you work out regularly, when it’s time to do the heavy lifting, like move a piano or take an essay test, or write something super important, it will be easier because you have developed the muscles.”

Novelist and short story writer Peter S. Beagle says to just show up for work. “My uncle Raphael was a painter, and he used to say, ‘If the muse is late for work, start without her.’ You have to be there. You have to be there and do it, and grind it out, even when it is grinding and you know you’re probably going to rewrite all this tomorrow.”

What primes your pump?

My writing student Cyna says, “Why let something as fickle as inspiration hold you back? You’re a writer! MAKE something exciting happen! And if your inspiration does decide to show up while you’re working, tell it to get in line. You have writing to do.”

When your muse is on vacation, what prompts you to sit down and write? And if you don’t feel inspired, how do you get in the zone?

PRACTICE

For fifteen minutes, write down every thought that comes to mind on how to get inspired when you don’t feel like writing. What has worked for you? What hasn’t worked? What might work if you tried it? Let’s help each other out. Share your ideas in the comments. Go!

About Debra Elramey

Debra Elramey's work has appeared in numerous publications, including Sojourners, Crucible, Pembroke, and Writer’s Digest. You can follow her on her blog, Pure and Simple, and on Twitter (@elramey).

  • Saunved Mutalik

    Things I do when I do NOT find inspiration:
    1. I close my eyes for a few seconds and I start a type-storming session where I type in anything that comes to my mind. It doesn’t matter if I am following the rules or not…I just have to write down something. After a few minutes, I sense that I am being rational and Miss. Inspiration “falls in line”.
    2. A look outside the window at the trees and cars at night has helped a lot. A breath of fresh air works wonders for me! 🙂
    3. Coffee!!! Almost always works.
    4. Checking FB never works for me. In fact, the stupefying amounts of spelling mistakes from statuses leaves me numb!
    5. Sometimes, just looking at a random photograph and writing down the emotions that come to me from looking at it (doesn’t matter what I write, I just have to write) help get the creative juices flowing.
    6. Reading good blog posts helps a lot, although once the internet is on…writing comes to an all time low…and you know it!
    7. MUSIC. All time favorite, although if it has stirring lyrics, probability is that you’ll be using phrases from the lyrics into your writing quite unknowingly (and realize your stupidity later on).

    So…that’s what I do or will do or can do whenever Miss Inspiration goes on vacation. Showing her how beautiful her own house is does help though sometimes…doesn’t it? 😉

    • debra elramey

      Saunved, checking FB never works for me either. What a distraction! I do love the idea of looking at an emotionally stirring photograph. Recently I was inspired to write an essay based on a birthday card.

      Here’s how it began:

      On my daughter’s eighteenth birthday I swung by the drugstore in search of the perfect card. Down one row, then the next, eyes scanning possibilities. Here I am! Pick me, pick me! One practically jumped out of its slot and landed in my hand. Oh, that’s her alright. A little girl perched at the top of an outdoor step, elbows propped on knees, a yellow pointy crown trimmed in sparkly diamond and circle shapes upon her head, a jagged combo of baby and big girl teeth grinning with delight. She is all
      decked out in white blouse and pastel jumper, striped tights woven with every color in the crayon box – Pippi Longstocking style – these juxtaposed with black and white polka dot rain boots – the boots identical to the ones my girl had to have one year not too long ago.

      Any image can trigger a flow of ideas. Great advice!

      • Saunved Mutalik

        That’s a lovely memory to be sure! I’ll remember that one! 🙂

  • madeline40

    I write a journal entry before I get to work on my other writing projects. I sit at the keyboard and type away without stopping until I have 500 to 1000 words about anything and everything. Sometimes I even insert thoughts about the project I’m working on. Journaling really gets my creative juices flowing and certainly warms up my fingers.

    • debra elramey

      Madeline, I frequently do my stream-of-consciousness journaling too, but not on the computer where I’d have a word count. Good idea though, one I think I’ll try soon,just to see what happens. I do sometimes write 2 to 3 morning pages, and these include recording dreams. Do you ever record
      your dreams? Now THERE’S some good fodder for inspiration. Did you know that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was based on a dream she had?

      • Victoria

        I love that idea and I write down my dreams pretty often. I started a story once based on a dream I had … but I never finished it.

        • debra elramey

          Victoria, how does the story begin? Have another visit with
          it and see where it wants to go… I do that all the time with dreams.

      • madeline40

        Thanks for your suggestion about dreams. I sometimes write them down. I need to do it more often. I used to write in longhand and in notebooks doing morning pages like you, but when I left a notebook on an airplane I switched to computer – that way I always have a backup. Keep writing.

  • BrendaMoguez

    I listen to music and start from a lyric, and then write from that point on until I move whatever is standing between me and the blank page. I usually find something new to write in this zone. And if all fails, I write a letter and it does’t matter to whom, I just write.

    • Saunved Mutalik

      Hmm…just writing does seem to be the best way to get writing 😉

    • debra elramey

      Girl, whatever you’re doing works because you are on a roll! I am SO HAPPY for your book deal! So, so happy for my girlfriend – cheers! Are you still on cloud nine, or what?

      OK, about starting from a song lyric… this really works. Recently I published in Life Learning Magazine an essay based on the lyrics to The Logical Song by Richard Davies, Roger Hodgson, and Jorge Martinez:

      When I was young, it seemed
      that life was so wonderful
      a miracle; oh it was beautiful, magical.
      And all the birds in the trees, well they’d be singing so happily
      joyfully, playfully watching me.

      Oh, and I like the letter idea. Did I ever tell you I wrote a letter to
      C.S. Lewis?

      • BrendaMoguez

        Thanks, Debra. It’s a step in the right direction. It’s tough to get noticed these days with everybody writing. I have learned as a writer we have to keep at it, writing, submitting, and collecting those rejection letters. I am still pimping my first novel, but selling a novellas in between can’t hurt my writing CV. And no, I didn’t know about your letter to Mr. Lewis. I like the idea of writing letters. It always works to unclog the pipes.

  • susan

    I have an assignment. It’s a commitment. Generally, that’s what I remind myself of. As Nike says, “Just do it!”

    • Curtis

      Yep. I’m with you. “Just do it!” Kind of like swimming. The only way to participate it is to put yourself in the water.

      • debra elramey

        Yep, just put yourself in the water and swim. Or float. Just
        don’t sink 🙂

    • debra elramey

      Susan, good enough motivation: I have an assignment. A commitment. But you know how slack some students can be 😉

  • Dianne

    I find that if I stop the previous session with one change left that I want to make or an idea I want to add or start with, it’s way easier to get going again. I just highlight the area, or jot down the idea and leave it.

    • debra elramey

      Dianne, this does work well in regaining momentum. But have you ever faced trying to come up with the perfect ending? And because you know you need a perfect ending, couldn’t satisfy your own self? Usually I do pick
      up where I left off, but in the case of this certain essay I’m struggling to outdo myself with a finale that would make even me say, “wow, what a powerful ending!” Any thoughts on coming up with the perfect ending?

      • Saunved Mutalik

        It’s frustrating when you write a really good story and then you can’t find THE punch line to end it. It’s devastating! I usually just leave it until next time (fresh mind, fresh thoughts) 😉

        • debra elramey

          Saunved, I think the ending should be just a powerful as the
          beginning, don’t you? You have to tie it all up into a beautiful package with a shiny bow, and sometimes finding just the right bow is hard to come by and takes a little time. But yeah, fresh mind, fresh thoughts can give you just the
          right new perspective. Amen!

          • Saunved Mutalik

            🙂
            I agree Debra. One has to tie it all up into a beautiful package with a shiny bow…and yes…it IS hard to come by! But we can find it…almost always! 😉
            Happy weekend to you! 🙂

          • debra elramey

            Thanks Saunved, and happy weekend to you too!

      • Dianne

        Sleep on it. It’s always amazing to me how much work my brain does while I’m asleep. You can’t force the perfect ending, but by sleeping on it, you can meet it partway.

        • debra elramey

          Yes, love it! Let the unconscious have a little say so in the matter, aye?

          • Christine

            Yes, it usually comes in time. You can go over and over possible endings and none of them will “ring”, then a week later, bingo!

          • debra elramey

            Yes, you’ll suddenly have an “ahha” moment! Love those!

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  • eva rose

    When I’m stuck I take a 15-20 minute break for exercise: walk, run, bike.
    Then I read a selection from my favorite novel or poem and observe the tempo, word flow, description.
    Or I find a quiet spot outdoors and make note of every sound and smell, every shade of color and motion around me.
    Now I’m ready to write!

    • debra elramey

      Oh, Eva Rose, these are all wonderful suggestions. Getting out in the fresh air and exercising, letting the mind roam where it pleases and allowing the creative process to work itself out; reading an inspiring passage or a poem – I read somewhere that reading a good poem works like a charm. Thank you!

    • Christine

      Great ideas. Do you envision scenes from your WIP as you go along?

      • debra elramey

        I do. When out walking, I’m not necessarily thinking of the outer scenery as much as the inner landscape, and what’s happening there.

  • Christine Goodnough

    More often than not I’m denying myself the time for writing. I have stories queued in my mind waiting to be told but other tasks take priority. Then there are times I want to write something new – but what? No ideas.

    I may grab my book of Sentence Sermons or Quotes and start thumbing through. Take this one for example: “The branch that bears the most fruit hangs the lowest.” I picture two branches, one higher up, maybe boasting about its bigger, rosier fruit. The lower branch is maybe too heavy laden to make much reply. So now, what will bring the point across?

    Along comes the orchard man, picking fruit in the fall. Maybe he says, “Next spring we’d better prune this higher branch; it’s not bearing very much fruit and its leaves are keeping the sunlight from reaching the lower one.” Orchard owners do that sort of thing.

    Or I may envision two people, one privileged, nose in air, maybe beautiful but arrogant. The other humbly reaches down to help others. He doesn’t have so far to bend as he’s already lowly in nature. The one goes through life pleasing himself and the other is appreciated for all the help he gives.

    Reading short accounts and opening myself to these scenes often gets me started. I may take one of my old “Our Daily Bread” booklets and find an illustration, as I did two days ago. This was an true account of a boat sinking, but I envisioned a cast of people to portray it: an old prospector; the Skipper of the ship; the passenger who didn’t make it to shore. I fleshed out the scene and posted it on my blog as “Fool’s Gold”: http://christineevelynvance.wordpress.com/2013/09/27/fools-gold/
    Hurray! Fifteen minutes exactly.

    • debra elramey

      Oh girl, you have no shortage of ideas! Your eyes are always open for possibilities and you explore the world for subject matter in devotionals
      or wherever. By the way, I read “Fool’s Gold” and was impressed by your
      imagination and how you took an idea and ran with it. I’ve found that the more you write, the more ideas come. There is an endless supply – endless. And when it feels like the well has run dry, it hasn’t.

      It’s just a matter of writing through dead ends. You’ve already cultivated the skill and habit, so just keep priming the pump for more. Just keep giving yourself the assignments and moving along. What are your writing goals?

  • You show up. On time. Every day. The Muse respects that. I believe Julia Cameron was the first to teach me that many years ago, and she`s right. I may feel empty of inspiration, but if I show up at my computer at 6 a.m. according to my agreement with myself, it’s amazing what energy rises to cause my fingers to dance around the keyboard. Every aspiring writer should try writing for a living — what’s inspiration got to do with getting the job done? The pay cheque is the inspiration! Furthermore, inspiration is only good for getting the rough draft quickly written. The artful part of writing comes with grinding out the rewrites. This subject of inspiration comes up often, and I’m always puzzled by the passionate advocates of inspiration. As for that person who says working without it produces “sheer mediocrity,” well, that`s sheer nonsense.

    • debra elramey

      Exactly. This is what separates the amateurs from the professionals: just showing up for work. On time. Every day.

      “The artful part of writing comes with grinding out the rewrites.” Love! Wouldn’t you say this is what separates the wannabes from the pros: rewriting, editing, polishing…? As an editor it never ceases to amaze me how amateurish people can be when they turn their writing over and expect me to rewrite their sloppiness. I’m SO done with that. Anyway, you don’t just count the time you log in for writing, but also for proofreading and polishing. When I taught writing at a college I had this acronym for the students. POWER –Plan, organize, write, evaluate, rewrite.Thanks for presenting this angle PJ!

    • oddznns

      So right JP Show up and the muse does too. I guess, there isn’t actually just one muse. There are multiples muses – sometimes it’s the muse who dwells within… and the there are the muses of the world. My muse is often a catalyst … but to keep the work going, I’m a reader of the Libra Mundi (the book of the world). It’s by reading and listening to that, that I pick up the pebbles to show my way.

  • George Wu

    For me, to get inspired to do something, I usually have the end in mind. Usually, I only do things I really care about or things that pisses me off that i can’t stand it anymore. Once I decided to do something, I realized that I have to do it. With a goal in mind, I will continue. Once I make it a priority, I will continue. When my aim is aimless, I will not continue. I know that for a fact. When I do something for a deadline, it works. Once the deadline has passed, I stopped doing it. I don’t know the reason behind that, but I do understand that it has become a lower priority for me. Once something becomes a lower priority, I stopped doing things because other things start to take hold. Usually, for me to continue to doing something, I see myself having to do it no matter what. I have a tendency of doing things in the manner of feast or famine. I don’t try until I am almost dead in the water, then I try my hardest to get that accomplished. Then, my emotions get elated and I stop doing that again. For that reason, I usually force myself by writing things down and having to accomplish it no matter what. I often notice that when I start something I don’t want to do, eventually over the process, I can do it without issue. It seems that I need to be tricked into an alternate reality and not distract myself for this new reality I have created myself to keep myself engaged and honest.

    When I cross things out off my checklist, I become extremely fulfilled and happy. I do not know the reason behind that, but I understand that it is probably a sense of accomplishment and not leaving anything out. For that reason, I want to make sure that I can do things to the best quality when I do. That way, I learn the most in the trial. Because I want to associate myself with quality, it indirectly forces me to do things. I also learned that to get me to be the best mind in creating something and following through, I have to have a goal in mind. That goal, however, must be short term, or I start to hate myself for it. Often times, I would need to take breaks to make sure I don’t burn myself out. That is something I cannot fathom at this point in time, and my rant is starting to not make sense. I will end it here, but I still have 2 minutes left. Sometimes to do something requires discipline. Even though I don’t feel like doing it, for what I want to accomplish, I will force myself to make it through. One thing that make it work is values. What do I hold dear to be the most important and I will usually make that happen.

    • debra elramey

      George, so you’re goal oriented, yes? And, yes, short-term goals are easier to accomplish – always easier. I got it about aimlessness. You gotta have some goal, some purpose. Stephen King said in his memoir, On Writing, “The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things only get better.” Did you see the movie, The Shawshank Redemption? If so, remember how Andy Dufresne escaped? Now that’s a story that taught me about persistence. Check it out here.

      http://debrasblogpureandsimple.blogspot.com/2012/07/inch-by-inch.html

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I hope you always attain all of your goals. Keep at it!

  • With all due respect to your student Cyna, I must disagree with her statement about “fickle inspiration” and telling it to get in line. That’s not inspiration. That’s not the Muse. She’s neither fickle nor should she be told to get in line. She’s an inherent part of you, the writer—what varies is how much of this part of you you suppress. Yes, the issue is learning how to stop suppressing your Muse, rather than allowing her in.

    Modern society and our supposed goals for success have all but severed our inner souls and creative spirits from all of the sources and connections for our art and our craft: nature, time, and each other. Instead, we live busy, materialistic, fearful lives. What a way to kill the Muse!

    For my part, I’m constantly trying to play catch-up with my Muse. Too many ideas, too many story seeds, too much rich story soil everywhere you look… I’ll be writing till my next lifetime. So try to look at it from this other, inner perspective. You may be pleasantly surprised just how much “inspiration” you’ve been subconsciously suppressing.

    • debra elramey

      Birgitte, I do think that the muse is within, rather than somewhere out there.

      “Modern society and our supposed goals for success have all but severed our inner souls and creative spirits from all of the sources and connections for our art and our craft: nature, time, and each other. Instead, we live busy, materialistic, fearful lives. What a way to kill the Muse!” Amen to that.

      Perhaps the greatest obstacle to finding the muse is the tendency to keep an outward focus. Too many external voices mute our own unique writing voice. I have found Rainer Maria Rilke’s advice worth following. “You are looking outward, and that above all you should not do now…There is only one single way. Go into yourself.”

      • Cherrie Smith-Andersen

        With all due respect, I must disagree. The muse is definitely “out there” somewhere. Call “out there” what you will, the Universe, God, Goddess, the Jungian Collective Unconsciousness. Whatever. She gains access through the deep internal part of you and you must look inward to find her, but when you do, she is definitely infinite and surprising and not me.

  • zannierose

    I go to a writing group twice a month and was not inspired by the homework, which was to continue writing a story from someone else’s opening paragraph from some random words the group put in the pot. I did think of not going to the next meeting…a cop out, so wondered how I could get the initial character out of the setting she had been put in…then made myself sit and write for 15 minutes…an interesting short story began to emerge, which I intend to complete ready for this Thursday afternoon…still wondering what will happen next when pen meets paper

    • debra elramey

      Zannierose, this is a common practice, picking up a story where someone else left off. When I was in a writers’ group years ago, one of the ladies began a story about someone selling Amway. We didn’t get very far with that story. But three other women in the group did complete a romance novel using this method. Each one in turn wrote a chapter and passed it along to the next, and so on. In the end they came up with a pseudonym and sent it off to a publisher. Anyway, good luck with your story. I’d love
      to hear how it turns out.

      • zannierose

        the short story is finished ..(first draft). I am thinking about adding an extra paragraph so the dramatic event does not seem to come completely out of the blue

        • debra elramey

          Like a segue? Smooth transitions are always needful.

  • vivek

    In writing my efforts is mostly to write what i am thinking at that point of time. By writing long enough i get one pattern and then this pattern take me further into it. it is work once started get its own momentum and work for a day is done most of the day for me.

    • debra elramey

      Vivek, that’s the best place to start, with what’s on your
      mind at the time. Whether it’s about something that makes you angry, or something that makes you happy, it matters not, just write from where you are at the moment. Then one thing leads to the next and before you know it you’re on a roll.

  • Cherrie Smith-Andersen

    This process almost always coaxes my muse out of hiding. It is an exercise from Writing Open the Mind.[ http://www.amazon.com/Writing-Open-Mind-Tapping-Subconscious/dp/B004JZWVOU ] ( A wonderful book that has countless exercises the muse can’t seem to resist.):

    Turn a piece of paper sideways (landscape view) and write across the top Places, Characters, Concepts, Emotions, Questions. Given yourself 7 min on a kitchen timer to fill in those columns, randomly. Put anything you like in them. Now, circle 7 of them and number them 1-7.

    Go for a walk, make breakfast or take a shower. Anything to give yourself some time to let the muse get curious.

    Finally sit down and write nonstop for 30 min. Start with the first item you circled and write. Don’t worry about content, grammar or spelling errors. No one will ever see this. Write a shopping list if you must, but keep the fingers moving. When you get stuck move on to item #2. It is important to keep writing, not to stop and think AT ALL. To this end, I use Write or Die on my computer because it “punishes” you if you stop writing. [ http://writeordie.com/ ]

    I am always shocked at what this produces. In the spaces where my mind has to stop to take a breath, and my fingers have to keep moving, the muse slips in with the most amazing stuff.

    The other thing that works, on occasion, is switch from typing to long hand writing. Different parts of the brain are at work for each type of writing and the switch sometimes stimulates other synapses and allows the words to flow once more.

    • debra elramey

      Cherrie, I just scooted over and peeked at the book and it looks like a perfect match for my class. Read a passage that would be valuable for aspiring writers – or anyone else.

      “The child is full of play. What stilts us and stops us from play? If you say to yourself, ‘Is this bad? Is this what they want? What if that’s a cliché?… So what are the toxins of writing? One: Competition…’ ”

      Stop it. Comparison is the thief of joy.

      Tomorrow you’ll be instructor for the class. We’ll go through your suggestions here and have fun. We’ll write with abandon and enjoy every minute of it. Thank you so much!

      • Cherrie Smith-Andersen

        Good Luck. Let me know how it goes. Don’t forget to give them Write or Die. That was so simple, but it really helped me.

        Here is another exercise I have been using recently that your class might like. I have two Tupperware bowls with small slips of paper. One is labeled “Emotions” and the other is “Settings.” I choose one from each bowl and write for 15 min giving the setting I chose the emotion I picked.

        For example if I pick “Angry” and “Garden” I don’t write:

        John stormed into the garden fists clenched and shoulders tight.

        Instead, the garden must reflect John’s anger back to him. Something like:

        John ran down the path, the edging stone baring their teeth at him. Thorned roses lashed out at him, tearing at his sleeves.

        Even better:

        John marched into the garden. He gulped air choked with moist heat. He cursed up at the roiling sky. The roses, still wet with dew, bled tears of frustration onto his sleeve.

        Okay, maybe nothing special there, but doing the exercise over and over again is helping me see setting differently and making it easier to manipulate the emotion behind setting when I need to.

        Emotions:
        Rage

        Love
        Concern/Worry
        Inferior
        Fearful

        Lustful
        Ambitious
        Ambivalent

        Guilty

        Remorse
        Sadness
        Longing

        Delight
        Wonder
        Pride
        Hope
        Frustration
        Suffering/Torment
        Despair

        Disappointment
        Humiliated/Embarrassment
        Insecurity
        Terror
        Suspense
        Dread
        Trust

        Contempt
        Awe
        Submission
        Helpless
        Invaded

        Overwhelmed
        Secretive

        Defensive
        Craving
        Doomed
        Hungry
        Spiteful
        Deprived
        Authoritative
        Maternal
        Suspicious
        Tense
        Stuck in a Rut

        Settings:
        Desert
        Beach
        Garden
        Bedroom
        Cathedral
        Crypt

        Kitchen
        Car/Transportation
        Tunnel
        Cave
        Tavern
        Restaurant
        School
        Park
        Castle
        Swamp
        River
        Outdoor Market
        Office
        Healing Place/Hospital
        Temple
        Subway
        Elevator
        Forest
        Lake/Pond
        Library
        Government Building
        Under Water
        Zoo
        Space
        A Road
        Mountain
        Apartment
        Studio
        Theater
        Cemetery
        Book Store
        School
        Playground
        Dog Park
        Meadow
        Porch
        Fairgrounds
        Museum
        Store/Shop

        • debra elramey

          Thanks Cherrie! This looks like fun; think I’ll try it myself.
          Once I wrote a memoir chapter about the kitchen table in my parent’s home. It was amazing how many memories I
          have of that particular room. I could have gone on and on…
          But you could run with any of these settings or emotions.

          Interesting, the landscape reflecting emotions back; a new concept worth trying. Write or Die is strict! I’ll check it out and see what the class thinks, and will be sure to let you know. Stay tuned…

        • debra elramey

          Cherrie,
          Today we had a blast, thanks to you 🙂 We paired a setting with an emotion and went to town. I sent out the link to Writing Open the Mind, and Write or Die, and we are good to go. This will be our new textbook for awhile now. Love, D

          Here’s what one student wrote at Write or Die:

          The lace flew from her fingers faster than she had run to the loom sign up office last year. Poor and from a family of people who weren’t worth the lace she was making, she saw Lowell as an opportunity to escape.

          Shannon had lived in the boarding house fo rless than threee months before she moved in above the tailor’s shop, where she studied nights, often getting less than
          three hours of snatched sleep a day. Sundays she allowed her self four waking hours, to wash her two dresses , clean her room, and write letters home
          along wiht her poetry. The rest she spent sleeping, or shopping in the witches’ market for the herbal teas that kept her from running on two wheels.

          It was a hard life at first, but she grew to love it. When the Irish came and took all the jobs up, the wages had already lowered to the point that Shannon quit, and worked full time writing poetry by night and selling dresses to rich ladies by day. She saved enough money to buy a small house in the country, with a patch of dirt that reminded her of the farm she had come from. By now all relations were dead, as all the brick family members died young, from drinking or children one.

          It was then that Shannon Brick, at the moderate age of twenty three, became
          interested in the millers. The millers were an odd bunch. A wine making mother, a father who sold barrels,
          three daughters and sons who had scattered all over the small town of Hallowell Maine. One daughter, Haria, had completely white hair at the age of 14, from the shock of nearly being drowned by her aunt, who was quickly sent to the asylum.

          But the most interesting thing about the millers was their dog. A black hound the size of a large pony, and named Apollo, he roamed the town and Shannons backyard like he was mayor. You could talk to that dog and he would
          look at you and listen just like he understood you. Shannon had gotten into the habit of having him over after supper for a chat on the porch.

          “Apollo, now tell me: How is it that my radishes grow so well , while the pendergasts grow like children fed water instead of bread?”

          Apollo tilted his head a little, and nudged the bucket of fish heads to be put in the
          compost heap. A little mollified, Shannon grimaced. “Sorry Appy. You know i feel as though i have to test every now and again, whether you really are as smart as you are. It is very hard to grasp, how you became obviously the most intelligent member of your species to have ever lived.”

          Apollo came back the next day with a book in his mouth and a gleam in his eye.

          Chapterone: Black Dog MIllicent MIdford MIller.

          • Cherrie Smith-Andersen

            Love this. I want to meet the dog!

    • Susan

      You captured me with “a wonderful book with countless exercises the muse can’t seem to resist “. And then to read on to learn of various websites, books and details of specific exercises….mil gracias !!

  • debra elramey

    The aspect of the writer’s need for silence has yet to be mentioned here, but it is probably the most important of all. In a recent post by fellow writer and friend, Deborah Batterman, she addresses the topic beautifully. She also includes links and quotes I found meaningful.

    “Real creative work comes from a quiet place… We may need the noise, that ‘conversation with the world,’ as Ozeki put it, at the start of a project. “But at the end I need quiet to dig in.”

    http://deborahbatterman.com/?p=1654

    Check out the poem by Pablo Neruda, “Keeping Quiet.”

  • marthaorlando

    Because of the devotional blog, I’ve always got my antenna up for everyday experiences which could be applicable to a Bible scripture/lesson. I allow life to be my inspiration and I trust God to give me the words He wishes me to write. If I waited until I the “muse” arrived, I’d almost never write anything. 🙂
    Blessings, Debra!

    • debra elramey

      Martha, I know you always have your antenna up, you creative soul, you. Two blogs and three books to your credit.
      So yeah, you’re doing something write.
      Have a great week.
      Love you girl! ♥ ♥ ♥

  • With all due respect to your student Cyna, I must disagree with her
    statement about “fickle inspiration” and telling it to get in line.
    That’s not inspiration. That’s not the Muse. She’s neither fickle nor
    should she be told to get in line. She’s an inherent part of you, the
    writer—what varies is how much of this part of you you suppress. Yes,
    the issue is learning how to stop suppressing your Muse, rather than
    allowing her in.

    • debra elramey

      So Para, your thoughts mirror Birgitte’s precisely? Word for
      word even. Interesting.

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  • Rebecca

    When you don’t feel like writing, what do you do? I feel this way A LOT, because I’m young and some people look down on me just for that, it seems. When I show people my writings and they kind of go, “Aww, how sweet!” like it’s so cute that a little girl thinks she can write, THAT makes me angry!
    One of my favorite books is Matilda, and in the movie she uses her anger to fuel her power. I liked that idea! So, when it feels like my Inspiration took a detour on the way to my house and got hopelessly lost, I think about how determined I am to prove those people wrong. It immediately breaks the dam of writer’s block and creative thoughts start pouring through like a river. I write everything down that comes to mind and later go through and pick out the good pieces for my stories.
    But I know provoking myself is not the best way to do it, so I only do that when all else fails. So usually, to warm up, I just take a scene from my life and describe it. I then work it into one of my manuscripts. There, all ready to write now!
    And if you’re really stuck, just listen to country music. Country is just like creative writing: it tells a story.

    • debra elramey

      Hi Rebecca, I saw the movie Matilda, and know what you’re talking about. Good idea, fueling your emotions into art. In psychology it’s called sublimation.

      Sublimation is a defense mechanism that allows us to act out unacceptable impulses by converting these behaviors into a more acceptable form. For example, a person experiencing extreme anger might take up writing as a means of venting frustration. Sublimation is a sign of maturity that allows people to function normally in socially acceptable ways. Sublimation fuels positive productivity. And that’s exactly what you’re doing. Kudus to you!

      About country music… recently when I was writing an essay I listened to
      Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope you Dance,” as it fitted the theme of the piece. And it worked like a charm. So, yes, listening to just the right song before or during writing can have a magical effect. Thanks for sharing these ideas with us Rebecca.

    • Debra johnson

      Rebecca, that’s exactly how I was seen when I was younger No one took. what I wrote seriously, But that didn’t stop me either. Never give up. Glad your not. Anger and injustice in the world often fuel my writing as well. Once the anger is out, I can write what I really want and often love more.

  • melissatandoc

    The deadlines I make for myself make me write… an idea I wish to convey or when I wish to reach out to people or friends ~ those are the things that prompt me to sit down ~ take a big break and give time to really write…

    Well, my muses are really on vacation but I do not need to wait for them til I write 😛 ~ lots of love and blessings Debra~ sometimes, it just takes time because I wait for some experiences to reach fruition and light ~ but nonetheless, I need to write 🙂

    • debra elramey

      I give myself assignments too, but sometimes I’m a poor student and get downright slack 🙁 What motivates me is a magazine deadline. Yeah, give me a deadline and I’ll git-r-dun.

      Agree: “it just takes time because I wait for some experiences to reach fruition and light.” Your words bring to mind the words of Thomas Merton. “Hurry ruins saints and artists.” And writers too.
      Thinking of you, Melissa, and praying you are well. I heard about the devastation in the Philippines and of course I wondered if you or any of your family had been impacted by it.

      • melissatandoc

        Beautiful quote Debra!

        We were not affected by the earthquake since we live in Luzon, it happened in Visayas. Thank you for the prayers! We greatly need them.

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