“…as immediately I stopped disciplining the muse,” said F. Scott Fitzgerald, “she trotted obediently around and became and erratic mistress if not a steady wife.”

Most writers either over discipline their muse or ignore her (or him).

The key to solving your discipline problem is to realize you don't have a discipline problem. You have a relational problem.

You can either be a good lover or a failed one, a committed wooer or someone who makes lots of promises but doesn't deliver.

Muse Rembrandt

Photo by Carul Mare.

Misguided Ways We Often Treat Our Muses

We demand a novel from her in thirty days during NaNoWriMo.

We refuse to sit down and start typing unless she shows up on time.

We demand that she produces perfect first drafts for us.

We don't give her credit when we create something amazing.

We check email, go on Facebook, and do “research” during the time we've committed to spending with her.

We ignore her all day, and don't write down the excellent phrases or ideas she whispers in our ears, and then when we finally sit down to “work,” we get mad at her for not helping us.

We follow her every whimsy and don't lead her toward the projects that need to get finished.

Better Ways to Treat Your Muse

Don't focus so much on creating a finished product. Enjoy the creative process.

Create a safe, comfortable routine so when she shows up she will feel welcome.

Realize that her main job, like infants, is to create messes. Therefore, give her space to make big ones. You can clean them up later.

Avoid distraction while you're spending time with her. No email and no Facebook, please.

If something turns out well, say, “Oh well, I can't take all the credit. The muse, you know.” If something turns out poorly, say, “Oh well, I can't take all the blame. The muse, you know.”

If she says something, write it down, even if you're in the shower. If she said something in the shower and you didn't take notes, don't blame her if she doesn't show up to “work” on time, later.

Your muse is great, but just because she gives you a great idea for a new novel, it doesn't mean you should quit the one you're working on to go write that one instead.

Any of those sound familiar? Any you'd like to add?

I recently wrote a short manifesto about this subject. If you'd like to read a (very rough) draft and help me edit it, send me an email. Make the subject “Muse Manifesto.” Thanks!


Today, spend some time working on your work in progress.

Write for fifteen minutes, making a special effort to enjoy the process and not worry so much about creating a finished product.

When you're finished, feel free to post your practice in the comments section (250 words max, please). And if you post, make sure to comment on a few other Practioners' posts. In this community, we help each other.

Enjoy it!

Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris, a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).

Want best-seller coaching? Book Joe here.

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