Some days when I’m writing, I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep because I feel like an entire swath of my story– a scene, a chapter, sometimes even more– has just been downloaded into my head. My mind is so filled with lines of dialogue, descriptions, and plot points that I can almost feel my brain creaking trying to hold it all, and when I sit down with my computer my fingers fly over the keys, frantically trying to capture everything that’s so crystal clear in my imagination. I call those times visits from the muse (even though yes,I know, muses are really just manifestations of the authors unconscious mind, etc. etc). Regardless of where it comes from, it feels like magic. It’s the way we always want to feel when we write.
Although before I get to the heart of this post, I do want to say one thing. Yes, the visits from the muse are great, but I have other writing days where my children interrupt me 600 times in twenty minutes, or I have a cold or some other real-life intrusion, every paragraph feels like a chore, every page is a slog, and I will literally stop writing mid-sentence just because I’ve finally hit my word-count goal for the day. And then again somewhere in the middle, I have other days when I know exactly how I want the story to play out, but it still takes forever to write because I somehow can’t quite find the words to match what’s in my mind. And you know what? At the end of the day, when the story is all finished, I honestly can’t tell which chapters were written on which types of writing days. Nor, I don’t think, can anyone else. I get just about the same number of editorial compliments and criticisms on scenes that were written on pulling-teeth kinds of days as I do on the writing that happened during a visit from the muse. The muse isn’t the be all and end all, is what I’m saying, and if she’s just not showing up for you, don’t despair. I honestly think that just your showing up and writing each day, no matter what, is the single most important component of what makes a successful author.
That said, though, it’s easier (not easy, but easier) writing when the muse is willing to pay us a call. And magic or the unconscious mind, I do think we can, to a degree, make those visits more likely to happen. So here are my top three favorite strategies: