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What's Your Muse?
Nicki Hill
Posted: Friday, June 15, 2012 12:16 PM
Joined: 4/22/2012
Posts: 175

There's been a lot of talk lately on some of the other boards about things people do to procrastinate from writing, and things that help people get back into the swing of things.

For myself, I've found that a lot of my story ideas can be traced back to a song, or can be re-inspired by certain lyrics.  In fact, at one point I'd started to write an outline for my current WIP, Strain, but then it ended up being taken over by relevant/inspiring song lyrics, and now it's basically an insert for the book's soundtrack!  However, when I'm actually writing, I've found that it's better to work in silence than to have music in the background, or I'll get distracted listening to the words. 

Another thing that works on-and-off well for me is a change of scenery.  If I'm stuck in a scene and I'm not sure where I'm going next, sometimes it helps to get out of the house with the laptop for awhile - maybe go down to the bookstore and grab a cup of coffee and try again there.  This has varying degrees of success, though.

How about all of you?  Where does your muse come from, and how do you convince it to stick around?

GD Deckard
Posted: Friday, June 15, 2012 1:49 PM
My current muse came from the NASA gift shop on the day the last shuttle went aloft.
It's a piece of the Sikhote-Alin meteorite that landed in Siberia in 1947. A jeweler mounted it on a gold chain. Thoroughly analyzed, argon-dated and traced back to the asteroid belts, it's an iron fragment about the size of a small olive and at least 1.7 billion years old.
Touching something that spent the last billion years orbiting in space between Mars and Jupiter lends an other worldly perspective for writing science fiction.
Keraiina Castaing
Posted: Friday, June 15, 2012 2:38 PM
Joined: 5/27/2012
Posts: 1

I draw creative energy from the rain! The rain is magical, and I love it. I think I get most of my ideas from the rain, or dreams!
Audrey McKenzie
Posted: Friday, June 15, 2012 4:54 PM
Joined: 11/14/2011
Posts: 6

I decide that I want to write a certain kind of  story. Then I build the idea based on interesting facts, technology, a situation I may have encountered or seen, or a place that gives me inspiration. The idea usually builds like that.

When I'm stuck, I do something like walk a long with music that reminds me of the story I'm writing or clean house, something mundane and I just let my imagination flow without pushing it.

If, I can't seem to get the flow going, music will help but I have to keep my mind focused on the story and usually if I'm persistent, I can work myself into the mood.
Angela Martello
Posted: Friday, June 15, 2012 9:18 PM
Joined: 8/21/2011
Posts: 394

I had listed a bunch of inspirational things in another thread a few months ago (art, leaves fluttering in the wind, a book by a favorite author, and so on), but I couldn't say there is one specific object like GD's 1.7 billion-year-old meteorite! (I have rocks I had collected and analyzed for my geology thesis that are mere youngsters - 200 million years old!)

I can be sitting at my desk at work looking up drug doses or walking to the water fountain to refill my mug and a bit of dialog will suddenly invade my brain. So, I guess I would have to say that my muse is just about anything. My muse is the world around me.

Posted: Saturday, June 16, 2012 5:48 PM
Joined: 1/9/2012
Posts: 22

Mostly, I create characters and give them problems. When they start talking in my head is when the story gets going.
Christina Winters
Posted: Saturday, June 16, 2012 9:23 PM
I find my relationships provide lots of inspiration as a romance writer.  Without interesting people around me to inspire me to write about desire, hope, and pain, then I would struggle to produce my work.  

Also, meeting people I share an attraction with helps my work.  There is something inspiring about physical attraction.  For me she is the ultimate muse!

I also find inspiration in my daily life.  Struggles, things I've overcome, they have a way of helping me build characters that have more depth than I had earlier in my writing career.
Nevena Georgieva
Posted: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 1:06 PM
Joined: 2/9/2012
Posts: 438

I get inspired by music. Alicia Keys, Sade & Erykah Badu are my go-to performers when I'm having a particularly hard time writing a piece. 

Also, really good writing! I feel like I focus better if I think of the writing process as paying homage to a beloved author. 

Nicki Hill
Posted: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 2:30 PM
Joined: 4/22/2012
Posts: 175

Nevena, that's interesting that you have particular artists that get you going.  I have go-to artists, definitely, but more because I've drawn inspiration from them before and hope for more of the same.  At this point, for this book, it's a pretty big list!  The starter was a song by Tokio Hotel called "That Day," which I think of as Trev's song - if ever I have a hard time calling up his character (not so much now, but in the beginning), I would play that song on repeat until I was in the groove again.

I'm reading a YA gay fiction novel right now, and I thought it was awesome that in the back of the book, the author created a playlist to go with the book.  Each song has a little description of why it's important to the main characters, and you can even download the compilation off of iTunes.  I thought that was the coolest pairing for a novel. 

Yoshay Lama
Posted: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 5:41 PM
Joined: 1/18/2012
Posts: 7

There is no doubt that music inspires me too. Lately it has been piano recitals from Jane Austen adaptations. My problem is that I don't have much time to devote to my writing and it is not only because of my work (free lance content writer) and being a mum, it is also because of poor time management. (There! I admit it) However, when I do find the zeal to write, it is because I have read a book that creates a drive within me to write. When I do sit down to write, and when the words flow incessantly, it is because of the music playing in the background, an A4 size unlined notebook and a fountain pen with green ink that does the trick : )

Sneaky Burrito
Posted: Sunday, August 12, 2012 2:45 PM
Joined: 5/28/2012
Posts: 43

I don't have one specific source for inspiration.  I have gotten ideas from completely random flashes of thought.  The other day, something called to mind the place of relics in the Catholic Church.  Now I've got a basic conflict and plot for a two-book series (which really will have nothing to do with the Catholic Church, that's just where the idea came from).

Another time, I had been listening to a lot of podcasts about Hindu mythology and reading about the history of yoga, which gave me an idea for a setting.  Combined that with some historical speculation and poof, another novel idea.

A third idea I have came out of watching some documentaries on the Discovery Fit and Health Channel.

I have always had the ability to take small things, single images and so forth, and create whole stories out of them.  Perhaps this means I'm not terribly grounded in reality, but it sure makes life more interesting.

I could go on but my computer is down to 1% battery life and I have to go find the power cord.

Kay P
Posted: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 5:29 PM
Joined: 10/11/2012
Posts: 13

I read an article where a lot of well-known classic authors had these
cooky happenings, epiphanies, or dreams that enabled them to write
wonderful story...(didn't save the link, I'll search for it)

Anyways for me, my heroine is similar to me. On the outside she comes
across shy and cute, but her life is routinely boring. She craves
adventure, journey, & excitement and that is exactly what she is going to get.

For ideas, to say that they pop up a lot spontaneously would be an
understatement. I come up with a lot fast due to my surroundings. I've been imagining things
since I was young and my mom honestly thought something was wrong in my
head since I would not answer her when she spoke (sorry mom, daydreaming
is more important than learning how to cook). These ideas that pop up
are just short term and if i don't write them fast i forget quickly and
start to think of something else.

What really sticks is a hot shower. Daydreaming is at its best there. Trying to fall also asleep also works for me.

I have a new idea that I am not going to tackle until I finish my 1st story, but it came to me in class where my professor was talking about anthropological methodology <---- u guys might not know what that is because the topic is sooooo boring (ways anthropologists conducts research when studying & interacting with people of different culture). So I did what do best and blocked her off, & warped the info into something crazy.

@SneakyBurrito- "I have always had the ability to take small things, single images
and so forth, and create whole stories out of them.  Perhaps this means
I'm not terribly grounded in reality, but it sure makes life more

You & me both man

Posted: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 2:22 AM
Joined: 3/9/2011
Posts: 16

Well, the only thing I call a muse is the part of my head that I blame for all my story ideas. It's really just me but it's fun to blame the "muse" for them.

But to the actual question: it varies. Recently, however, I've found that if I create a playlist for a novel where the songs remind me of certain scenes or the characters themselves, when I turn on the playlist I have the urge to work on that novel. Which is why as part of my nanowrimo prep, I make a novel playlist. Having the music helps but the songs have to feel right for the novel. 
Elizabeth Moon
Posted: Tuesday, November 6, 2012 12:49 AM
Joined: 6/14/2012
Posts: 195

For me, there's a difference between the inspiration for a story, and the situations that sustain the writing of that story (this may be a particular problem for novelists who write long, as I do.)   The inspiration sometimes comes in a lump (the inspiration for Remnant Population came from two books pointed out to me by two different friends, one an editor who actually said "I wonder if this would translate to science fiction...")  And sometimes it comes in a trickle, over years.   The only formal muse I think I have is the Plot Daemon, a grumpy, gruff red-headed fellow who lives in the engine room of the story-ship.   I don't outline; I trust the Plot Daemon to deliver plot-power to the story-ship (Um...my mother was fond of the Colin Glencannon/Inchcliffe Castle stories, and so was I, having grown up with the tales of a Scottish engineer on a tramp steamer...so my Plot Daemon is a lot like that.)

But the situation...that takes music.  Major characters often have theme music (in the Paksworld books, Gird's music was Brahms' German Requiem, and Luap's music was Zamfir's panpipes & orchestra.   Certain kinds of action will have theme music.  The playlist grows with the book or series.  Classical, orchestral or solo instruments, occasionally choral music not sung in English (so I can't be tangled by the words)  and not music our choir has sung, or I'll be overcome with the nuances of singing the music unless it was years ago.  Classical has a very wide range of moods, tempi, arrangements, etc.  On days when it's really hard to start, though, I may turn on pipe-and-drum arrangements of military marches (wake UP brain!!)

An apparent mismatch of music to scene under construction often brings out additional nuances, I've found.  Or, that works for me.   One of the best (and most difficult--was highly complex) space battles I ever wrote was revised in one long session using Bach's Magnificat and Verdi's Gloria.  

And certainly, once I've got theme music for a section or character, playing that music makes it much easier to write.  And when the music doesn't fit, or I can't find the music that fits, it's harder. 

Toni Smalley
Posted: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 9:35 AM

The muse. Sometimes I wonder, what really is the true essence of this whole muse concept? There were times I thought it silly that we rely on some exterior power/influence/being to motivate and inspire us...of course, I have a Mr. Potato Head on my desk who I stare at often, expecting him to enlighten me with his tater wisdom. 


I suppose the muse is something inherent within our subconscious that can be stimulated and brought forth into our consciousness by the forces we have mentioned here, like music. I love using music. Music is its own language, it's universal, and the images that pour into my head feed off of the emotions weaved into the lyrics and melodies of the songs. 


I think our prose is strengthened when we can tap into those emotions and images stored inside us. I think meditation is a great way to unlock the subconscious mind. I also meditate on past experiences, not really to remember those experiences, but to relive the emotions I felt, so that I am better able to translate them to my own characters.


And, to end on Tater. I'm not one of those who says he talks to me, like he's a magical muse guiding my pen. But, when I'm writing, plotting, outlining, etc. I like to talk out loud and, as a visual learner, I need visual stimulation to help me work through problems. It's like how I used to wear a scapula under my basketball jersey. It didn't have powers guiding my hands to sink 3-pointers all night, because I knew I was the one with the talent, and I would decide my fate on the court, but feeling the scapula against my chest reminded me about faith and the long hours I'd practiced. It was just a matter of strategy and making it happen with the scapula touching my skin, reminding me that I knew what I was doing and to just do it. 

--edited by Toni Smalley on 8/7/2013, 9:50 AM--

Ian Nathaniel Cohen
Posted: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 12:35 PM
My muse seems to be a cat.  It doesn't come when I call it and it doesn't do what I tell it to do.  tongueout

Lucy Silag
Posted: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 1:35 PM
Joined: 6/7/2013
Posts: 1359

@Ian--awesome post! I feel the exact same way.
Avmorket Friovaer
Posted: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 6:45 PM
Joined: 8/7/2013
Posts: 5

Well, as my first post, this seems kind of appropriate.  Back 10-15 years ago, my muse was insomnia, or the fact I would right before going to sleep, and wake up the next day not realizing I even wrote anything.  I had 5 separate novels started then, over 80 pages a piece, about 40,000 words.  Though I had an epic failing.  I was trying to write too much for first, and chose to back the projects up on CDs.  Each only being less than 20% completed and still needing to add in appropriate filler, was quite a feat for me.  I had to wipe my computer, due to getting some issues, and realized afterwards, that the CD's never finalized and lost everything. 


Now, my muse is to finish and publish.  I don't care how long it takes, or even if I 'win', but I want to finish, and be proud of that.  So I've started again, and have outlines for several books, the first already over 11.7K words.  (I'm going to keep it more according to recommended words per book this time).  Family and Job though, restrict time to write, so years in the making I think.

Lucy Silag
Posted: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 6:51 PM
Joined: 6/7/2013
Posts: 1359

Hey, @Avmorket! Welcome to Book Country! Glad to have you here!


What a sad story about losing all your work. You seem remarkably composed about it--I would be bereft!


On the other hand, though, I do find it somehow inspiring to start with a totally blank canvas. The important parts are already saved inside you.


Anyway, I am glad you posted, and I wanted to show you this Book Country blog post introducing new members to how to use the site. Check it out if you're curious.


Let me know if you have any questions about the site. I can help you to find your way around!


Lucy Silag

Book Country Community and Engagement Manager


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