When the Muse strikes or the shit hits the fan
Kick the muse to the curb
Many creatives will tell you to kick the muse to the curb and just get on with it. And they would be right. Waiting for that spark, that bright light bulb to appear overhead before getting to work on the novel, or that painting only creates a whole new level of frustration. So no, don’t wait for Madam Fickle and her gang of muses to show up before creating your next project.
When the Muse strikes or the shit hits the fan (depending on your point of view)
One day she will pitch up. Ask any writer, artist, musician or photographer. That bitch just likes to have a laugh at our expense. And often at the most inconvenient times or places. When you are buck naked in the shower. Driving on the highway, or having dinner with friends. Or, her absolute favourite, in the middle of the night when you had a long hard day and really need to sleep. Don’t you just hate that?
Aside from her trying her best to catch you unaware, it does make sense if you think about it. You are relaxed, or your mind is occupied with other things and thus at its most susceptible to input — from the muse or wherever those creative ideas originate. Our problem is mostly that we go, aha! And then a few minutes later WTF? Where did that idea go? It was the most brilliant thing ever! But it’s gone. A few minutes have passed, and whatever that thought was, it is no more. Like it never even existed.
It doesn’t matter if you think you are going to remember that plot, or that harmony, or that incredible tint of rose gold that played over the buildings next to the road. You will not be the first creative to lose that awesome idea. Nor will it be the last idea you ever lose either.
Ever repeated it to yourself over and over, thinking that you will remember? Only to realise a few hours later that you have completely forgotten about it. No clue. Gone forever.
Our minds are so busy trying to deal with the information overload that we are exposed to every day — to say nothing of the distractions of social media and other interruptions — that our brains just let go of that idea because its attention was needed somewhere else. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
So what to do when the Muse does pitch up with a bag full of ideas? Those inspirational moments do come, not often, but they do come. And they come big. And bold. And sometimes brilliantly. And the only way to deal with them is to be ready.
Ready? Grab the pen…
Here are some pointers for that inspirational moment:
- If that awesome idea comes in the shower, it can be tough since pockets were not part of the original design of the human body. So make up a song and sing it aloud, over and over. Shower faster and then write it down. Not only did you think it, but you also heard it, you memorised it. But do yourself a favour, write it down before the towel distracts you.
- Being troubled in the middle of the night when dreams come with that new idea for a novel? Keep a notebook and pen next to your bed. Don’t wait. Don’t think it will still be there come morning because it won’t. Sit up. Switch on the light. Write it down straight away. You will sleep better when you do.
- Getting struck by Madam Muse while driving can be a big problem. Don’t write anything with a pen or on your mobile phone while driving. Ever! But if the muse has a hankering to pester you with ideas while you are operating a vehicle, get a voice recorder that records with the push of a button. I know your smartphone probably has an app for it, but it will require way too many taps and clicks before you can say, hello. Nope, get a one-push button, old-fashioned voice recorder. Push the button, say the words and its done. Safety first!
- Eating out? Partying with friends? Use your smartphone to quickly type the words to remind you of the idea. It will only take a few seconds, and then it’s done. If people notice, tell them the truth: you got an idea for a new book. Don’t tell them the idea it is too early. You need to work on it first, to flesh it out to a full-blown plot. The most important thing is to get it down immediately. With people talking and laughing, the distractions are huge and the risk of you forgetting is unimaginably high.
Then I told her…
The weirdest place I got ‘inspired’? In church of all places. It freaked me out, but fortunately, it only happened once. I think now I am voluntarily ‘blocked’ when attending a service.
The most inconvenient time? Just as I was making my way to bed. I was exhausted, when I got this tap on the shoulder…'want to have this idea?’
My first thought was, now? Seriously?
On second thought, I reached for a pen and scribbled a few words. Then I looked up (I am sure there was a smirk on my face) and told the bitch to fuck off so I could get some sleep.
What happens after the light goes out?
Personally, I am a pen and notebook kind of ideas writer, but I have used my phone when the pen and notebook were out of reach. Scribbles that have been thought through when I could sit down and think about them.
I have rehashed some ideas. I mostly went on to repackage most of those ideas. I even ditched a few of them in lieu of a secondary plot when working through the original idea.
Others just got trashed without another thought. For now. Who knows where those ideas could sneak their way into a future story?
Never wait for that moment of inspiration to come, you will wait for a long time, and then nothing gets done in the meantime. However, when Madam Fickle and the Muses do make an appearance, be ready for her offerings. Capture that moment, that idea, as soon as possible. Maybe it will be your big break, or maybe it won’t. But unless you capture it, you may never have the opportunity to find out where it can go.
Before you disappear back to reality, please take a moment to share this post with your friends. Thank you! 💜
Linzé Brandon is the author of several books and short stories. She is also a project manager, closet artist, sometimes blogger and wife to an engineer.