If an alien were to look down from outer space and analyze the hierarchy of animals on the earth, who would be at the top: humans or dogs?
Think about it.
We bathe and groom them. We rub and scratch them. We supply them with food and water. In return, all they do is smile and wag.
Who’s really in charge?
You could ask the same question of a blogger and her muse. Yes, you’re the one with the domain name, expertise, and technical know-how to put together a blog, but who supplies the magic for your writing?
Do you ever struggle to come up with new post ideas? Have you ever sat at the keyboard for hours, trying to think of how to put a vague idea into words? Does your writing sometimes lack that “pop” that makes people pay attention?
If so, who is really in charge? You… or your muse?
Take Yourself to Muse Obedience School
Wait a minute. Don’t I mean take your muse to obedience school?
No. Your muse doesn’t have a problem. You do.
Lots of people take their dog to obedience school to learn some manners, but it rarely sticks. It’s not the dog’s fault, either. The owner fails to reinforce the training and the dog slips back into its old habits.
It’s the same for muses. Reading a blog post like this one might give you some temporary inspiration, but if you really want to master your creative process, you need to adopt habits that keep your muse happy and efficient.
Curiously, they’re pretty much the same as you’d learn in dog obedience school. Here are 3 to get you started:
1. Never Tolerate Disobedience
Sometimes, I see people tell their dog to, “Sit,” and when the dog ignores them, they go about their business, never correcting the dog’s disobedience. Unwittingly, they are telling their dog, “It’s OK to disobey me.” Then they wonder why it never listens to them.
In writing, this is the equivalent of sitting down to crank out a blog post, and when nothing comes to you, deciding to do something else, such as reading through your RSS feeds. Subconsciously, you’re telling your muse that it’s OK to ignore your schedule, and you’ll come back later.
Don’t do it! If you can’t think of anything, just sit there. Show your muse that you mean business. I write 4-6 hours every day, regardless of how much I finish. Sometimes it’s 4,000 words and sometimes it’s a paragraph, but my muse never gets to play hooky. And it’s slowly stopped trying.
2. Stick to a Strict Writing Schedule
Dogs fall apart without a schedule. If you leave the food down all day, they’ll eat all day. If you take them for walks at varying times, they’ll have an “accident.” If you try to sleep in, you wake up to a dog licking your face.
Muses have similar problems. Unless you keep a writing schedule, your muse is apt to fall asleep, wander off, or get lost in his or her own thoughts. The only solution is to write at the same time, every day, no exceptions. Otherwise, you’ll sit down to write a blog post and find that eerie silence inside your head.
3. Set Aside Lots of Playtime
Many dog owners keep their pets locked up all day and wonder why they come home to garbage strewn all over the house or a pile of chewed up shoes. They think the dog is bad, but it’s not. It’s just bored. All the owner needs to do is set aside an hour a day for play and exercise, and many of those bad habits will disappear.
The same goes for muses. If you demand instant creativity, make sure you read for several hours a day. Read blog posts, books, magazines. Personally, I read for at least 2-3 hours every day, and I’ve found it’s absolutely necessary for my creative process. It keeps my output consistent and my writing focused.
A Muse Is a Writer’s Best Friend
Remember the old saying, “A dog is a man’s best friend?” It’s true, but only if you treat it like a friend. Friendship is a kind of responsibility, an unwritten social contract that we enter into that says, “We’ll take care of each other.” If either party breaks that contract, then you have problems.
In the case of a dog, you agree to take care of it in exchange for unconditional love and obedience. And I mean really take care of it. You have to watch its diet, play with it, and explain what’s acceptable and what’s not. Do that, and your dog will keep up its end of the bargain. Don’t do that, and it might become an unruly little monster.
As a writer, your relationship with your muse works exactly the same way. Give it clear expectations, lots of reading material, and a work schedule, and it will sit dutifully on your shoulder, whispering one brilliant idea after another into your ear. Fail to do that, and you’ll receive nothing but inconsistent inspiration and wild ideas that get you into trouble.
Yes, it’s a lot of work, but most long-lasting friendships are. If writing is important to you, you’ll need to commit yourself to it. Accept the responsibility. Believe me when I say you won’t regret it.
Because a muse really is a writer’s best friend.
If you hate get rich quick schemes, penny pinching, and advice without substance, then you might just love Jon’s blog, On Moneymaking.