What is a Muse (aside from being goddesses and the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne)? A Muse is an inspirational source for an artist (often an actual human but can also be something personified). It’s your creative influence.
I wanted to write about my creative influences and how I seek them out. While I am a very visually oriented person and most of my tips will be based on visual stimulation, I do hope you can take something from this post even if it helps you cross things off that don’t work for you. We are all different and these are just a few things that I do to help my writing process.
Finding Your Writing Muse
I love to browse photos or quotes on Pinterest that ignite my imagination. Once I find a photo of interests based on my genre type (it’s usually digital art by some very talented artist) I like to take my time to examine the image and see if I can create a story from what I see. If any questions come up about why something is happening in the photo, I try to create a story to back up my answer. It’s a good exercise to get your creative juices flowing.
Looking at the pictures below, what questions come up?
Why did the writer leave their fountain pen to leak ink all over their work? Did they have to leave suddenly? Why did they leave? Were they being chased? Had the person who chased them found them? What era is this?
I also use Pinterest for ongoing inspiration while I’m halfway through writing my novel. Many of my albums/pin boards relate to scenes I intend to write or have written. If I’m writing a scene that takes place in a forest, I like to gather as many forest photos and visual aids as I can to refer back to when I’m writing descriptive scenes. I do the same for character profiles, cultural influences, and other little details I may want to refer back to.
Tip: Set up an account and make use of the albums and boards features. Organize pictures and other useful pins into albums to refer back to while writing. I like to set mine up by having separate albums for individual characters. I made it so I have separate albums for different locations and albums from cultural details etc. Use the albums to help build your world (Characters/Landscapes/Places/Objects/Inspirational Quotes).
Find a picture of interest that is relevant to your story and set it as your computer and/or phone’s background. This will be a pleasant reminder to get back to writing. I tend to change my image based on the scene I am writing that week or day. You can do this for any genre or any style of writing. If you’re writing a blog, find the main topic item and search for a picture that best suits this.
Have you ever tried a tabletop roleplaying game like Dungeons and Dragons or Fiasco? What about world building games? These are great ways to get your mind thinking as well as to see how other people’s creative processes work. Not only is it a fun game night with friends, it really gets you thinking about how characters would respond to certain scenarios. Roleplaying is great practice for seeing how characters interact with their party members and their world. RPGs and World Building Games arent just for fantasy writers. If you do your research, there are different Rpgs to fit different genres.
Sit and listen to music and I don’t mean JUST listen to music. Close your eyes and imagine your story in your head. Play it back like a movie as the music leads you through your story. Work on a scene/plot/character. Even characters in movies have theme songs. Find a flow that works for you. I prefer to listen to instrumental fantasy music (Two Steps From Hell) that way I’m not distracted by the lyrics.
Create characters by looking at ‘headshots’ of people online. Even if a picture doesn’t seem to fit one of your characters, try creating a new one. What does the person in the picture say to you? Make an exercise out of studying people. People watch while you’re waiting for a bus. Examine how they walk, talk and interact with others. Create background stories for why they are alone in the coffee shop or why those two teens were late for the bus. There is a story everywhere.
Watch different kinds of documentaries to open your mind up to the world. I love watching nature documentaries and I am always learning something new about our world. Have you ever heard of the railroad worm that creates its own light? Who knew alien-like creatures actually existed. Need inspiration for a sci-fi book, watch ocean documentaries. There are a lot of documentaries online and on Netflix. You are bound to find some form of inspiration in one.
I watch a lot of youtube videos that are created by writers for writers. Even if you do not speak directly to the creator, you still feel like part of their community as they share their experiecnes with you.
Here are some of my favourite TedTalks and Youtubers. Through them, I hope you find more and more people who will inspire you to write.
There are plenty of writing communities on different social media platforms such as Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter. You just have to put time into finding which ones work for you. National Novel Writing Month happens every November and there are tons of Facebook groups that support this writing event. Check to see if your local town or city has a group that do local write-ins. Get to know the writers near you!
You will often find amazing support in these communities as they’ll understand your struggles, your desires and your run-ins with writer’s block. They are like you. They want to write. You may find that some of them even have loads of resources to share with you.
I find it best to read books in your genre. Read as often as you can. If there is a famous book that everyone seems to love, ask the people why they love it. Research what draws people into your book. How do the authors of your favourite books introduce characters? What about the book works for you and what doesn’t work? Look at how they write chapters. Look at the way they intertwine subplots and foreshadowing. It is a piece of art. Examine it like you would a painting. Learn from it.
I struggle with this one but keep a journal. Write down everything that inspires you. You can have multiple journals. Keep one by your bed to scribble down the crazy dreams you had while they are still fresh in your mind. Take a mini journal with you wherever you go to jot down ideas that spark from everyday life. Be prepared for when your muse flows through you.
It doesn’t hurt to daydream. Daydream about your story while you’re taking a bath or a shower. Carefully daydream while you’re out for a walk (be mindful of traffic and other people). I tend to daydream as I prepare myself for bed. I playback the current scene I’ll be working on over and over again like a movie clip on repeat until it feels right.
Embrace your emotions. Don’t just write when you feel inspired. Write when you feel sad or angry. Write when you feel playful or energetic. Let the emotions run through your fingertips and into your story. Don’t worry about how it sounds. You can always fix things during the editing process. Let different types of emotions into your work and see what you get.
Warning: Be careful not to write when you know your mood will make you dislike writing. I won’t write when I’m irritable or frustrated. It will just make me resent writing. You know yourself better than anyone. Listen to your moods.
Visit a museum or an art gallery. I have an amazing museum where I live and I often find myself staring at the prehistoric plants and animals. It is good to examine not only human history but biological and geological history as well. Get to know how our world works so you can have an easier time building your own world. Learn how the plate tectonics work. Learn about weather and the life cycle of some form of plant or animal. Look at different cultures. Museums are rich with information and visual inspirations. Get your senses activated by checking out your local museum.
We are lucky to be in a time where so much information is available at our fingertips. Take some time to appreciate the knowledge that is given to you and use it to help you find your Muse.