Five ways to court your muse


We can blame Nobel Prize winner Roger W. Sperry for the notion of Right Brain / Left Brain. There are a lot of naysayers out there who say his theory is poppycock. Me? I believe it. I work with people all day, and I see evidence of how their brains work.

That’s not to say a person can’t be adept at both ways of thinking. In case, you’re not familiar with the concept, the right brain is supposed to influence creativity, intuition, emotions and music. The left brain governs basically logic and numbers.

I used to think I leaned a little to the left, a little to the right. I was always a writer and a dreamer, but my best subjects in school were math and science. Well, until a series of unfortunate incidents severed my relationship with math. (I was so proud of myself last week when a student asked me to explain absolutes. I did it! Even after…um…cough, cough…decades.) But here I am an English teacher, a music lover, and a writer. What is meant to be will be. Goodbye, math.

But Right Brain, oh, how I love thee.

And for that reason, I consider my right brain to be my muse. I relish opportunities to dream aloud. Thus, I try to make my right brain happy.

If you’re trying to boost your creativity, you might try these tips too.

1. Create ambiance.

When I write, I like to be alone. Not always. Basically I just don’t want clutter, physical or mental. Negative energy can clutter my brain, so I try to escape conflict, arguments, and tension. I try to find a place where my Right Brain can relax.

2. Set the mood.

Okay, once the clutter is gone, I’m good to go, but if I really want to be uber creative, I light candles. I love firelight, and I am drawn to the smell of burning wood. I never play music when I write unless the music I play helps set the scene or makes me feel the emotions of the characters whose heads I’m in.

3. Embrace adventure.

Today I set out to write in a little coffee shop in a mystical little town, but it was closed. I didn’t want to go to the other two places where I usually write, so I drove off and counted on serendipity to take me to the right place. I found myself in front of an old inn, so I took a chance and tested the doors. Sure enough, it was open, and the guy in charge of the place invited me to roam all about. I was the only one there, and the second and third floors were dark. “You can go up to the third floor,” he said. “But it’s supposed to be haunted.”

A lot of people don’t think before they speak. They have no filter. Me? I have no brakes. Going where I shouldn’t is a flaw I readily admit. Considering my new book idea teeters on the speculative side, I thought I might get some ideas. And ideas I did get. I wasn’t the least bit afraid or freaked out—even when I saw something I dreamed about two nights before.

4. Turn off the alarm clock.

Life robs us of our creativity because we become so structured we forget out to play. Kids today don’t know how to make a mud pie or how to create a fort. Oh, they can whip up a gourmet meal using a computer program, and they can fight battles online with one of their many gaming systems, but they don’t know how to create from scratch. I say we’re made in the image of our Creator. We should use the imaginations God gave us. I adamantly oppose forcing children to enter pre-school. Too much structure! I am not a proponent of giving homework for the sake of giving homework. No time left to let the mind relax.

My favorite hour of the day is spent in the bed alone right after my alarm clock goes off. I purposely set my clock at an ungodly hour on Saturdays so that I can just lie there and think for one or two hours before I have to go somewhere. When I let my mind wander, I come up with my best story ideas. Yes,discipline is important. It’s good practice to make yourself write when you don’t want to write. But to have no time limit, to just be able to let your mind roam, that, my friend, is freedom.

5. Surround yourself with things that stimulate your right brain.

I like color. I like mosaics. I am not one of these chicks who shops for the sake of keeping up with the latest trends. I like to wear comfortable clothes that reflect my inner style. For me, that’s lots of color and flowy fabric. If I feel good on the outside, I am more productive from the inside back to the outside.

These are my rules for writing, my methods for courting my muse. Writers are odd souls. No two are alike.  They (we) all have our own methods of courting our muses.

One of my friends picked up Celia Blue Johnson’s book and shared it with me. She knows I’m an Odd Thomas fan (Dean Koontz), and she thought I might like it. It’s called, appropriately, Odd Type Writers. I have to admit, I wondered if she was hinting at something.

I ended up buying my own copy. I highly recommend it if you want to take a peek into the minds of the eccentric writing elite. Here are a few tidbits to pique your curiosity:

  • Edgar Allan Poe balanced a cat on his should when he wrote. (So did I until my favorite feline walked out the door and never came back.)
  • Virginia Wolfe believed “a woman must have money and a room of her own to write fiction.” I may never get either, but I will try to make my own nest.
  • Alexandre Dumas was OCD about the color of stationary he used for his different types of writing: yellow for poetry, articles on pink, and blue for novels.
  • Truman Capote did not gel well with the number 13. He was quite superstitious, never starting or ending a work on a Friday, never boarding a plane with more than one nun.
  • Eudora Welty would not write while facing a window.
  • When Maya Angelou writes, she rents a hotel room and orders almost everything removed so she won’t be distracted.

So, do tell, what are your secrets of courting your muse?

“All of us need to be in touch with a mysterious, tantalizing source of inspiration that teases our sense of wonder and goads us on to life’s next adventure.” ~ Rob Brezsney
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” ~ Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)

Are you wanting inspiration? / You spill your secrets on me / Then you tell me with a whisper / Of things that will never be. (The Black Crowes)




14 thoughts on “Five ways to court your muse

  1. I’m definitely left brained — why, yes, I do multiply numbers in my head just for fun and I know just off hand that the square root of 3 is 1.7320508. I remember birthdates without trying.. Anything numerical is my friend.
    I try to nourish my right brain, but ‘ole lefty must count the number of colors in mosaics and random things MUST have a pattern. Alas, my creativity must be orderly!

    Courting my muse,… I find that when I write, most often, it is unplanned. i get an idea, and I just go to typing. My best work is usually done spontaneously. If i give it too much thought, it comes out rather scripted or, well, “orderly”.

    I’ve also noticed that I tend to slip into a different kind of vocabulary from my daily/conversational type expressions – antiquated words and contractions flow freely. Odd, but kinda “me”.

    Aye, if ever that OCD left brain of mine shall nap, ‘ole righty shall conquer the world! 😉

    • I left my left brain far behind long, long ago. I do well to add and subtract now. I don’t know if this has anything to do with left brain or right brain, but I get my lefts and rights confused terribly. It takes me a bit to process directions. I am drawn to art and music that I get swept away in the moment, and I stare off into space. Yesterday two or three people asked me why I was in a bad mood. I must have had some kind of look on my face. Actually, I was just thinking.

      You definitely have a prolific right brain. It’s always producing wonderful works. You have such a way with words. I love words. They have such power–literally. The things we can speak into being. The things we can destroy. With words.

      • That’s so odd,… I, too, have extreme difficulty with left and right. I’ve had people ask, “left or right”, and i just look at them blankly, point, and say “that way”. Left, right? Heck, I dunno!
        ‘Tis true that words are mighty. Perhaps I feel unworthy to wield such power… perhaps I cannot remember if it be my right or left hand that does the writing. 😉

      • You have been given a gift. Don’t you think you would seem ungrateful if you didn’t bother to open it? You are worthy, my friend.

  2. This is a pretty big secret for me to admit here, but in order for me to write, I take my hands and skim above the skin on both of my arms to feel my aura or the electric charge coming from me. I can generally tell by what I feel how the writing session will turn out…and mostly, my tone is a bit somber. I was never a happy, shiny person, but lately, things have been a bit of heartbreaking at times for me. I find skimming my hands just above the skin like that centers me and helps me find the words to write with. It’s so weird, I know.

    • That’s really interesting, not weird. I get “a feeling” when I know how something is going to turn out too, not in the same way as you describe, but a feeling, nevertheless. Lately, I have had a need to be centered. I tried what you said, and you’re right. I do feel something. I’m just not sure what that means yet. Thanks again for replying!

  3. I spend a lot of time during the week commuting. I have many of my most creative thoughts while I’m driving backroads through the country. I think a big part of that is having an opportunity to let my mind wander (still paying attention to driving, of course!). I often don’t listen to music in the car… the silence fosters lusher thoughts.

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