By Lisa Tener
Sometimes, writing is easy and you enter a state of flow. Other times, it’s easy to:
- Get off track and not know how to return.
- Over-critique your work or your abilities.
- Feel overwhelmed, especially when you’re working on a big writing project, like a long article or a book.
Fortunately, returning to a place of commitment, clarity and can-do is also easy—I promise.
My “trick” is my “Meet Your Muse” exercise. Here’s how to do it:
Step 1. Come up with questions for the Muse.
Step 2. Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a meadow, traveling on a path to meet your Muse.
Step 3. Notice how the path travels into the woods ahead of you and follow that path into the woods.
Step 4. Notice a change in temperature or quality of light as you enter the woods.
Step 5. Walk to a clearing and notice a small building where your muse is waiting.
Step 6. Enter the building and find your muse.
Step 7. Ask your questions of your muse.
Step 8. Ask your Muse if it has anything else it wants you to know.
Step 9. When it feels complete, thank your muse, exit the building, enter the clearing, the woods, the meadow and open your eyes.
Some sessions are magical with exquisite images, multi-layered symbols and humor. Other sessions are quite productive, leaving the writer with a very clear road map—or no roadmap at all—just the directive to Trust. Trust the process. Trust your creative source. Trust yourself.
Her Muse Gave Her an Entire Writing Retreat Itinerary!
As I write this, I’ve just gotten off the phone with Jen, a therapist about to embark on a self-designed writing retreat in Bermuda. Her to-do lists for her trip and tending to others had taken away precious time from her morning writing routine the past few days. In the midst of sacred writing time, Jen found herself jotting reminders on post-it notes, which left her feeling overwhelmed and disconnected from her book.
We discussed her questions briefly, I made notes for the Muse exercise and then we set off on the path in the meadow, into the woods and to her Muse.
In previous calls, her Muse had insisted on guarding her time in the mornings, beginning the day with meditation, followed by writing for two hours. She’d done that though? Hadn’t she? The Muse pointed out that she’d altered her morning routine, getting dressed at 4:30 am before meditation so she could set out on her errands after writing. The Muse insisted on the importance of meditation and writing first. “It [getting dressed first] already started the engines; it wasn’t effective.”
She then asked her Muse how to balance her family life, work, friendships and book-writing. Her Muse was rather firm. “Make time for all of those things but only after the meditation and the writing.”
We asked her Muse what sections of her book to work on over the next week, and whether she should focus on her outline. Like many writers, Jen wants to see the big picture so she doesn’t feel lost. But her Muse wasn’t budging from its earlier stance, telling her she could write an outline if it’s helpful—but not during precious morning writing time! Her Muse warned not to get caught up in outlining. The Muse insisted that just working on her stories and teachings, the two aspects would come together organically, as they had in her previous chapter.
And then we asked how to structure her days during her writing retreat in Bermuda. Her Muse provided a detailed itinerary:
- Rise with the sun, a little later than usual, around 6 am.
- Meditate and then write for two hours.
- Do something physical—walk, swim or bike.
- Write deeply for another pocket of two hours around 1-2 PM.
- “How about reading?” she asked. “Use pockets in the afternoon or evening.”
- “Research?” “Don’t get bogged down by research; when you finish your two hour writing session, you can add research at the tail end. Don’t let it become an interruption.”
- Her Muse even told her what to read for pleasure and inspiration at night: Big Magic and The Power of Now. “Save these for nighttime when you have nothing left and need to replenish.”
- When we asked if her Muse had anything else to add, it told her, “This period of angst and uncertainty is just part of the process. Go with the flow. Don’t get too distracted by it. Don’t analyze it. It will pass. Just work through it.” Her Muse also reminded her that every writer experiences a juggling act. It’s not unique. “This is why creating this discipline around the writing is so important.”
- One last plea, “I want to make sure I’m not wasting time.” Before Jen even finished asking her question, the Muse said firmly, “If you’re writing you’re not wasting time.”
I’m always energized and inspired by a writer’s journey to their Muse. Each person’s own inner wisdom is available and begging to be accessed! And the Muse is so wise.
Jen’s session is full of wisdom for writers—messages about trusting one’s organic process, being disciplined, the power of routine, putting writing first, the power of meditation before writing, knowing the times of day that best support your creativity and the times that are optimal for other aspects of the work. What do you take away from Jen’s Muse’s wisdom?
I hope this post inspires you to try your own journey to your Muse. And if Jen’s retreat itinerary inspired you, perhaps you’ll take a few notes from here and create your own retreat—at home or away.
Lisa Tener is an award-winning book coach, speaker and author of the book The Joy of Writing Journal: Spark Your Creativity in 8 Minutes a Day. Lisa has helped thousands of aspiring writers and authors access their creativity, find their voice and write and publish groundbreaking books through her coaching services and courses. Dozens of her clients have won prestigious book awards and/or signed five- and six- figure deals with major publishing houses. For over a decade, Lisa served on the faculty of Harvard Medical School’s CME publishing course, helping doctors, therapists, and other healing professionals bring their books to life. Find out more at LisaTener.com.