Steps to Use Your Muse

 My muse, Sarabelle
Most of us have good friends. Some people have best friends. A fortunate few of us have super friends. I’m one of the fortunate ones. A couple of days ago I wrote a blog entry on A Los Alamos Girlhood about a discussion with a super friend. She has the amazing ability to pick up on things, and lay her observations on the table. She doesn’t back off either, until she’s satisfied her curiosity. Or unless I tell her I’d rather not discuss something, which has been known to happen.

In the case I wrote about, she picked up on frustration I hadn’t even realized I was feeling about my memoir. She drilled right down to the bottom with me, and I found what Karen Walker referred to as the Golden Thread of my story.

If you don’t happen to have such a super friend, or your super friend is busy when you need her, don’t lose heart. I’ll let you in on a secret that may set your story on fire: Make-believe friends are as good or better as flesh and bones ones.

I say make-believe, but I’m not convinced that’s the best word. I’m referring to your muse. I’ve had conversations with my muse Sarabelle that were equally as enlightening as the one I recount in that blog post. Here’s the way to do it:

  1. Sit in a comfortable chair, with a paper and pen handy to make notes. You can pour a cup of your favorite beverage if you like. Picture your muse sitting in a chair near you.
  2. Ask your muse to help you. Just start talking, like you would to any close friend. Tell her (or him — muses can be either gender or neither) what you’re thinking and what you need help with.
  3. Sit and wait. Listen carefully until you hear an answer. It may come immediately, or it may take a few minutes. If two or three minutes go by, ask again. Some people need more practice than others.
  4. Once an idea occurs to you, even if you don’t “hear” it in words, write it down, and keep writing until you run out of words. Ask follow-up questions, and keep writing. You’ll soon know your answer.
An alternative way to do this is to write a conversation with your muse in your journal. Simply write down your question, then begin a new line and start writing the answer. You may run into a new question. Write that. Keep going with the cycle. You may be amazed at the wisdom that flows out of your fingers. I know I often am.

Write now: think of a  story you are feeling puzzled about, or a project you’re feeling stymied on. Take your pick between a conversation with your muse or a written one in your journal. State your question and listen for the answers. Pop in with a comment and let us all know how it went.


Kathleen Pooler said...

This is so well-timed for me-just what I need as I flounder about in search of the"golden thread" of my story. I also enjoyed the link to Karen's blog. Thanks for a great post!


madinpursuit said...

Very thought provoking. I'm wondering if my muse is one of those spirit "genii" or "daemons" -- or if I should use an inspirational deceased person... my grandmother? a college advisor? Virginia Wolff?

Sharon Lippincott said...

Hi Kathy,

Always glad to hear a post is helpful. Best wishes.


Sharon Lippincott said...

Dear Mad...

I've heard of people selecting muses, and it may work. In my case, my muse found me. You can read about that experience in this post. Once in awhile I think to "invoke" her presence, but mostly she taps me on the shoulder.

Maybe I'll do another post about the idea of using a selected muse or MasterMind group of wise spirits from the past. I do believe in the potential of such an approach.

loveable_homebody said...

I think this is fantastic advice, having had letter writing relationships with several great people. I think this exercise is a way of making an audience for yourself when you write. This creates so much depth, I think, as we know people have layers and dimensions. Writing to a muse or a person helps us explore those various facets.