Don’t wait for a muse–she doesn’t exist

The worst stereotype of the angst-ridden writer is the one who is forever bemoaning writer’s block, waiting for a muse who never shows up. But is there a hint of truth behind this stereotype?

We joke about the muses, those Greek goddesses who supposedly were the source of inspiration in all the arts. But don’t let it be more than a joke. It’s quite right to ascribe your lack of productivity to real, necessary things, like the need to care for children, work a day job, serve your church…Just don’t blame your lack of productivity on the absence of a “muse” — a lack of inspiration.


Photo © User:Colin • Wikimedia Commons

As Christians, we believe creativity and imagination are the product of divine inspiration. Others say they’re the product of our brains taking the inputs we’ve given them and combining them in new ways. Both are probably true.

Either way, muses have nothing to do with it. Creativity is hard work. Inspiration comes when you start moving forward.

I once claimed I couldn’t write early in the morning because I’m just not a morning person. A member of my writers group challenged me that if God is the source of inspiration, he is just as able to show up first thing in the morning as late in the afternoon. And she’s right.

But here’s the thing. I have to do the work. I could write in the morning, but I work best in the evening, because I’m a night owl.

If I write in the morning, does God show up and help me? Sure, because he supports us in all our efforts insofar as our goal is to glorify him. We still have to make the effort. As I once heard a counselor say, God won’t wave a wand and solve your problem. You have to do the work.

One of the basic principles of time management is that you need to know your own rhythms well enough to know what your most and least productive times of day are. Then slot your most important work during those times.

My times are between second breakfast and lunch, after lunch before tea, and after dinner. Yes, hobbit-like, I schedule my life around food. Of these, the time I am at my absolute best is the latter. Maybe it’s just that the hobbit brain needs food to function. Or maybe it’s just me.

But it’s not the muse.

Find your best time of day. Minimize distractions. Start writing. Inspiration will come.

About Kristen Stieffel

Kristen Stieffel is a writer and freelance editor specializing in speculative fiction. She's a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, Christian Editor Connection, and American Christian Fiction Writers.

6 comments on “Don’t wait for a muse–she doesn’t exist

  1. My occasional collaborator faces another kind of problem: he gets an idea and works through it for a while, but then can’t finish what he starts. He says he gets bored too easily – he then starts off on a different fictional framework and the process repeats. Might you or someone else address that here?

    • Sorry to fly off on a tangent – I should’ve said what I first observed, that this article front to back is good advice. 🙂

      Quite a few years ago, in the comic strip ANDY CAPP, a newbie to his favorite pub was hogging the attention of Andy’s favorite barmaid (or whatever they call such over there). Second and third panels of three:

      Barmaid: He wants to be a writer but doesn’t know where to begin.
      Andy (speaking to the other man): From left to right – now PUSH OFF!

    • Hoo-Boy; that’s a whole other post. But the short version is that new ideas need to be given enough attention that they don’t get lost, without robbing the first project of all attention. I’ll plan a future post to go into more detail.

  2. Loved the hobbit part, Kristen. *grin*

    And agreed on the whole muse thing…

  3. […] I wrote about the nonexistent muse, John Wheeler raised an issue many of us deal […]

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