Care and Feeding of My Muse

By Milli Thornton. Photos Copyright © Brian Williams and Milli Thornton

SO MUCH OF the writing advice out there is about actual writing. I think it’s too easy to forget that what we do with the rest of our lives counts toward how we feel about our writing.

This is already obvious to some people (I have family and friends whose entire lives are an expression of creativity) but I’m usually not smart like that. When I’m heavily into my writing, everything else pretty much gets neglected.

Lately I’ve been trying to correct that balance. Not purposely; it’s just been unfolding with a mind of its own—which feels more fun than planning to be creative. Here are some of the things I’ve been up to that feel like care and feeding of my muse.


I got a new hairstyle. So what? Everybody does that. But it was special for me because I’d been hiding out. I had a Bad Hairdresser experience . . . so bad that for a long time I’d been afraid to look for a new one. I’d just been letting my hair grow willy-nilly and it was a mass of split ends. Yuck. This did not feel good in social situations.

When I found Shannon at Raphael’s I was only going to let her trim off the dead growth. But she made me feel so comfortable with her skills, I let her do some layering as well. (Plus, she was a student so it only cost me $6.50!) I feel so much better about my appearance now. My muse thrives on a little self-confidence.

Sandi, Brian and Milli

My mother-in-law Sandi, Brian and myself at The Village Pantry
(my friend Joanne's cool store)


My friend Julia Munroe Martin of the wordsxo blog did a post called Putting Pen to Paper, where she talked about inking up her long-neglected fountain pen with ink she bought from a stationery store called Papier Gourmet. At the end of the post she asked, “Are there specific writing tools that make your job more fun? Have you ever used a fountain pen?”

I was given a beautiful marbled-blue Waterman with gold trim back in 2004 by my Santa Fe Fertile Material Writing Circle but I had not used it in a long time. Julia’s post inspired me to look for it. As soon as I get some new ink cartridges, I plan to write with it in my Andy Warhol journal.

Waterman pen and journal

My Waterman pen and Andy Warhol journal

Holiday Outings

I’ve attended two wonderful Christmassy-type events that I hadn’t been to before: Olde Fashioned Christmas at the Mill and Open House at the Village Pantry. The Village Pantry is a quaint and yummy store run by my friend Joanne (story coming soon on Milliver’s Travels).

While my mother-in-law Sandi was visiting from Texas for the Thanksgiving holiday, we took her up to see Niagara Falls. I had already experienced it during warm weather and it felt markedly different (and creatively inspiring) during the autumn season. See Milliver’s Travels > Niagara in November for photos.

Mill Creek Park

Me next to the creek in Mill Creek Park. (Hmm . . . should have
taken my hat and sunglasses off! I look like The Masked Writer.)

We also took Sandi walking in Mill Creek Park, but instead of taking our usual route we drove her over to Lanterman’s Mill so we could take the boardwalk next to the creek. The trail near our house is lovely, but it doesn’t give you a sense of being in the wild like you get from the boardwalk. (It was hard to remember we were in the middle of a city!) During the walk, Sandi collected some fallen pine branches and she made a table setting from it for Thanksgiving dinner.

Learning About Gemstones

I’ve been enjoying learning about gemstones and acquiring some of the ones that most interest me. My main interest is in their therapeutic value (every stone has its own healing properties). I have loose tumbled stones and gemstone necklaces and bracelets. My most treasured piece is an opalite necklace—the best thing I’ve ever found for relief from insomnia.

Therapeutic gemstones and gemstone jewelry

My therapeutic gemstones and gemstone jewelry

Zumba Dance

I recently joined our local fitness and wellness center, chiefly so I could take water aerobics classes and then relax in the sauna and hot tub. But then I discovered Zumba Fitness®: an aerobic mix of belly dance and Latin moves. I love it!

After seeing our instructor and a few of the students wearing belly dance-style coin belts, I dug out the one I’ve had for years and wore it to my lesson yesterday. I also wrote a post called ZUMBA® and Writing: How They Compare.

Belly dance coin belt

My belly dance coin belt and several of my gemstone bracelets

Adventurous Cooking and Grocery Shopping

We’ve been in a rut. Eating the same routine of meals and shopping at a chain grocery store, both for convenience. But then I started participating actively over at I love the way Ann continually posts recipes that are easy for someone like me (i.e., someone who is usually too impatient to submerge herself in the joys of cooking!).

After gaining confidence with a few of Ann’s dinner dishes, I decided to take the plunge and make the entire menu from her Deconstructed Thanksgiving Dinner.

Thanksgiving Dinner

The Deconstructed Thanksgiving Dinner I cooked from
my friend Ann's blog,

Most recently, I made my own chicken stock and then used it to make Green Chile Chicken Soup, with New Mexico chiles roasted by Brian.

Brian and I have been reading cookbooks with our morning coffee and we found a way to spice up our grocery shopping too. We’re now shopping at The Village Pantry (Joanne carries a beautiful selection of bulk herbs and spices with amazingly low prices), Rulli Bros. (established in 1917 so you know without seeing pics that it’s not like shopping in a chain) and Catullo’s Meat Market.

We’re over the moon because Catullo’s carries lamb—something we normally can’t get here in the chain stores. We’ll be buying some ground lamb to use in the Moroccan dinner we’re cooking for our friends Ron and Joanne this weekend.

Estrella’s Seasonal Photo Challenge

My friend Estrella from the Life’s a Stage Weblog recently posted Estrella’s Seasonal Photo Challenge and it sounded like so much fun I decided to participate. Estrella made the rules very easy (more like suggestions than anything you have to stick to) and that encouraged me not to worry about being picture-perfect but just do it and have fun. Here’s the Picasa album for my first collection of seasonal pics.

Bonnie's Christmas plate

The paper plate my daughter Bonnie decorated for
Christmas almost 20 years ago

How to Coax a Hummingbird

Among other things, Andy Warhol was renowned for his illustrations of fashionable shoes. On the inside cover of my Andy Warhol journal, it says

You can lead a shoe to water but you can’t make it drink.

I think this is a fun way to remember that care and feeding of the muse can be like coaxing a hummingbird (forgive the mixed metaphors)—by offering it plenty of sweetness instead of trying to grab it rudely with both hands.

Thanks to j for this month’s j’s Journey (In Search of the Muse) for inspiring me to write this post.

P.S. I was trying to get in the shower and get my day rolling when this blog post overtook me and I just had to write it that minute. I love it when my muse takes control!!



Milliver’s Travels > Niagara in November

Milliver’s Travels > Olde Fashioned Christmas at the Mill

ZUMBA® and Writing: How They Compare

Estrella’s Seasonal Photo Challenge > My first album

Milli Thornton



Milli Thornton is the author of Fear of Writing: for writers & closet writers. She is owner of the Fear of Writing Online Course, where her mission is to put the fun back into writing. Milli blogs at Screenwriting in the Boonies and Milliver’s Travels and coaches writers individually at Writer’s Muse Coaching.

16 Responses to Care and Feeding of My Muse
  1. Estrella Azul
    December 9, 2011 | 6:29 AM

    These are such wonderful ways to care for and feed the muse, Milli.
    And my starting the Seasonal Photo Challenge is in part a reason to keep my muse fed, as I love photography it inspires me so much in my writing.

    Oh, and I just looked around on the website with the gemstones. I love what it says about Onyx (which is my favorite).
    “Becoming grounded – …manifest your creative vision in the world.” Funny to see it written down after being unconsciously drawn to this gemstone.

  2. Estrella Azul
    December 9, 2011 | 6:30 AM

    PS: your hair looks great! 🙂

  3. Patti Stafford
    Twitter: pattistafford
    December 9, 2011 | 9:33 AM

    Lately I’ve been trying to correct that balance. Not purposely;

    I’ve been purposely, not purposely working on balance too.

    I’ve spent most of my adult life working on me; changing how I think, how I react to things, learning to understand other people, etc. But this is the first time that I can honestly say that I really enjoy it. Maybe it’s an age thing, since I am smack dab in the middle of the change.

    I’m tired more than I’d like to be, but I think I’m winding down from my younger self and gearing up for my wiser self. (Note, I did not use the foul word ‘older’) I’m seeing there is truth in going from mother to crone—except crone sounds so old. LOL

    I have a small leather pouch of gemstones and I can’t find it. I’m sure it’s packed in a small tote in the closet, but Kevin doesn’t like me going through his nice, organized closets too often. 🙂
    I’ve started wearing my hematite necklace and keep a crystal in my pocket. The combo seems to be a big help.

    I really enjoyed this post. Thanks for sharing. I love the new “do” too.

  4. Julia Munroe Martin
    Twitter: wordsxo
    December 9, 2011 | 4:59 PM

    What a very cool post! (And not just because you mentioned fountain pens and Mill Creek Park and Ann’s blog — all of which I love!) I think your hairstyle is lovely! And the therapeutic gemstones are very very cool! My only re-balancing has been with my new pen ink to paper on my soon-to-be-third draft…. but someday soon maybe I’ll follow your lead and branch out!

  5. Ann
    December 9, 2011 | 5:04 PM

    Wow! When you decide to branch out, you BRANCH OUT! Milli – this post was like watching a butterfly emerge from it’s cocoon….and just as lovely!

    I think it’s wonderful that you are finding such terrific balance! It’s something I struggle with daily – which is why I maintain a schedule! While it doesn’t offer too many opportunities to be impulsive, it keeps the me, honey bunny and the house running smoothly!

    The mornings belong to ME! I meet girlfriends for coffee, read cookbooks or novels, drink diet soda at my favorite place and relax!

    The Afternoons belong to Honey Bunny! We’re both at home full time, so this is our time to spend together. We chit-chat and occasionally watch a movie….then nap!

    The evenings belong to the kitchen and Cooking Healthy For Me. I pop up from a nap and start cooking, get on the computer and blog, blog, blog!

    ….that’s how I care and feed my muse. If I wake up at 3am with a recipe idea – all bets are off!

    You look amazing and sound SO happy! Your hair is totally babe worthy…hubba, hubba!

  6. Lois
    December 12, 2011 | 10:40 AM

    You’re such an inspiration, Milli! And you know, this morning, I dug out my knitting. I’ve got two projects I’ve been working on, but they’ve been on hold for months. Funny how stuff works like that. 🙂

  7. j
    December 12, 2011 | 1:21 PM

    WOW! I love everything about this post. Especially this: “I think it’s too easy to forget that what we do with the rest of our lives counts toward how we feel about our writing,” because I agree and think it’s easy to forget.

    My favorite professor once told me, “You’re always writing, j. You just don’t always know it.”

    Your pictures are wonderful and so is all the living you’re doing. I have such a huge smile on my face. Thank you for writing this! (Love your Andy Warhol journal!)

    • Fear of Writing
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      December 12, 2011 | 1:32 PM

      Ironic that you find it easy to forget. YOU were actually one of the people I was holding an image of in my mind as I wrote this:

      “I have family and friends whose entire lives are an expression of creativity.”


      I love what your professor said. That really nails what it feels like to be a writer, even though we’re not always conscious that living our lives means we’re always writing.

      So glad my photos could make you smile so big. If you hadn’t tweeted me the suggestion to make the journal entry into a post, it never would have occurred to me. And, yet, this is one of the most creatively satisfying blog posts I’ve ever worked on. ❤

  8. John
    December 13, 2011 | 7:03 AM

    Very interesting post! You have covered many things in one post. I love the idea of losing weight by dancing. It is so relaxing and entertaining too. While exercising I feel very bored but I need to do it to lose weight. Please let us know more about your Zumba dance in your coming posts.

  9. Steve
    December 14, 2011 | 9:05 AM

    Hi Milli!

    Your new hair cut looks awesome on you! I like the idea of using fountain pen for making my job of writing fun. I had used a fountain pen long back. But, after coming across the idea in this blog post, I think I will use it again. Will make me nostalgic and may be I can write some posts about those times 🙂

  10. Lisa Carter
    December 14, 2011 | 1:50 PM

    This is just fantastic! I love, love, love this reminder to just be ourselves, to open ourselves up to new experiences, to not put too much pressure on ourselves to do X or to be a certain way or to change a particular thing. Doing (or not doing?) all of this leads precisely to what we’re all striving for: peace, happiness and health, and those are the wellsprings for creativity. The proof is in the fact that you just had to write and publish this post before you’d even showered that morning!
    Inspiring, as always, Milli. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

  11. Melissa Crytzer Fry
    December 20, 2011 | 6:51 PM

    Milli … I LOVE this post. What a fantastic reminder that “what we do with the rest of our lives counts toward how we feel about our writing” – that we must take steps to inspire our muse.

    You got me to thinking about how rejuvenated I was last year this time (and wondering why I am NOT as inspired this year). It’s really about a lot of the things you mention: I’m not nurturing my muse. Last year I was taking a geology class, hiking regularly, and trying new things.

    What an inspirational post for the new year. Thank you. And Mill Creek … been there, done that! 😉 So lovely! (And yes, I, too, need a new hairdo. That kind of thing DOES help!)

  12. Claire
    December 27, 2011 | 4:25 PM

    My mum is really into the whole gemstone and spirituality thing, I used to think she was nuts but I have started to think there is something in it – I definitly found them relaxing while taking a bath at her house over christmas with them surrounding the bath.

  13. Terri
    January 1, 2012 | 1:57 PM

    I’ve come back and read this article several times. It fuels me every time. You are nourishing many areas; family and social, getting outdoors on short trips, fab new hair cut (!!), exercise that you love, that dazzling belly dance coin belt (OHMYGOSH!), way cool food which has creativity and self-care all over it and bringing the ‘child’ into it with that precious creation of your daughter’s and more, so much more. Many aspects of feeding the muse in all you are doing. This is just awesome!

    I love what you write: “Lately I’ve been trying to correct that balance. Not purposely; it’s just been unfolding with a mind of its own—which feels more like fun than planning to be creative.”
    I love it when change just starts occurring with no real effort on my part, it builds wonderful momentum.

    Great uplifting and inspiring article. Thank you so much for writing it and sharing it…this is great news of free-flowing change! Energizes me every time I read it!

  14. Bettina143
    January 3, 2012 | 11:55 AM

    This is fantastic Milli! I love your violet outfit… Thanks for sharing…

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