j’s Journey: In search of the muse

By Judy Clement Wall

I’m a huge fan of bentlily. If you haven’t visited her site, you should. Her real name is Samantha. She’s a writer and new mom who, instead of making resolutions for 2011, committed to writing a poem every day. Here’s what she wrote about her decision:

I pledged to write one poem a day. Not to rack up reams of poetry – that’s just a lovely side-effect. No, the real goal is to train me to see the world constantly with the eyes of a poet, which means to slow down, savour, take delight in, and note the very essence of the world around me.

To be present.

I love that. I get her daily poem delivered to my inbox, and every time I see her name I feel anticipatory. Samantha has a gift for capturing the beauty, emotion and magic of everyday things. I am more present because she is present, and I’m convinced that reading her poems makes me a more conscious writer (and mom, and person).

Over Thanksgiving weekend, I read her poem, “Chasing my muse.” I think there isn’t a writer alive who won’t see her- or himself in this one. I love her description  of the day she spends wishing for and being frustrated by her muse. It made me think of the many different ways that I’ve chased my  own muse: sitting in a coffee shop or library, for instance, notebook open, hand poised above the page, ready, just in case, on the off chance that maybe the more “writerly atmosphere” was all she needed to make herself known to me. I’ve gone for walks and bike rides, sat out on the grass, read passages from my favorite authors. I’ve made tea, lit candles, howled at the moon. I’ve grabbed my camera and  headed out into the world in the hopes of making her jealous…

All the while I wrestle that little bit of panic that tells me maybe this time, she’s gone for good.

I thought it would be fun (or maybe that’s not the right word… therapeutic? Cathartic?) to hear what things you’ve done in the name of finding your muse. (Secretly, I’m hoping you can give me some good ideas.)


JUDY CLEMENT WALL is a freelance writer and Course Presenter for the Fear of Writing Online Course. Her short stories and personal essays have been published in numerous literary journals and on some very cool websites like The Rumpus, Used Furniture Review, Lifebyme and Beyond The Margins. She recently finished her first novel, BEAUTIFUL LIVES, and here at FoW, she chronicles the ups and downs of writing for publication. You can read more of her series here. Judy blogs about life, love, writing and cheesecake at Zebra Sounds.

8 Responses to j’s Journey: In search of the muse
  1. Tricia
    Twitter: Tricia_Sutton
    November 29, 2011 | 11:52 AM

    My muse almost always appears in my dreams. Sometimes I dream I’m a writer and my story is unfolding before me, beautifully, flowingly, page after page.

    Then I wake up.

    Sometimes I take that dreamed up plot and start something. Sometimes I crush my own dreams, literally, by not connecting with the muse in my waking hours that so captured me in my sleeping ones.

    • j
      November 30, 2011 | 10:59 AM

      My dreams (which I often love) never seem to have enough sense in them to build anything out of. I’ve always been jealous of people who dream stories. I’m weirdly even more jealous of your dreams of being a prolific writer, before whom stories unfold! I’ve experienced that so few times in real life. I’m one of those people who has a love-hate relationship with this thing I can’t stop doing.

  2. Patti Stafford
    Twitter: pattistafford
    November 29, 2011 | 12:10 PM

    I’m sure you’ve tried it, but I find Milli’s tip on dragging the muse through the mud, works pretty good. lol

    I usually get my best ideas when I’m washing dishes, then I have to dry the bubbles off to jot my idea down.

    Since I’m not working with fiction these days, it’s usually just a matter of planting my butt in the seat and getting the facts out of my head.

    Sorry I wasn’t much help. 🙁

    • j
      November 30, 2011 | 11:01 AM

      It’s some kind of rule that I get my best ideas when I can’t get them down – on a freeway, during a funeral, in the middle of an argument. I always think, “I’ll remember.” Famous last words!

      You’re helpful. Just being here knowing what I’m talking about is helpful!

  3. Fear of Writing
    Twitter: fearofwriting
    November 29, 2011 | 6:19 PM

    You’ve converted me to bentlily! I loved her poem about chasing her muse – and then I read a few more and had to subscribe. Can’t wait to get my first daily poem by email. 🙂

    Some of the things I do to either coax my muse out of her closet or just expect her to show up and work:

    – I do the 10K Day twice a month, not placing any expectations on how many words I’ll produce but knowing that for those two days every month I *will* produce words. I always end up feeling more creative and wanting to continue my momentum in some form or other.

    – I use overwriting to the max. That’s where I don’t try to make it good, I just start writing and allow it to be totally overblown and encrusted with padding and my own emotional baggage. Then later I can hone it down to something others can read without dying of verbosity. 🙂

    – On a bad day, I use my Dragon dictation software as a therapist until I have a breakthrough. (see “Cheap Therapy” under Evergreen posts in the right sidebar.)

    – For certain types of writing I’ll use a ritual where I light some aromatherapy and then ask my chosen mentor from the unseen realms to send me inspiration. Works every time. (Mine happens to be Archangel Gabriel, who among other things assists with creativity, but you can use anything or anybody from a photo of Elvis to a lucky animal trinket. The point is to ask for help from a mystical source.)

    – As Patti mentioned above, drag it through the mud first. (See the post about the whiplash of your inner critic under Evergreen posts, right sidebar.) This doesn’t actually engage your muse – instead it gives your Inner Critic full voice. Magically, while the old IC is blistering you with its usual crap, the muse can slip in under the cracks.

    – A physical version of the above: I’ll take a long shower and just let my thoughts flow. I let them flow in any direction they want to – including chewing over stuff that’s really bothering me – and suddenly I’m having a rash of ideas. (Very inconvenient when I’m all wet and I forgot to bring something to jot down my ideas.)

    – You’ve inspired me to write a blog post about my writing prompts and how they can help. My book has been around for so many years, I usually forget to even mention the prompts. But they do work. Here’s a link to a few free ones found online:


    (scroll down to “Samples of the Writing Prompts”)

    – I’ll watch a funny movie, forget my writing cares and just relax my whole body with the medicine of belly laughs. This might not get my muse to show up right away with writer-approved material, but at least she can have fun with me instead of feeling pressured to cough up the goods. Care and feeding of the muse. 🙂

    • j
      November 30, 2011 | 11:06 AM

      Bentlily is truly amazing. She is consistently good. I mean everyday good and sometimes (like her very recent poem, “Why I wrote so many poems” she takes my breath away.

      Your muse-calling methods are great. I’ve tried some of them, of course, I am a Milli-fan. The best thing is to just let go of the pressure to produce and start writing. This, my heart and soul knows. My head… my head is what I’ve been trying to get in line my whole life.

      OVERWRITE. <— That's what I'm pasting above my computer. Thank you for the reminder!

  4. Estrella Azul
    November 30, 2011 | 8:09 AM

    I usually sit down and write even if it’s just a blog post or (nowadays) journaling. If I clear my mind of everything else, it seems like the muse is more chatty 😉
    Aaand then there are the times I wake up in the middle of the night and scribble something unintelligible in my notebook so that I can spend the next few weeks wondering what in the world was I trying not to forget by writing it down…

  5. j
    November 30, 2011 | 11:07 AM

    Ha! Me too. I am particularly unintelligible in the middle of the night. Or driving. Or writing while very literally chasing my story. (True fact.)

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