How to Get the Muse to Visit

March 18, 2021 | 3 min read

A classic piece of writing advice is, “Don’t wait for the muse.” But I’ve always felt this is dismissive of muses. You need the muses to write. The trick is, you have to show up for your muse, the same way you show up for your friends and family. This hasn’t been the easiest year to show up for anyone, let alone muses, and I’ve noticed there are a lot of suggestions floating around on the Internet about time management and productivity and setting boundaries with your children. This advice isn’t about that. This is about you getting more time with the Muse. Maybe you two will make something great, or maybe you’ll make something absurd and ridiculous. The Muse doesn’t care if your work is worthwhile and neither do I. I just want you to have more fun. And I want to have more fun. I wrote these for myself, obviously. 

How to Get the Muse to Visit

  1. Send an invitation. Designate a specific time and place.
  2. You have to put out treats. She’ll like whatever you like. Salted almonds. Triscuits. Apple slices. Sunflower seeds. She enjoys a pot of tea or a cup of coffee. But not too strong. 
  3. No booze. She’s not a drinker and doesn’t appreciate chatting with people who are tipsy.
  4. Tell her she can arrive whenever she wants, and that you’ll be doing some pre-writing exercises to get warmed up while you wait. Then do some pre-writing exercises. Ask your characters some simple ice-breaker questions, nothing too heavy and nothing that you need to know for the fiction you’re writing. Things like, “What’s the best meal you ever had?” “Who was your first crush?” “What songs do you like to listen to when you’re cleaning up?”
  5. Don’t make a fuss when the Muse shows up. Just say, “Hey, you want to sit over here by me and trade gossip?”
  6. Have some gossip ready. Tell her something about yourself or someone you know that you would never write down because you wouldn’t want it getting back to you. 
  7. If you don’t have any gossip, read her poetry.
  8. Do not read her anything you wrote the day before, even if she helped you write it. You’ll bore her. She hates being bored.
  9. Do not invite the Editor. The Editor has offended her many, many times. She will clam up if the Editor is around, or just get up and leave. 
  10. Do not invite Envy and Jealousy. I know there are times when you want to entertain them, but if they show up at the door when you’ve invited the Muse over, just politely ask them to come back another time. The Muse doesn’t like them because they monopolize the conversation, telling the same stories over and over again. 
  11. Do invite your relatives and friends who have passed away. The Muse loves to talk to the dead. 
  12. Don’t go on the Internet, even if it’s to jog your memory or to fact-check something you or the Muse has said. You can fact-check later with the Editor. That’s the kind of thing editors like to do. 
  13. Don’t talk about the publishing world, review coverage, marketing strategies, Twitter threads, or “best-of” lists. Save that for your pity party with Envy, Jealousy, and FOMO. 
  14. If you’re working on a particular project and you would like the Muse’s help, say to her, “Hey, I’m just working on this little thing—it’s no big deal, if you don’t have time, I understand, I’m just mentioning it because I think it might be fun for you, and you’d get to work with these really interesting characters, what do you think?” And then just start telling her about the project and see if she says anything. 
  15. If the Muse doesn’t say anything, don’t panic. She’s listening. Maybe you gave her a hard problem. Or maybe she’s testing you. Have you been inviting her around enough? Invite her to come back the next day. And the day after that. And the day after that. Ask her specific questions. Give her puzzles to solve. Tell her she can try anything. Eventually, she’ll start talking.
  16. If the Muse has nothing to say about the project that you’re working on, and you really are stuck, ask her what she wants to work on. Tell her it can be anything in any genre. Tell her you aren’t going to try to sell it and that it will just be between the two of you. She can say anything she wants and you will never tell anyone. She needs to know that she can tell the truth. And she needs to know that she can ask you anything and you will tell the truth. 
  17. Lastly, and this is the most important thing: if the Muse isn’t showing up for weeks on end, double-check to make sure the front door is open. Or at least a window. She really wants to talk to you, but you have to let her in.

Image Credit: Wikipedia.

is a staff writer for The Millions and the author of Home Field. Her short stories have appeared in The Southern Review, The North American Review, The Chattahoochee Review, and Visions, among others. She writes about movies on her blog, Thelma and Alice and thelmaandalicesubstack.com. Read more at hannahgersen.com or sign up for her newsletter here.

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