Goosing the Muse
by Kayce Lassiter
Hey guys, how are ya? Well, I hope. For those of you who don’t yet know me, my name is Kayce Lassiter and, like many authors, I’m a bubble south of center on the “crazy” scale. But we’re not dating or married or anything like that, so crazy can be fun for us.
Things you might not know about me are:
- I write contemporary cowgirl fiction – sometimes with a magical twist, always with asmile.
- I am a native of Phoenix, Arizona, and I still live in the Valley of the Hotter ‘n Hell.
- I am a farm girl with horses, a dog, and a rat-killing duck named Tubby.
- I am also known in some circles as a Butterscotch Martini Girl. (Picture me sitting at a bar with the drink in my hand, not me in a skimpy outfit serving them to patrons. Yeah, no one wants to see the latter…that just ain’t pretty.)
- I am famous for butchering the English language at will. So if you are an English major or a purist, step away from this article…it will only make you crazy!
Okay, so I’m new to this blog site and once I committed to a date, I immediately went into panic mode. I am a born procrastinator and I never know what to write about. I’m famous in my peer group for posting my blog at 1 a.m. and scrounging for pictures to make it interesting until the sun is peeking over the Arizona mountaintops. So I thought perhaps I would start out a month early this time and make a good impression my first time out. (yeah, right)
So here it is just days before my blog is supposed to post and while I’ve wracked my brain for a month trying to come up with a really clever topic. It simply didn’t happen. So I went back into what I call my “panic room” (a file on my computer with emergency topics) and came out with a subject I hope you will find interesting. If not, feel free to send me hate mail, as I’m well stocked with alcohol at the moment. (smile)
Today’s topic is Goosing the Muse – or, in other words, how to get the bitch moving when she’s high centered in the middle of a freeway to nowhere and you have a writing deadline, or a paper to turn in, or homework you’re doing for your son/daughter in order to get them a scholarship so you don’t have to blow your entire life savings on tuition to a decent college. (You know who you are.) For those of you who are authors or any other type of artist, I’m hoping to give you one or two new techniques, and for those of you who are not, I’m hoping to make it a fun ride and maybe give you some insights into the twisted minds of writers.
So, it’s Thursday and you have a deadline Friday morning. You know where your muse is – you can see the bitch sitting there, but she’s not talking. She’s not saying a word. She just stares at you with that blank look you know so well and hate worse than you hate Brussels sprouts. What now? How do you kick a comatose muse in the butt?
Write down your dreams. A tried and true method is to keep a notebook by your bed, in your purse, on the passenger seat of your car, in your laptop bag, next to the shower, in the glove box of the boat…well, you get the idea…pencil and paper anywhere and everywhere you might possibly be at any given time of the day or night. Then when your mute muse chooses to open her stinking mouth and finally say something, you don’t have to depend on your failing memory. But there is a big drawback – this makes sure you capture information; it doesn’t get the bitch to talk. And it doesn’t eliminate the possibility of not being able to make sense of your message in the light of day. I recently sent myself a text about an unbelievable story idea that struck in the middle of the night. In the light of day, it’s so garbled and convoluted that I’m not sure if the heroine is a prosecutor or a prostitute. Those are potentially two different genres entirely when it comes to romance.
People watch. Another well-tested method is to sit in a restaurant or park and watch people go about their daily lives. This can be a good technique, as long as you are careful not to do the creepy “I’m stalking you” stare. If the cops show up the first three times you try this technique, put it aside – it doesn’t work for you. Probably the shifty eyes or the axe you have in a scabbard strapped to your back…
Variation – flamingo watch. Something I like to do is a variation on the “people watch” technique. I call it “flamingo watching.” Yep, you read that right. One of our local zoos has a very nice restaurant with a lovely patio adjacent to the flamingo pen. When the weather is good (translation: not now!), I enjoy sitting on the patio with an adult beverage as I write. When my muse shuts up and refuses to talk, I watch the flamingos. Invariably these very pretty, very useless creatures will eventually do something ridiculous that my muse simply can’t resist commenting on. Once her mouth is open, I have her. I pretend not to understand what the hell she is talking about and she goes off on a tirade to set me straight. (smile…don’t tell her she’s being tricked)
Variation – deaf TV. Another variation on the people watching technique is to sit in front of your TV and turn the sound off for one or two full minutes. Try to imagine what is being said and rewrite the scene, complete with your own dialogue. This can sometimes coax your muse out of the dark corners or down off the freeway median. There are, however, a couple of drawbacks to this. You must choose wisely. Commercials only piss your muse off. And if you are a woman, and Hugh Jackman shows up and jumps over the edge of a waterfall naked, there will be no words. The muse simply drives off the center median of one freeway, utters a stream of appreciative expletives, and then drives up onto the even higher median of another freeway.
In “20 Things That Can Help You Find Inspiration for Writing,” by Lesley J. Vos (hosted by Live Write Thrive), the following techniques are recommended…
Look at green or blue colors. These colors are supposed to provide inspiration. So paint your office a relaxing color for a serene setting in which to work. But it does depend on your muse. My muse, for instance, is much more motivated by having others do the work than by serene and inspirational surroundings. When she sits in a cool, calming garden or pretty blue or green office, the bitch dozes off. But give her a cranky, smart-ass coffee shop waitress who will bring her food and coffee, and she works like a machine on crack.
Start writing. You might come up with an idea if you just begin to write – like a stream of consciousness exercise but without a beginning purpose. This can be similar to the deaf TV idea above, or it can be anything that pops into your head. My muse happens to love food, so I can sometimes coax her off the median with a grocery list…especially if I promise her we will buy brownies at the end of the chapter I’m trying desperately to crank out by tomorrow morning.
I call this technique Bribery.
In “5 Things You Can Do to Inspire Your Writing,” by Kimberly Jokl (hosted by Grammarly), travel and reading are recommended.
Travel. Seeing the world can be a tremendous inspiration to a writer. This especially helps in avoiding hate mail for putting Café Du Monde on the wrong street in New Orleans because you have never actually been there personally. But to do this on a writer’s budget can get tricky. Make sure you’ve saved up enough to get home and that your muse is not prone to getting car sick.
Read other people’s work. Reading an author you like or one whose style you want to emulate can inspire you. Unfortunately, there is the downside that you might get lost in their world and never want to come out. This can result in subconscious “borrowing” of story elements. Too much of that and you could find a letter from an attorney in your mailbox. Unfortunately, the bitch can’t (or won’t) always distinguish between new and fresh ideas and plagiarism.
Exercise that one with caution…
Now, there is always the age-old approach of using drugs and alcohol to coax your muse out of hiding. I will admit to drinking a bit of alcohol at times when my muse is being obstinate. The problem is that these approaches can introduce such downsides as insanity, alcoholism, self-inflicted poverty, and suicide when overused. Just ask Ernest Hemingway (alcohol) or Sigmund Freud (cocaine) or Carl Sagan (marijuana) or Bela Lugosi (morphine & methadone). Wait…where is the self-inflicted poverty? Trust me, it’s in there…Bela Lugosi made a 10 Most Famous list for dying practically penniless.
How sad is that for the best Count Dracula ever?
Muse suppository. Yep, this is for real. I simply entered “muse” and “drugs” and voila…there truly is a drug for everything! If you don’t believe me, just go to Drugs.com and check it out for yourself. Turns out, it’s actually a drug that induces penile erection by relaxing certain muscles in the penis and widening blood vessels. Hmmm…that most certainly has promise.
I see my muse sitting up in the corner and paying attention now.
Nudism. This is an interesting technique listed at RobertGenn.com, by various authors (hosted by The Painters Keys). A painter claimed that as a nudist, feeling the breeze on his… private parts inspires him. Really? I can’t get past the image of a wild man slapping paint on a canvas while his junk is hanging out. Let’s hope he uses a brush!
Odd? Yes. Inspiring? Perhaps.
But given all of these wonderful techniques, my favorite weird ones were at “O Muse! You Do Make Things Difficult!” by Diane Ackerman (hosted by The New York Times), which included some of the following…
Lay in a coffin. Dame Edith Sitwell did this to “rehearse the picture of the grave” before writing poetry that explored the hidden beasts lurking in man. This is an excellent idea for horror writers…or just plain crazy people. As I was writing this article, I initially made the statement that if I couldn’t buy it at WalMart, it wasn’t an option. Then I thought maybe I’d better make sure I couldn’t buy a coffin there. Did you know that WalMart.com actually sells coffins? Holy crap! They start out with the Star Legacy Blue Tapestry Dome Casket for $856.63 and go all the way up to the lovely Star Legacy Cherry Extraordinaire Casket for a mere $2,616.67. Okay, so you can buy a casket at WalMart. If this is your “goosing the muse” favorite, go for it. But I’m holding out for a cheaper option.
My muse is scowling at me now.
Rotten apples. Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller kept rotten apples under his desk to sniff when he needed to find the correct word for a poem. Later, it was discovered that this smell actually helps elevate people. I’m afraid rotten apples would only serve to make my muse vomit…perhaps that’s what they meant by “elevate.”
Picking fleas from a cat. Colette picked the fleas from her cat every morning. Apparently, any repetitive motion calms the mind. I can think of a few repetitive motions that would goose my muse better than picking fleas from a cat!
And while we are on the subject…dip the cat, buy it a flea collar…do something other than pick!
Read immediately after sex. George Sands went right to his desk immediately after having sex. He claimed it helped him be more creative. Not sure this one even beats falling asleep after sex. It certainly doesn’t beat cuddling.
Seriously? Whatever happened to more sex after sex? Just sayin…
Well, that’s the extent of what my muse was able to come up with today in the way of “goosing the muse” ideas. I hope you found something that you love and intend to use, or that just plain made you laugh. Thanks for stopping by.
That’s my story, goosey and gooney, and I’m stickin’ to it. Hang on real tight now, ‘cuz we’re gonna go real, real fast!
Kayce Lassiter is a second-generation Arizonan, born to deaf parents. She learned to dream, imagine, and pretend to dispel the loneliness of growing up on a farm – something she’s never outgrown. Kayce still lives in rural Arizona with horses, dogs, and a very confused rat-killing duck. Find Kayce at: KayceLassiter.com.