After several months of blogging on a regular basis, I sometimes ﬁnd myself wondering about what to write next. I have had moments where it seemed that it came easily and writing stories or pieces about events in my life ﬂowed rather well. I have had other moments in which that was not the case at all. I have thought about putting together a list of possible blog posts that I may cover in the future. I have asked those who read this to suggest topics as well. In other words, there comes a time when I have to explore what I’m doing here and why. Maybe every blogger arrives at this point eventually.
We cannot always depend on the muse to speak when it’s time; of course, saying that means something more along the lines of ‘when I feel the need to create’ rather than ‘it’s time.’ Muses have their own sense of timing; their rhythm is not always in sync with ours. Oh, that the muse would be available at all times and places like a good convenience store. Oh, that the words would ﬂow like a mountain stream that never stops. But that’s not the way this works. There are times when it seems that inspiration is a treasure that is so well hidden that all my skills of deduction and observation are not up to the task of discovering it. There are times when it seems like a faint trickle that drips under some moss covered rocks which hide its location. Muses are not always conveniently present.
For someone who is putting out a blog, this is called ‘writer’s block.’ It is that sense that there is something to be written and composed, but there is something in the way. No words seem to ﬂow. No thoughts seem to connect. Nothing comes through the ﬁngers that warrants a second look. How many folks have sat before the white screen and blank page wishing and hoping that something would appear!
Whenever I think of ‘writer’s block’ I am reminded of Charlie Brown who has to write an essay about the book Peter Rabbit. Charlie Brown approaches the task with a unique method:
If I start writing now,
When I’m not really rested,
It could upset my thinking,
Which is no good at all.
I’ll get a fresh start tomorrow.
And it’s not due till Wednesday,
So I’ll have all of Tuesday,
Unless something should happen…
Why does this always happen?
I should be outside playing,
Getting fresh air and sunshine!
I work best under pressure,
And there’ll be lots of pressure
If I wait till tomorrow…
I should start writing now.
But I if I start writing now,
When I’m not really rested,
It could upset my thinking,
Which is no good at all.*
I guess that every writer everywhere could identify with those lines. As if the muse and procrastination are close friends, they appear together and waiting for either one will work. After all, who would want to write when not really rested!
But I’m also learning about another kind of ‘writer’s block.’ If you know me, then you know I like to plot and plan. I like order and systems and having things spelled out in some detail. I like to have a plan for what happens in life, and that includes writing and blogging. I was recently adjusting my weekly calendar and found myself putting in speciﬁc slots for writing. I guess you could call each of them a ‘writer’s block’—a set time when that will be my focus.
But does that mean my muse and my method are running head-on into one another? Can I schedule the muse to be available when I want? Will the muse be as precise as the lines of my little boxes? Will I be ‘creative’ just because that’s what I’ve written in that time slot? Can creativity and containment live side by side?
Part of the answer to that is simply developing the discipline to write something, even if it is not of the highest quality. Quality will come with practice and the practice will come with discipline. As a pastor I have a saying: ‘Sunday’s coming.’ This means, there is time when I will be slated to stand and speak, and I will ﬁnd or be given something to say in those moments. Week after week this is part of the ﬂow of my life. It is also true of blogging on a regular basis—words will arrive in the proper time, partly through discipline and often with delight.
It might be that muses are like instruments that must be tuned on a regular basis and played with some frequency. Not every practice is a great concert, but all of them make a diﬀerence over the course of time. The muse may speak in a more muted tone on some days. The muse may be loud and boisterous on other days. But for the trained artist the muse is probably never fully absent.
So I guess my muse is not missing really. It is also not contained just in those time slots that seem good to me. The muse is free to come and go as it pleases. Insights, instructions, and inspiration can come around any time. The boxes are on the page and can be labeled and ﬁlled as I think appropriate. When the muse and boxes coincide, then good things will hopefully happen.
*Lyrics from the musical You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown
5 thoughts on “My Missing Muse”
Have you ever tried a memory map? Probably just the opposite of the nature of a “planner person.” Start with one word or idea and as things come to mind in relation to it, draw a branch. Each branch may sub-branch endlessly in new directions or parallels. Just let you mind flow. If one line stops you can always go back to a previous one and continue on that path. Can be a refreshing exercise. Could help you explore topics for blogging.
Thanks for this. Not a method I have tried—but I will now.
When I am plagued by writer’s block, I become challenged by the words of Jack London: “Don’t loaf and invite inspiration; light out after it with a club.”
Hmmmm. Where’d I put that club!
I am not especially creative, so I pick up muse from others. When I preached, I preached through books of the Bible and would get my muse from the biblical writers and interpret try to explain that