Ode To A Nomadic Muse

Do all of you have the same problem that I have with finding your inspiration? It may happen that for a day, days, a week (or more), writing and coming up with writing ideas seems like a faucet has been turned on inside of your head. Other days you may find that the well has run dry. I’m pretty sure that my Muse is a petty, nomadic jerk.

I guess it is important to talk about how I find inspiration. Well, for certain books, I sometimes just find that a story pops into my head while I am in the shower, eating a meal, working, shopping…they just come to me out of nowhere. One minute I’m squeezing shampoo into my hand and the next I am rushing to finish my shower so I can outline the idea that came to me at an inopportune time. Though, I suppose there is never a bad time to receive inspiration. It’s just inconvenient when a pen and paper are not at hand.

Sometimes I will find I am reading a quote or listening to a song or listening to people talk in a cafe, or looking at art…and an idea comes to me. For example, I had been toying with an idea of writing a coming-of-age romance between two boys from different backgrounds but couldn’t find the “hook” for the story. Then I read this quote from ‘The Glass Castle‘ by Jeanette Walls:

“One benefit of summer was that each day we had more light to read by.”

Immediately, I wrote down two thoughts:

Two boys from different worlds who fall in love gradually over the course of high school. They are only friends during summer because there is more light to see each other for who they are.

When I started typing…I couldn’t stop. There was never that moment where I had to delete a paragraph or use the “backspace” key excessively. The words just came to me. When I conceived of the characters of Mike and Ian–I just knew who they were. I knew these boys inside and out. I knew why they were the people they were. I knew why Ian chose to work hard to be kind and patient and guarded–even though he could have been a very different person based on his circumstances. I knew why Mike refused to let Ian push him away, why he was nicer than other boys of his status, why he gave Ian so much leeway in their relationship–even though he could have been a very different person based on his circumstances. I knew that from the outside looking in, the relationship might make people scream: Oh my gosh, Mike! Tell Ian to go fuck himself! I knew why Mike wouldn’t do that. But I also knew why Ian wouldn’t have hated Mike if he chose to do so. These were two incredibly layered people who knew that life is messy. Life is not simple. Things are not black and white, no matter how much we want them to be. Sometimes, you have to peel back layers of a person, see them in all seasons and all types of light to truly understand where they are coming from. People, like life, are never as simple as we try to make them out to be. So…writing these characters was one of my greatest thrills as a writer. I honestly miss writing them. But…I’m glad that they ended up in a good place.

So…my muse was with me from inception to the last word written on ‘A Surplus of Light.‘ And I am so grateful. That book and the experience of writing it are two of my greatest joys. The fact that a healthy number of people have enjoyed it makes the experience even more precious to me.

Having said that…sometimes my muse flips me the bird and dashes away, begging me to play a round of “Hide & Seek” with her. Those days, frankly, suck balls. But it’s just part of being a writer, I suppose. My brain can’t be overflowing with creativity and ideas every single moment of every day. Sometimes, I just have to figure out where my muse is so that I can join her there. I find that if I play the game by her rules she is much more generous.

I would suggest to anyone to not force your muse. If you’re having a bad writing day, don’t get too frustrated. Maybe your muse is trying to lead you somewhere. Don’t refuse to listen. Absolutely–write write write. Don’t not write because you “aren’t feeling it.” But don’t squeeze your muse for inspiration. Search her out. Read a book. Read quotes. Listen to music. Go to a museum. Go to a coffee shop and sip your favorite drink and listen to and watch others around you. Have long talks with friends. Just spend time being human. Characters and ideas will spring forth–your muse will jump out at you. That is the most important thing I’ve learned as a writer, I suppose.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,


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