So I hear things are getting serious with you and your muse! You’re getting together more often, things feel “right,” your writer friends refer to you as a unit rather than two disparate entities ... it’s a wonderful feeling, isn’t it? Well, listen up, because here’s where it gets tricky. When the fairy dust wears off, and everything you two do stops seeming sparkly and wonderful just because you’re in love, things are gonna get real, and life is going to happen, and it’s way too easy to stop having that lovin’ feeling. I’ve got your back: follow these steps, and you’ll be able to weather the hard times like a seasoned pro.
1. Be attentive.
A day or two goes by where you can’t devote as much time to your muse. They sidle up and try to get your attention, and you wave them off because you absolutely have to finish this load of laundry, or arrange a celebratory dinner, or do your taxes. Life gets busy, it’s true, and sometimes you don’t have a choice other than to take things down a notch.
That being said, you can almost always find the time and energy to write a note from your main character to their love interest, or to edit what you wrote yesterday. Find a way to show your muse that they’re still important to you, even if you can’t devote as much time to them as you’d like right now, and they’ll recognize that you still care, making them far more likely to stick around.
2. Define boundaries.
While it’s important to be attentive to your muse, you also need to establish some boundaries. This will depend on the kind of relationship you want. Maybe you’re happy spending hours together each and every day - some of it dedicated writing time, some of it just dawdling through brainstorming and reading books together - or maybe you’re better off with something more defined, more strict, like two hours a day, from 1:00 to 3:00 PM, Monday to Friday, and you spend your weekends doing other things.
Don’t define your relationship with your muse by what works for your best writing buddy: this relationship is unique to you and your muse, so the boundaries that work for you will be different, too.
3. Have date nights.
Once you’ve defined the boundaries of your relationship with your muse, you’ll have a sense of the routine that works best for you. With that in mind, you can mix things up once in a while, do something special. This isn’t just for the benefit of your muse: this is for both of you. It’s a special thing you have going, and it can be easy to take that for granted, especially once you slip into a routine that feels so terribly comfy.
Have a date night with your muse once in a while. Write somewhere you’ve never been, have a writing marathon, go hear an author speak and take copious notes. Make the effort and your muse will return the favour.
If they don’t, if they’re a little tired and maybe not all there, that’s okay, too: they’ll still appreciate the time you put in, and you’ll reap the rewards in future.
4. Don’t crowd or pressure your muse.
With all this talk about being attentive to your muse and spending time with them and going on date nights, there’s another point to be made: crowding and pressuring your muse is BAD. Like we talked about earlier, your relationship might bear up to six, eight, ten hours a day doing writing and writing-related activities, or it might be more along the lines of an hour every morning. Don’t try and make the relationship something it’s not, and recognize that relationships go through phases.
If you’ve spent three months writing for five hours a day, every day, without pause, and your writing is starting to feel bland, your muse might be feeling a little worn out. Give them some room to breathe. Spend a few days freewriting, art journaling, filling the well.
It’s important in times like these to show your muse that you’re there, that you’ll be waiting for them when they’re ready, and that you’re prepared to support them and bear some of the load in the meantime.
5. Know when to be playful and when to get serious.
The best relationships are the ones where we can be silly, where we can do something goofy without worrying we’ll be looked down on or made fun of. Don’t be afraid to run amok with your muse (click to Tweet!), adding space ninjas to your work-in-progress or gallivanting through bizarre prompts. I’ve started keeping track of my favourite prompts on Pinterest, so I can find them easily:
Seriously. Have fun. Treat your muse like it’s the Doctor, standing at the console of the TARDIS, asking if you’d rather have tea with the king of the hamsters or see the Beatles in concert, and say “YES!” with unbridled enthusiasm!
Just as there’s a time for silliness, though, there’s a time to buckle down and get serious. Keep things light for too long, putting off opportunities to dive deep with a new story idea or with your work-in-progress, and your muse is going to start feeling like you’re not all in. They might stick around for a while, or their gaze might start to wander, and you’ll start giving each other the silent treatment, and one day you’ll wake up and realize that you feel like you don’t really know each other anymore, that it’s hard to trust, to reach out. It’s a painful situation, and the best way to avoid it (as well as following the advice throughout this post) is to commit to regular writing sessions where you dive into your story and write. Use prompts as a warm-up or when things feel stale, but don’t let it become your default for too long.
6. Play fair.
It starts innocently enough. You’re talking with a writing friend and they’re gushing (rightfully so) about how their latest WIP has been flying off their fingertips. They talk about how well it’s working to write in the early morning, so they have the rest of the day free to focus on their day job and spending time with their kids. You think, Wow, that must be nice. Because things haven’t been smooth sailing for you and your muse lately. You’re scratching out more than you’re writing; and time to spend with your kids and spouse? Forget it.
And then things turn a little more bitter. You start to think how inconvenient it is that you can only write at night. You snort as you remember the cold shoulder your muse gave you the other day when you tried to talk to them about that new character. It ain’t pretty.
It’s easy to accuse your muse of being flighty and forget your own part in the relationship. It’s easy to forget it’s a partnership, that you’re equally as responsible for how it goes, if not more. The fact is, if you lash out at your muse, if you rail at them for never being there when you need them, you’re only going to drive them further away.
Be kind. Look at why things aren’t working. Go back to the earlier points in this post and see what you’re missing. If writing at night isn’t panning out anymore, change your schedule around to try an hour in the morning and two in the afternoon. If you’re struggling to move forward with your work-in-progress, set it aside for a little while and work on a fresh project, giving yourself a deadline by which you’ll return to the other.
Whatever you do, though, play fair. The grass isn’t always greener. Remember how, a month ago, that same writing friend who was just telling you how head over heels in love they are with their WIP was crying on your shoulder about how nothing was working, they couldn’t write anymore, they just didn’t know how to string a sentence together in a way that could possibly matter?
Yeah. What goes around, comes around. You’ll get through this. Just don’t give up. You and your muse are in this together.
7. The little things matter.
Okay, that last point was a little heavy. We’re going to end things on a sweet, light note now, but no less important, so listen up.
A crucial key to courting your muse is to pay attention to the little things.
Think about it: if you’re always focused on the date nights and grand gestures, the writing marathons and the plot outlines, things are going to peter out pretty darn fast. You’ll lose steam. How could you not?
We’ve already talked about putting in the effort and making things fun, but let’s talk about how that applies to the little things. It’s about narrowing your focus. It’s about giving your mind a break from the big stuff to do something like reworking one of your scenes to make it fresher, more lively; (re)developing one of your characters to ensure they pop off the page and into your reader’s lap; or using the Pomodoro technique every day for a week to revamp your writing routine into something more manageable.
If you’ve been focused for a while on writing 3,000 words a day, this could feel painfully slow, and like you’ll never get anywhere. It might even feel like it doesn’t matter. But it does. The little things, in concert with the big and the middling things, are going to keep you and your muse together in a happy, healthy relationship for decades to come. Just wait for the golden anniversary party. It’s going to be a hoot!