Muscling the Muse: Or Three Easy Steps for Talent on Demand

By: Kathleen Pickering

I was a sweet, but scrappy kid. Caught a couple of bruises along the way, but as you can see from the photo, whatever tangle caused the shiner, it wasn’t enough to get me down. I was quick to smile.

black eye

That’s how I feel about the writing process. You can’t let challenges get you down. I figure it this way: Writing is fifty percent talent, fifty percent Muse. Both need my undivided attention to stay strong. Every other obstacle will fall away with these two muscles pumped.

As stated above, talent for one’s vocation is a muscle that must be exercised. Otherwise, the gift atrophies. So, I write and write, and write some more. At different times, in different places or adhering to a schedule for a particular project. Whatever works. I do it.

There are talented individuals in  every field  who never realize their genius because they never exercise their gifts. Worse, some never know they possess unique skills at all. To that end, I highly encourage every thinking soul to explore what excites them. Always investigate topics that pique your interest. My mantra: Honor your passion. (Unless, of course, you are a terrorist or a serial killer. Then I suggest you seek help!)

My passions are writing and public speaking. These are the muscles I exercise. As we all know, the more we work our muscles, the more defined they become.

It is my sly little Muse, however, who until recently had me wrapped around her finger. For way too long I let her govern my work with her whims and fancies. Not any longer. When my editor asked for three more proposals, I realized I could not just wait for my Muse to wave her creative wand. She needed muscling.

So, you ask, how do you muscle your muse? I have three simple but important rules.  While they require determination, they are so easy that your Muse won’t even know she/he is being manipulated.

1. LOVE YOUR MUSE. You may say, of course I do! But keep in mind the self-critic can be cruel to our adventurous Muse. No matter what your talent, your individual creative view is unique to you. You have to respect that fact and let nothing damage your self-worth. It is your individuality that makes you one with the world. You might say, Not so. The world would carry on just fine without me. I say, the world might carry on if you were not to love and exercise your muse, but the world–and you–would sadly miss a profound part of creation. Otherwise, why are you here in the first place?

No one else sees the world quite as you do. It’s the Kurt Vonneguts, the Picassos, the daVincis, the Einsteins, the Maria Tallchiefs, the Luciano Pavarottis and Maria Callases, the Stephen Kings, The Kathleen Pickerings (just checking to see if you’re still reading) and YOU who make the world go ‘round.

All artists have their critics. They all have their admirers. Neither matters. You and only you matter to your Muse. If you don’t love what your Muse offers, you will not let him/her create. Your talent will atrophy and you will wonder why you have become a sarcastic and bitter being rather than a shining light.

writersforneworleans-2010At Heather Graham’s Writers for New Orleans conference with authors Linda Conrad and Traci Hall.

2. FEED YOUR MUSE. Now that she/he is loving you back, you must feed your Muse. What others call writer’s block, I call a poor diet for the Imagination. The Muse needs exposure to everything delectable—and sometimes things not so tasty in life. That means your Muse accompanies you on your travels. Let her be the finger that taps the keyboard or opens the books on your research. Let your Muse listen in on conversations and initiate a few of her own. Then Listen. Watch. Smell. Touch. Devour. Your Muse will not disappoint you. With love and food, your Muse will be generous in return. You might even get a belch for a good laugh out of the deal. That works, too!

3. LET YOUR MUSE FLY. Muses are flighty creatures. They may burrow. They may forage. But, once they feel safe, they fly. Your job as an artistic soul is to give your Muse the updraft, the cliff’s end, the launch pad to soar. Your Muse may create unusable material at first, but the more he/she exercises the muscles in those wings, the more beautiful the magic dust that will alight from them. Don’t be afraid. (Fear is an awful four letter word that shall not be used.) Love your Muse enough to let him/her take a chance, test an idea. Create. A Muse’s wings may be as delicate as a dragon fly’s or as powerful as an eagle’s. Only by launching from that artistic limb of “what if” will you know which wings your Muse possesses. Think of the freedom!

dreaming aMy artist friend, Kimana Evans, once asked me how I see my myself. I told her that in my dreams I fly. She gifted me with this wonderful water color of me . . . or shall I say, my Muse. (Can you see me flying in the clouds?) I love this artistic expression created by my friend. This painting hangs where I write. It reminds me of my passion, talents and Muse every day.

I’d say I’ve come a long way from that scrappy kid with the shiner! I may have had to muscle my way into a foothold in my creative world, but I have certainly carved out my ground. I know that by honoring my talent and adhering to the rules for my Muse, I will create the impression that I was born to make. So far, the journey has been exciting, challenging and way too much fun to be called work. I am a grateful woman.

So, tell me. What do you do to keep your talent fresh and your Muse loved, fed and flying?

Happy Writing or whatever your talent may be!

PS: By the way, Kimana would be happy to create a painting for you, as well. You can find her on Facebook: Tell her I sent you.

30 thoughts on “Muscling the Muse: Or Three Easy Steps for Talent on Demand

  1. Very nice painting and very helpful post, Kathleen. Re: the photo…what did your sparring partner look like?

    My muse, alas, is high maintenance and plays hard to get. Sometimes we both need to date other people. Eventually, however, one of us woos the other back.

  2. Uplifting and inspirational, Kathy. And you’re so correct about the self-critic and the damage it can do. We all do it, but getting out of dark doubt quickly is vital. One proven method is to “write through it”. Just keep writing. The more we write, the better the chance that inspiration will kick in.

  3. I enjoyed reading your post, Kathy, and I wish you much success with your books. Your uplifting outlook is a joy.

    My muse is my love of the arts, but what truly inspires me is writing a feel-good story for others to enjoy. I’ve found the best way to do this is to break free of constraints – from others or self-imposed – and go with my instincts. I recently released two books in a series, one a romantic suspense and the other a romantic comedy. I’ve been told you’re “not supposed” to mix genres in a series because readers won’t like that. Since Nov., I’ve sold over 15,000 books combined and haven’t gotten any reader comments about expecting another romantic suspense like the first book.

    Happy writing, everyone, and may your creative muse shine!

  4. Great blog, Kathy and wonderful advice. Love the photo from New Orleans. Especially love the watercolor of your flying muse. Let her spirit soar and good luck on the proposals!!

  5. My Muse is a guy. He wears a fedora and pounds on an old Underwood. He smokes cigars and tells me to quit whining and get back to work. He doesn’t like excuses. He has no wings. He doesn’t fly. If I hit a wall he may put his feet on the desk and buck me up a little, maybe tell me a story or two, but then he’ll say, “Get your butt back in the chair and write, after you bring me some coffee.”

  6. Hey gang, after sitting on the sidelines for the last six months, reading all your posts with great interest, I’m Finally checking in.
    Kathleen, you are very fortunate to be so attuned to your creative process. Music plays a huge part in mine, and stirs my imagination on a subconcious level, particulary when it is instrumental. Perhaps one of you KZ’ers could introduce this as a topic in the future.

  7. Joe–That’s one of the oddities of kid-dom. I can’t remember that shiner. However, when I write the story based on my life, that will surely be the cover!

    Ahh, our fickle muses. I can give you a hint . . . muses like to be muscled into submission! 🙂

  8. Joe Moore— you are so correct! There’s that old cliche: the light at the end of the tunnel. What most folks neglect to do is honor the ride through the dark!

    May your Muse overflow!!

  9. Sophia! What wonderful book sale numbers! You must be really proud of your instincts!!

    I read your books, lady, and they are feel good, hot and excellent. It is clear you are a talent well tethered to your Muse–an excellent example to us all!

  10. Robert– I am a music devotee. It’s in my blood and runs my nervous system. I would have been a rock star if my voice could only match my imagination! LOL!! I play the piano like Liberaci after about, say three glasses of wine. And, I wait until the house is asleep. If they hear me, they’ll think it’s a bad dream or indigestion, or something. But tell you what: I’ll dance to anything. Music makes me move like nothing else!!

    I say yes! Let’s talk about music and it’s affect on all of us on the TKZ. If none of my compatriots wants to, I will next time.

    Thank you for checking in. Glad to know you are out there. Don’t be a stranger!

  11. That is a very nice painting of your muse. Very inspiring, to say the least.

    My muse seems to be missing in action currently. Went on holiday or something. Maybe she’s hiding at the new house we just bought?

  12. I want to come hang out with you for a week for inspirational therapy!

    1. Love Your Muse
    2. Feed Your Muse
    3. Let your Muse Fly

    I’m posting these words next to my writing desk, Kathleen. Thank you for reminding me how important this is!

  13. Paula, YAY! I know we’ll meet one of these days!

    Glad I could help with your Muse therapy. Where do you live? Do you belong to any writing groups? If not, make the effort. You’ll be surprised at how much inspiration you’ll get from the new friends you make. And, that’s my muse talkin’!

  14. I’ll bet you got that shiner by protecting your right to be just who you are! A talented and warm individual with a touch of the devil. Your muse has to be exciting and innovative. Or it wouldn’t you!

  15. Thanks for your inspiring post, girl. Hanging out here at TKZ gives me juice. Trying new things with my writing always pumps me up. Each book is a challenge I dive into.

    Happy writing!

  16. My pair of black haired, almond eyed, hot, sexy muses (read about them in detail here) recently abandoned me. They left an invisible muse-mail on the fridge stating something about winning the “Olympus Lotto” and taking a hot air balloon trip, followed by some scuba diving in the South Pacific. Sigh. While at least the nights have been a little less exhausting, I miss alternately snuggling, or tussling with them.

    In the meantime I have been left with my original muse from elementary school, a forty year old wind up musical monkey. It’s got a brass key that’s slightly bent, one of the tambourines is cracked and a musicbox tine has gotten off key, but when its all you’ve got to work with, its all you’ve got.

    So I write…and hopefully something comes up finished soon.

    hrm … I never really noticed how echoey this place is…or maybe I forgot. Um, I’m sorry but I honestly hope the noise in my head isn’t bothering you.

    I miss my sexy muses, hope they come back soon.

  17. You’d make a great writing coach! What do I do? Self-discipline. I don’t wait for the muse to strike. After my initial research and plotting, I write a synopsis and then I set daily and weekly writing quotas. Writing is a job. You have to work at it consistently, but every now and then, you need to go out and play. That’s how you refill your creative well.

  18. Love the ideas on your “Dream Board” and see the relevance of the advice on pursuing your muse as in The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron.

Comments are closed.