Playing with the Muse

Making a Date to Play

by Sylvie Kurtz

Playing with the Muse

Playing with the Muse will allow you to harness her creativity. Artists often describe the muse as fickle. I think of her more like a child with ADD. I picture her a bit like Tinkerbell, bright and bouncy, flitting here and there, her attention diverted by anything that catches her attention.

Article Playing with the Muse Image of a Muse

The Critic

My critic, on the other hand, looks like a pasty white blob poured into a throne-like chair. He wears a purple robe adorned with silver stars and, given half a chance, will expound on (and on, and on) any topic with enviable certainty.

Both the muse and the critic have their functions. But they tend not to play well together. If the muse shows up first and spills her vast reserves of glittery energy, that gives the critic something to work with. The trick is giving the muse a chance to do her thing before the critic tries to create order out of her chaos.

How to Play

So how do you invite the muse out to play? Show up, open up, listen up, and follow up.

1. Show 
up.

 Like 
any
 ADD
 child,
 the
 muse
 thrives
 on 
structure. 

If
 you
 make
 a 
play
 date
 at 
a
 specific
 time 
and 
place,
 she’s 
more 
likely 
to 
show 
up.

 And 
if
 you 
keep
 that
 date
 regular, 
it
 becomes 
habit,
 and
 she 
might
 already 
be 
waiting
 for 
you 
when 
you
 sit 
down.

You may want to create a ritual that allows you to quiet down and get into the present. The muse doesn’t think about yesterday or tomorrow. She’s all about the now. I have a salt lamp I turn on to let my muse know I’m here and ready.

2. Open 
up.

 The 
muse 
wants 
to 
play. 

Play
 is 
what 
she’s
 all
 about.

 But
 to 
engage
 her
 to 
play 
with
 you,
 you 
have
 to
 let 
her 
know 
that
 you
 want 
to 
play, 
too.

 So 
start 
writing.

 Doesn’t 
matter 
what 
you
 write;
 just 
write.

 Keep 
the
 pen
 moving.

When I first started writing, my confidence level bordered on the non-existent. I set a timer for fifteen minutes and forced myself to write. For the longest time, all I could do was write things like, “This is stupid. I can’t write. Who do I think I am?” But eventually, the critic got bored and took a nap. That’s when the muse stated whispering. “If you were to write a real story ….”

3. Listen 
up.

 Like
 any 
kid,
 the
 muse 
wants 
to
 know 
that
 someone’s 
listening
 to
 her.

 My 
son 
used
 to
 come 
home 
from
 school,
 flop 
into 
the 
rocking
 chair 
in 
my 
office
 and
 spill his
 day.

 This 
was 
a
 gift 
I
 loved,
 but
 sometimes,
 especially 
when
 I
 was 
on
 deadline,
 I
 tried 
to 
multi‐task—one ear 
on
 the 
conversation;
 the 
other
 on
 the
 work.

 And 
even
 though
 I
 could
 repeat 
what 
he’d
 told
 me 
word‐for‐word,
 he’d 
sigh
 and
 say,
 “Mom,
 you’re 
not 
listening.”

 He 
needed
 eye 
contact 
to 
feel
 heard.

Transcribe what the muse tells you, even if it doesn’t make sense. Write fast. The muse loves speed. Forget the “rules” of good writing. Forget proper punctuation. Feel the emotions she brings up. Ask her questions and let her answer. Feeling listened to will thrill her and make her want to play more often.

4. Follow
 up.

To
 make 
the 
muse 
feel
 as 
if 
you
 appreciate
 her,
 she
 wants 
you 
to
 do
 something
 with 
her 
gift.

 She 
doesn’t 
like
 to
 see
 her pearls
 lying
 there 
unused.

 In
 the
 mess 
of
 words
 on 
the 
page,
 you’ll
 unearth
 gems.

And this is where she won’t mind the critic stepping in. Because patience and skill are the critic’s strong points, he can string those pearls together into a satisfying whole.

The muse wants to play. All she’s waiting for is your invitation to a play date.

© 2010

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