Listen to your muse–or your subconscious or your dreams when you write

If you want fresh ideas for your novel or short story in progress, keep the work on your mind, at least sort of while you’re doing repetitive tasks or end up watching a boring TV show. (I’ve learned that it’s not good to do this while you’re having a conversation with your spouse.)

Keeping the story in mind during times when I’m not facing the pressure of a blank screen seems to bring ideas to mind that I hadn’t thought of before. Quite often, they’re about something a character should do or say in the scene I’m about to write.

Most writers I know choke up–rather like the batter in a world series game who finds himself facing the ace reliever on the other team–when they start a new chapter. It’s as though the page break at the end of the previous chapter has turned into a scary threshold and now the ideas just won’t come.

I usually wait a day or so before starting a new chapter. That gives time for my muse, so to speak, to supply some ideas for jump-starting the action.  When I’m not sitting at the PC, a treasure trove of ideas comes into my thoughts out of nowhere. These are pure cold and much better than anything I would have come up with while staring fearfully at the screen.

According to Wikipedia, “In modern figurative usage, a muse is a literal person or supernatural force that serves as someone’s source of artistic inspiration.” I prefer the supernatural force explanation. The muse in the painting, who works with sacred poetry, is Polyhymnia. My muse is much more up-to-date.

Somewhere or other, I have a post out there in which I said that I rejected the idea of an author’s muse because those portrayed by artists always seemed to be fragile women who were dying of consumption. As it turned out, a character in one of my older novels became the personification of my muse. She’s really badass.

I don’t try to visualize this character while waiting for book ideas. I just think about the work in progress and Siobhan always shows up with the ideas I need to get back to work.

Does this sound weird or does it already work for you?


Malcolm R. Campbell’s muse got really snarky while he was writing “Special Investigative Reporter.” That’s probably why the AudioFile Magazine reviewer said, “The story is high on humor but light on plot–a vehicle for sex, cigarettes, steak, and zinfandel.”