How I evoke my writing muse

I have dedicated myself to being a creative writer — endeavoring to perform consistently, and at the best of my evolving ability. I currently write poems, essays, and short stories — in that order of quantity output, enjoying each equally.

A recent comment on this blog got me to thinking about how I find my inspiration — how I evoke my ‘muse’. I’d like to share my ‘process’ with you here.

Whether you fully read this post or not — please do take a moment and describe the process you use to coax your muse, explain how you approach your writing – and leave it in the comments at the bottom of this post. Thank you very much in advance for doing so. It is appreciated.

Below is how I coax my muse. But first — a simple ode to those elusive, diaphanous entities of inspiration…

Fickle Muse

Wee hours,
with the sane asleep,
this poet’s steeped
in conflicted inspiration.

Promptings vague,
I am filled with doubt,
words tossed about
the unyielding empty page.

I start, then stop,
to write, then not,
now clear, then caught
in merciless hesitation.

Fickle muse,
let’s be off with you!
I’ll start anew
when free of quandary’s cage.

rob kistner © 2007

COAXING MY MUSE – my process:

Before I begin to write a poem, I often have a word or phrase that has been gnawing at me — something that has been prodding me to investigate its poetic possibilities.

If not, and I am in the mood to write, I search my subconscious for a word or phrase. I often simply begin jotting down anything that comes to mind, unanalyzed, from my stream of consciousness. Sometimes I begin skimming something printed, anything, until a word or phrase grabs me.

When I have found something that intrigues me, I then speak this word or phrase out loud a number of times — not thinking what the word(s) ‘mean’ immediately. Instead, I just ‘hear’ the word or phrase, listening carefully to its sound.

I feel my mouth form around the word or phrase, paying close attention as it moves on my lips and tongue… how its resonance feels in my voice box. This is a very tactile involvement that I find inspiring.

I also use *Garage Band to make a quick recording of my voice saying the word or phrase with a variety of inflections that feel natural — to get a pure reactionary sense for the sound of the word or phrase.

I then examine the definitional, as well as any colloquial meaning(s) of the word or phrase — overlaying and blending all of this interaction and inquiry, to see where my muse then takes me.

I let the direction and shape of the poem unfold naturally. This includes the ‘form’ of the poem as it speaks to me. I find my voice most comfortably in free verse – but that is not always the case.

I seldom begin by deciding on a form – unless I have chosen to work with a prompt that has dictated the form.

I also have the occasional poem, which simply bubbles up, from my soul, reasonably intact. These are usually driven by the core message or spirit of the poem, and prompted by some profound personal experience.

That’s my process for evoking my poetic muse, and writing my poetry.

When I am working with a prompt, the process is the same. The difference being, the word or phrase, and sometimes even the form, is predetermined.

My process for writing prose or essays most often begins with a concept or topic that has grabbed my attention and won’t let go. I generally do not try to ‘prime’ my muse for this type of writing – unless it is short story fiction.

I approach short story fiction with a similar process as my poetry writing — but only with regard to finding my ‘prompt’, my topic and plot. I do not use the tactile ’sounding’ part of my poetry writing process.

I find prose and essays flow most effectively from my soul if I am naturally drawn, with some passion, to the subject matter. I have yet to tackle the novel, so I have nothing to offer with regard to that type of writing.

*NOTE: I often use Garage Band to crate complete ‘spoken word’ recording of my poetry.

22 thoughts on “How I evoke my writing muse”

  1. Wanna exchange muses?

    How do I evoke mine… I’ve got a package in my heart, you see, and when I unwrap it on paper, it’s not what I thought it was. So I set about reading it and cutting off the unnecessary stuff, mainly adjectives and adverbs.

    I read what’s left, and move words and commas. After a few days I start seeing the poem that I knew was in the package that was in my heart. I get very excited at this point, and will refuse anything (even sex) to explore the contents of the package before me.

    I go on till I can’t go on anymore. I then forget the promising poem and read somebody else’s perfect poem(s) a few times. Then I got back to my promising poems and read it a few times, move a comma or two, then post it, knowing that I’ll work on it some more before I call it a poem.

    I wanna find a nicer muse…

  2. Tara

    Thanks! Seems the ghost in my machine has been exorcised and hings are again working.

    I’ll have to move the comments over from the original post one at a time, manually — I’ll get them moved, eventually… 😉

  3. Rethabile

    You wouldn’t want my muse — very controlling… 😉

    Thank you so much for sharing insight to you and your muse. It is a wonderful approach you take to your writing!

  4. Juliet

    Sorry for the problem I was having on that original post. 🙁

    Please do come back and share… 😉

  5. (Thanks to Google Documents, I still have my comments that refused to stick last Thursday. Here ya go!)

    For the most part, I only write when the spirit moves me. The majority of my poetry was written in my teenage and young adult years, and it was an outlet for whatever strong emotion I was feeling at the time. My blog postings evolve the same way. If I see or hear something that moves me, I want to tell someone about it so I write a post for my blog.

    The Poetry Thursday and Sunday Scribblings projects are my first attempts to write without being carried away by my feelings. Now that I am older, I find it more difficult to write without being given a subject. The momentum of hormones carried me in my youth and caused me to write all sorts of poems about unrequited love. They weren’t necessarily good, but at least I was able to get them out. Nowadays I edit everything before it leaves my head.

    One thing I have noticed is that I produce better work either first thing in the morning or after midnight. Perhaps those are the times when I am most unguarded.

  6. Dani

    Thank you for being persistent and sharing your approach to writing! I appreciate your contribution… 😉

    I can relate to you comments here, the difference being, I no longer edit before it leaves my head. I was coached to put it down on paper, no mater how random or ‘off-topic’ it may seem — then go back and edit everything from the paper.

    I have discovered very interesting perspectives to a poem by taking this approach. Surprisingly, I have also discovered completely different poems hidden among these stream-of-consciousness scribblings.

    I, like you, do seem to be most productive in the early morning, and during the wee-witching-hours. I think it is because we are less guarded — and for me, the midnight hours also find me the most relaxed… a kind of raw frankness spills out in those dark hours.

    Thanks again Dani — wonderful sharing!

  7. Rav’N

    Glad you liked it! Thanks! 😉

    I read your poem about writers block. It was very effective… I liked!

    I wrote another poem here on Image & Verse about a loss of contact with one’s muse — it’s a bit darker, called “Uninspired“. Check it put if you wish…

  8. It’s so interesting that your processes is so very similar to mine. For me words and language are more than just the building blocks of a poem or story. I have a very deconstructionalist approach to language. Words are not just literal representations of things, they are collections of letters, they are sounds, syllables and images. They are cacophonous jabs and soft whispers of breath.
    Oftentimes, I get words or phrases stuck in my head, kind of like normal people get a song stuck in their head. I can go around all day with my brain on a constant loop of words. Some recent ones? “Back door beauty”, “allegorical abandon” and “gelatinous.” The words toss around in my brain until they become strange and disconnected. Eventually, I know they will find their way into a poem, but until they do, they just sort of swim around in there.

  9. Holly

    Thank you very much for contributing!

    I completely understand what you are saying. I do the same thing with the sounds of words and phrases — I get them stuck in the tape-loop inside my head.  I think, for me, it was because I am a vocalist that sound plays such an important role in my writing.

    When you sing, you certainly pay attention to the words, but largely its the tone, timbre, rhythm, and the musical note of the word or syllable that are of utmost importance — so I think that has carried into my whole relationship with words… with language.

    Again, I appreciate your sharing… 😉

  10. I have a harder time turning the muse off than on. If given a prompt, be it a thought, photo or word, something will immediately flow onto keyboard.

    If I just want to write a poem without a prompt, I can sit with no conscious thought and something will come out. It is rare that words don’t flow. They are not always good words….

  11. Marcia

    Thank you for contributing, and sharing your experience! I genuinely appreciate it… 😉

    Most of the time the words come for me as well. To find the right final ‘colors’ of my pieces through editing and re-editing… that’s where my time and focused care comes to play — honing.

  12. Hi Rob,
    My writing spills forth in an energetic tumble, no matter what the topic. I’m tactile, in that I write best when holding certain pens that I call my writing pens. As an artist, I must see the words on my paper. (I can write by typing from the computer but that’s a far less smooth process.)

    Often, I’m inspired by strong emotions that feel as if they were bottled up and MUSt be released. As I write, it’s the pen that knows what will come forth, more than my mind. So the result is often a surprise to me as it unfolds. It’s a kinesthetic process, agumented by the auditory(somewhat like you) and the visual.

    Music inside of me, plays a huge role. It’s as if an inner rhythm drives the words to the page. I always hear the words that I choose to use, thinking about the strength of their sounds when spoken outloud. I do not record my work before writing, although sometimes I record it afterwards. Although I often write free verse in poetry, alliteration, internal rhyme, onametopeai, and other such sound devices play a strong role.

    My writing needs to be a palette for me, whether it’s dark, light, or in between. There’s so much more to my process, but I cover that in my workshops.

    Interesting post.

  13. Gel

    Thank you very much for contributing! 😉

    It would seem you and I find ‘sound’ and ‘rhythm’ important aspects of our writing. Being an artist myself, the visual plays itself out in my work as well. I am very drawn to imagery.

    Very interesting Gel. I appreciate your sharing…

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