The word “muse” may often call forth images of Renaissance Italy, tortured poets and gifted painters with women to whom all their works were dedicated. Next to God, love is the second greatest inspiration visible in classic art, and even more so evident in the modern pieces of today. However, where does the inspiration come from? Maybe you’ve never been in love. Maybe you have, but you don’t find that something strong enough to bring forth new story ideas and carry you through a project. The truth is that inspiration comes in the form of all sorts of different muses, and I’m going to share some of my own today. Perhaps these revelations will help you tap into your own.
I can’t lucid dream, but I do have a knack for remembering things I’ve dreamt of in strong detail. In fact, my current project, Within, is the story that happens between two dreams I actually experienced a year apart from one another. The first was actually the end of the novel. I tried to write with it, starting at that point, but it didn’t stick. I didn’t know who my characters were, who they were up against or fighting for, or why they said the things that they did in the dream.
A year later I got my answer, and now I’m writing that story and think it’s some of my best work. Dreams, although they may be wild and incomprehensible at times, still come from within us. They can reveal hopes, fears and everything in between and even give us characters or settings our conscious brains would never slow down enough to tap into.
If you never remember your dreams, start keeping a notepad and pen by your bed at night. When you wake up from one, jot down everything you remember. It doesn’t have to be in fluid sentences. Just get the major parts and over time, you’ll begin to remember more and more when you wake.
Dreams are interwoven in my stories and play in an integral role in almost every novel I write, and the reason why they’re such great muses is that they’re simply you.
I love music. I listen to it all the time. I work to it. I look up songs I hear on TV shows. I find the songs playing overhead in stores using an app on my phone. Music makes us feel understood. We feel empowered and comforted by the lyrics artists sing, often times capturing the emotions and thoughts we can’t verbalize or deal with on our own.
When you write, listen to music you love first. Envision your book like a movie or a show. Watch the scenes play out in your head. As a writing exercise, pick one song, put it on repeat and keep it going while you write a specific moment in your book to the music.
Learn to dissect the parts of a song and figure out which resonate with you the most and why. Does the quivering violin in a orchestral piece remind you of the fragility of a character? Do lyrics in an indie track capture exactly what your protagonist is going through? Make Spotify or iTunes playlists for each character in your book and the project itself. Don’t be afraid to mix it up and explore other songs in addition to what’s currently in your library.
By exploring your characters’ minds and developing their musical tastes, you’ll discover a lot about them that you will be able to insert into your writing.
The last muse I’ll list today is probably at the top of all of your lists. Reading the writing of others really inspires me to get into my own. I know sometimes it can have the counter effect; you read something incredible and think, I could never write something anyone would love the way I love this. But that isn’t true. In fact, you can’t say that unless you actually write something to begin with. Of course no one will love what you’ve written if all you’ve got is a blank page and a load of self-apathy. Put that to good use! Start writing and keep reading.
Also, don’t feel pressured to read books just because they’re done by great writers. You may not like to read Keats or Hemingway. While I do think that everyone should indulge in these works due to the fact they’ve have had such a profound impact on society, I don’t think everyone is obligated to fall in love with the classics. Expose yourself. Sample chapters, essays and more. Those high school English textbooks actually have some pretty good stuff inside.
Flavorwire.com published a great article called “A College Curriculum on Your Bookshelf: 50 Books for 50 Classes” that is bound to have something that appeals to you and will get you thinking. Whether its science fiction, religious books, post-apocalyptic or YA thrillers, dabble in a bit of everything to culture yourself and bring a larger worldview to your own writing. I’ve had things as seemingly insignificant as tumblr text posts strike a chord and influence lines in my work. It isn’t so much about what you read so much as how you read it.
To Sum Things Up
Your muse might not be books. It may not be music. Whatever it is, it’s art in some form or another. If you get the most inspiration while walking through nature, you’re witnessing one of the greatest works of all by the greatest artist of all time. God made the world and everything in it. He made us capable of doing incredible things. Our minds and personalities are as diverse as the land itself, meaning we can draw inspiration individually from all sorts of different aspects of life and use them to inspire our writing.
These works may go on to be inspiration to others, either because they share the same interests or because you awoke their minds to an entirely different perspective. The best way to utilize your muse when writing is to create things that inspire you.
Jessica Wynn is a 22-year-old NYC expat living in the Eternal City. She’s currently studying web development and design while working on her third novel, Within, and frequently blogs about the process, offers writing advice and shares other musings about comics, music and life over on her site, Little Siberia.