O Muses, O high genius, aid me now!
O memory that engraved the things I saw,
Here shall your worth be manifest to all!
– Dante Alighieri
As some of you may know and others of you do not, a muse is basically an inspiration for an idea. According to Wikipedia, upon which so many of us depend on for quick knowledge, Muses “are the goddesses who inspire the creation of literature and the arts. They were considered the source of the knowledge, related orally for centuries in the ancient culture, that was contained in poetic lyrics and myths.” They were Greek goddesses and many poets and writers of the time would ask for their guidance at the beginning of their writing, as Dante Alighieri did in the quote above.
When I’m writing I tend to refer to my little inner voice that inspires me as my ‘Muse.’ If you are a writer, you probably have your own version, where sometimes it seems like words flow out of your mind like a river and you are just along for the ride. As if you are just the conduit, a source for the words to burst out of.
I’ve just taken that feeling and personified it into my Muse. She’s a spiteful creature whose contrary nature tends to drive me insane and she often seeks forgiveness by giving me writing ideas at times when I am unable to write. She thinks it’s funny to take a nap when I have an essay due and whispers to me while I am driving in my car and there isn’t a single piece of paper nearby for me to write ideas upon. I’ve had her fall into a coma for a couple of weeks when I had to write a poem every other day for a class and I’ve had her whisper to me in class so I’m writing furiously to get the ideas down rather than paying attention to the lecture. Basically, she is, if you will excuse my language, a bitch.
Yet, I love that little voice. Whenever she speaks to me, I get really excited and desperately rush to write things down before she goes away. The problem, though, is when she abandons me for a long period of time and it is absolutely essential that something is written. I’m sure you are familiar with this type of problem; it is usually referred to as ‘writer’s block.’
Everyone has suggestions for how to break the block. Some suggest just leaving your project for a little while, which I admit works if it is a short time break. The problem stems from the fact that, very often, writer’s block is a long term occurrence.
For this problem, the main suggestion I’ve received is to ‘just start writing.’ While this does sometimes work when I am writing a creative piece, it fails miserably when it comes to essays. It seems that stress is the only thing that is able to prod my Muse into wakefulness and it is dangerously easy for her to roll over and go back to sleep.
That is when caffeine becomes a key factor.
Drink coffee, pop, energy drinks, whatever hits your fancy. Then, when the energy hits you, sit down and write furiously. Don’t think too much about it; going back and editing is far easier than creating words to put upon the page. Skip your intro and just dig into the meat of the matter. Quote like a fiend and use synonyms to make barely passible sentences into matters of genius.
Note that this is only for desperate measures. Caffeine-induced writing is often of a lower caliber than Muse-induced writing, but sometimes there isn’t any other choice. I also realize that it may not have a good effect on others since this is just my personal method. For me, the energy caffeine gives me is the push I need to actually sit down and write, so try finding the push that will make you work.
To those of you who this fails on, I suggest finding your own way. I think that everyone has their own way of pushing through the block in dire times and that mine may not fit for you. If you have any other ideas, I would love to hear them. Leave a suggestion in the comments.