musing about my muse

The writing life is an interesting one. I’ve been a freelance writer since 1993, during which time my career has evolved from that of independent communications consultant, to freelance periodical writer, to author of books and blogger.

Of all of those, I must say I prefer blogging. When you are a blogger, you are the quintessential content provider. A conductor and curator of content … choosing the topic, the treatment of that topic, the visuals, and the tone with no influence other than your own inspiration. You of course keep your audience in mind, knowing what type of subject encourages and inspires them, but it is you who will ultimately decide what will show up on the screen.

Our muse can come in the form of nature.

Our muse can come in the form of nature.

That taste of blogging independence set the stage for me to become a self published author, as the scenario is very comparable to that of a blogger. As a self published author, I get to choose the cover for my book, the photos that are used inside, the tone, and the audience to whom I will direct my work. That all sounds very good, but it is the endurance that becomes a factor when one is writing and publishing a book or any work of considerable length.

As I wrote in this post, perseverance is a key component in making it as a writer. We certainly had an amazing discussion that evolved from that post, so if you haven’t read it, please do.

And as I reflected in this post when I was writing my last book, I have a pretty short attention span on occasion, and so I had to adapt a way to break down a large writing project into short digestible ones so that I could persevere, stick with it, and get it done. “Before You Say Yes” was much easier for me to write than “Chocolatour.” I basically had it done within a three-month period as I was writing from my experiences as a lifelong volunteer and most of what I was writing came from my inside my head.

With “Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate” I am having to travel the world in order to research the world of chocolate. I have divided the project geographically so that the 1st edition will focus on Europe and the UK, the 2nd edition on the Americas and the Caribbean, and the 3rd edition on the rest of the world. That way, I can publish the 1st edition and begin to market it while I am researching and writing the 2nd edition, and the same will happen with the 3rd edition.

But I am finding that the key to helping me get the book done is the graceful appearance of my muse. When she is with me, my confidence soars, my creativity shines, my determination strengthens, and the progress is significant. When she is gone, writing can become a chore, I become easily distracted, and my progress is an uphill battle. She was off somewhere else and I lost more than a month of writing time, but she is back and so is my drive. Long live the muse, and may she stay at my side forever more.

Do you have a muse that helps with your writing, to keep you on track and focused when  you are working on large projects?  Have you found a way to bribe her to make her stick around? Mine can have all the chocolate she wants, but I’m not sure if that’s enough. πŸ™‚

 

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

50 Responses

  1. Gavin V. Reeves says:

    In Greek mythology, Zeus and Mnemosyne had nine daughters known as the muses, or the protectors of art and science. Many artists refer to a personal muse–someone or something that provides a source of inspiration. The muse is where the writer can turn when he or she faces a block in creativity; the muse is always present. While a muse can be concrete–a loved one who is always there to offer encouragement–often the muse exists within the artist himself. Finding your writing muse can be a challenge, but it may lead to inspiration you never knew you had.

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Hi Gavin. Thanks for your comment and welcome to the blog!

      Yes, I do think the muse is within us all. But the problem is that she all-too-often is asleep or otherwise engaged. The key is to keep her stimulated and thereby ever-present.
      WizardOfWords recently posted…an ode to things gone byMy Profile

  2. Doreen,
    I love your definition of a blogger as being a “quintessential content provider”. I’ve never attempted to define what blogging meant to me before but that sums it up perfectly!
    Sherryl Perry recently posted…5 Essential Apps for EntrepreneursMy Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks, Sherryl! I had to go back and read the original post, and sure enough … I wrote those words! I really do love blogging. It is the ultimate platform for someone who likes to write, share their thoughts and opinions, and engage in conversation. That’s me, alright!

  3. Doreen, it’s fascinating to read what goes on with a real writer like you! I”m not a writer, but I find that I spend well over 30% of my time writing. Mostly writing blogs, my web pages, and my newsletters. Oh yes, and writing my book, which will be out shortly.
    Writing to aid in marketing my career is so different than what you do because it’s not my career, nor my passion. Until I read your blog today it never occurred to me that a muse might be helpful. Probably because I’m not a “writer”.
    I’m going to find a muse so that I can enjoy the process even more πŸ™‚

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks for your comment, Wendy.

      There are so many kinds of writing. I love blogging because it’s easy. Just me talking about observations of the writing life here on this blog. And about chocolate travel on the other blog. That one requires more research, but fortunately, that research (and many of those posts) are being transformed into content for my book. A slightly different style of writing is necessary for the book, but when we’re writing first person memoirs, the process is similar. It’s difficult for me when I have to put my journalist’s hat back on, as that is much more fact-based and requires even more research. Good luck with your book!

  4. Leora says:

    Totally unrealistic, but somehow your question on Do you have a muse? made me think of a business called Rent a Muse.

    No, no muse here, but I love to blog. Having a great image to go with the post helps inspire me.
    Leora recently posted…Hurricane Sandy After: Problems, ProblemsMy Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Hi Leora and thanks for visiting the blog.

      Never heard of “Rent a Muse!” Will have to check it out! I wonder if any of our readers have used the service?

      Yes, I always have images in the posts on my chocolate travel blog. But somehow, images for the posts here don’t easily come to me. Maybe I should work on that …

  5. Interesting post. I’ve never thought about whether or not I have a muse, but I guess I do. I sort of think of my two favourite provinces as my muse – Nova Scotia and Manitoba – they speak to me from time to time, whisper ideas, and throw concepts back and forth with me. I find I feel most creative and wanting to write after a weekend getaway with one of them discovering new things and places. Although they are destinations and generally lead to blog posts about travel or provincial discovery, they do also inspire me in fiction, my free flow writing group, etc. I keep two small beautiful water colour prints in my living room as a reminder – one is of a Manitoba map with a heart in it and one is of a Nova Scotia map with a heart in it.

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Hi LGB and thanks for your comment.

      Indeed, I find places can truly be an inspiration to my writing. That’s why I’ve combined the travel element into my book about chocolate. It just couldn’t be about chocolate as that’s been done before. I wanted to bring the personalities of the chocolate makers and the places that inspire them into the mix. It sounds like you take a similar approach to your writing. Cheers!

  6. Jeri says:

    In the past year, as I’ve transitioned from teaching English back into my true passion for writing, I’ve found that getting back in touch with my Muse has been extremely difficult. Most days, I feel like I’ve forgotten how to be truly creative. Then I kick myself and get on it with. As with all things in life, I’ve realized I need to give myself permission to listen to my Muse and stop worrying about trivial things.
    Jeri recently posted…Author Interview: Alberto ArciaMy Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Right on, Jeri! Sometimes it’s hard to block out all the other chatter that goes on in our brains and distracts us from our creative flow. I pretty much need quiet for the truly good stuff to flow. I can write with background noise, but it’s never my best stuff. Good luck in seducing the muse back into your life.

  7. A.K.Andrew says:

    Really interesting post Doreen. The elusive muse is indeed a slippery one. I also find that when she’s there, she buoys my confidence , and then when she goes, the work drags, if not dries up altogether. The only thing I would say about how to keep her, is to keep in touch with your work as much as possible. Daily is not always realistic, but even if it’s a small edit it keeps you in there.
    As for managing big projects, thinking of it in terms of a lot of of small ones is the only way to go – one word, sentence, paragraph, or chapter at a time. Otherwise it’s often too overwhelming. I enjoyed hearing about your writing path and how it’s progressed. Thank you:-)
    A.K.Andrew recently posted…PEN – Do You Have the Freedom to Write?My Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks, A.K.! It’s always great hearing from you.

      Yes, I’m fortunate in that Chocolatour has a couple of chapters that are a compilation of short entries, so when I don’t have time to focus and really “write,” I can still drop into those and add updates. It’s all progress. πŸ™‚

      Here’s hoping today is a totally productive day, as I’m trying to finish up the chapter on Italy (one of your fav countries!) Happy wkend and wish me luck!

  8. Hi Doreen,
    I understand the struggle when your muse leaves you. I’m experiencing that right now with my second book, but I am at least able to keep up with blogging. I think the reason for the lack of drive with my novel is that it’s actually a revision of an earlier version. I think my muse may be telling me it’s time to give it up and start something new.
    Angela Joseph recently posted…Will You Pay Someone To Write Your Synopsis?My Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks for dropping by the blog, Angela, and for sharing your thoughts. It’s cool that right here in the comment thread we have members of the WWC, Toastmasters, the BHB group, PWAC, and some personal friends and family. I’m so fortunate to have such a supportive network. πŸ™‚

      Yes, sometimes it’s hard to maintain enthusiasm for a project that may have seen its time. Only you can decide when it’s time to move on to something new.

  9. I have to agree Doreen, I’ve been writing now for 8 years as a freelancer, and at times writing for someone else in their voice can be tedious. I find that writing my blog, choosing the photos I want, and going out in search of new destinations to write about, gets the creative juices flowing again, and gives me the recharge I need to tackle someone else’s assignment. (though the challenge now is to NOT write my own blog when I have assignments waiting).

    As for my muse – she regularly shows up when I’m out driving the highways here in Saskatchewan, which makes it hard to get the ideas down, so I’ve taken to traveling with my voice recorder in tow.

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Right on, Gail! The muse can show up at the most – or least opportune moment, so we’ve got to be ready! Using the voice recorder on a smartphone always comes in handy, as does to having a notebook and pen always at hand.

      Glad you’re enjoying blogging, but yes, keeping that in balance with paid work is always important. The good thing is that writing my blog(s) has definitely led to some paying gigs, and that my chocolate travel blog has brought in some paying advertisers. πŸ™‚ I’m sure yours will produce the same results.

  10. Aayna says:

    I am so so impressed by you and your story. I also act as a freelance writer in my own space, but I lack any particular muse. I guess. I should search for one. Thanks for the share

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks for the comment, Aayna, and for visiting the blog.

      You don’t need to search for a muse. One will find you when you ask for inspiration or guidance. Someone in our community here suggested having a portrait of an owl overlooking them as they work. And when they need inspiration … they look to the owl (their muse) for it. You need to find something to inspire you. For some people it’s faith. For some it’s external influences. For me, it’s a blend of both. I draw from within, while also being fuelled by the creativity of others. Good luck in finding your formula for success.

  11. Hi Doreen,

    I completely agree with what you said about blogging. Even though I have been writing for a long time, it was only when I started blogging that I could say that I was able to stretch and hone my writing skills.

    As for my muse for writing, I notice that she is there whenever I’d be in a restaurant or cafe while sipping a latte and tucking to some delicious food. I think I’ll do that more often to keep her on my side.
    Adeline Yuboco recently posted…The Top 10 Spookiest Spots in the Philippines to Visit This HalloweenMy Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Hi and thanks for your comment, Adeline!

      Yes, there’s something about enjoying things that tantalize our taste buds that really gets the creative juices flowing. That’s why I always keep some good chocolate right beside my computer, and usually in my purse and car. πŸ™‚

  12. Mary-Anne says:

    Enjoyed reading about your muse. Being a quilter I really need to find a muse to finish my UFO’s!

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Yay, Mary-Anne! Congrats on making your first comment on the blog! Welcome aboard. It’s great having you here. πŸ™‚

      Yes, as a quilter, I’m sure that you, too, often find the need for a creative force to help you move a project forward. Good luck in finding yours. Maybe you need to bribe her with some chocolate …

  13. Phoenix says:

    I’m like you, Doreen. I have a notebook and pen(s) beside my bed. Stories come to me in the wee hours of the morning and I gotta capture them! Lately I’ve been getting the most amazing technicolor images. I’m gonna have to pull out the paints! ^__^

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Cool, Esther. Yes, I’d definitely like to see you painting/drawing. It sounds like you’ve got some incredible creative resources into which you’ve not yet tapped. Hopefully in time, they will all present themselves to you.

  14. Jena Isle says:

    Hi Doreen,

    My muse often escapes nowadays, because I’m often stressed-out and cranky. But when I settle down, she comes and perches herself quietly beside me.

    It’s good you have your muse with you. I hope she stays forever.

    I would like to write a book too, but it seems I can’t yet. It remains as one of the items in my bucket list, however.
    Jena Isle recently posted…By: JenaIsleMy Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks for your comment, Jena, and for your kind words about my muse. I, too, hope she stays forever and helps me move forward in my work as an author.

      Your book will come. One day … the idea will just come to you! That’s what happened with my last book. It just occurred to me one day and I was off and running.

  15. Geek Girl says:

    What I have learned is that I have to write in the morning before I start anything else for the day. Things just flow that way. If I wait until later in the day, it is a real struggle. Not the same thing as you are speaking of, but it works just the same. πŸ™‚
    Geek Girl recently posted…Motivational Monday – 10/29My Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Hi Cheryl and thanks for your comment. Yes, I like blogging in the early morning just after I get up. I have so many distractions as the day goes on, but getting my blog post done in the morning before breakfast really helps get it done.

      Then I have breakfast and tackle any necessary domestic chores. Only after I get those done can I settle in and focus in on my serious writing. (And yes, writing about chocolate is “serious” writing for me!)

  16. Jay Remer says:

    Doreen,
    I would not be able to stay focused nearly as well without my β€˜muse’. She takes the form of a beautiful Cape Dorset lithograph of an Owl perched to the left of my work couch. If I start to drift, I glance up and she helps bring me back to centre. How nice had I discovered her 50 years ago!

    • WizardOfWords says:

      That is so cool, Jay. An image would make a great muse (or source of inspiration) that we can have with us to call on when we need focus, inspiration, or determination. And what is more intense than the intense glare of an owl!

      Interesting how we all find our own ways to keep us motivated. Thanks for dropping by the blog. It’s been a while since we’ve seen your handsome face in the comment stream. πŸ™‚

      Oops! Just realized your face isn’t in your gravitar here on WordPress. You might like to add it!

  17. I have to laugh when I read about the short attention spam as I can totally identify with it Doreen. I find chunking a project down into small project steps helps a lot. Also listening to music helps.
    Susan Oakes recently posted…What Do New Customers Look For When Buying?My Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Hi Susan and thanks for your comment. Nope. Music doesn’t work for me as far as motivating me to get writing done. It really distracts me (there goes that short attention span again!) Although it’s great when I’m cleaning house or doing chores that don’t require concentration.

  18. Harry Hobbs says:

    Hi Doreen:

    Thanks for sharing your blogging experience. At a recent writing workshop I attended, blogging was considered the best way for a writer to get his name and ideas out there. I’ve been slow to do this as I feel to be a good blogger you have to post regularly and have something thoughtful to say.

    My muse gets bogged down with working on a new creative nonfiction book and doing a final rewrite of my novel -plus writing speeches for Toastmasters. When it comes to blogging and finding time good old muse comes up empty.

    • WizardOfWords says:

      You might indeed like to try blogging, Harry. Even if you only do it 2x per month. Just develop a regular schedule as I have done. I generally post to this blog on the 1st and 3rd weeks of the month (this month is an anomaly as it has 5 weeks) and the 2nd and 4th weeks of the month on my travel blog.

      Blogging helps keep the creative juices flowing and often is just what you need to kickstart your day. Be sure to let me know if you launch one. πŸ™‚

  19. Jon Jefferson says:

    In the past I needed certain music to help me focus. In a way I still do, music reminds me that it is time to work (have to turn off the tv and turn on some tunes). But I have also found that I need to have my own space. With others around me I tend to lose focus on the task at hand and get so much less done.

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Hi Jon: I can’t work (write) with music on. Music lift my spirit, inspires, and motivates me. But when it comes time to writing, I need quiet and clarity of mind with no distractions.

  20. As you know, I love to read what you write. I never thought of myself as a writer. So having a muse was not something I had ever contemplated. Now I am one of sorts and find I do have a muse in my past life experiences. She shows up in unexpected ways and at the most unusual times and the ideas flow. I write the ideas down furiously, not to miss a one, all something I had forgotten about. πŸ™‚

    • WizardOfWords says:

      That’s right, Susan. The muse might show up with a bold, stormy entrance or in a quiet surge. But she brings you inspiration and insight, and without her … the ideas only trickle like a dried up well.

      I always keep a pen and paper by my bed as the ideas often come to me early in the morning before I rise. In fact … the inspiration for this post came to me that way.

      Thanks again for your much appreciated support and friendship. πŸ™‚

  21. I admit I am one to become bored so I have designed my blog to reflect my crafty views on drink and food. Plenty of ideas now. Plus it helps me share as well as educate myself.

    I really want to read you book on chocolate. Sounds awesome.
    Patrick Huff recently posted…Beer Review – Weyerbacher Last Chance IPAMy Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Hi Patrick and thanks for visiting the blog. I know you’ve been to my chocolate blog, but I believe this is your first visit here.

      Yes, the great thing about writing and blogging is that you can educate yourself in a variety of topics that pique your interest. I’ve learned so much over the years about topics on which I have written articles.

      Glad you’re looking forward to the book. I’ll need all the help I can get in helping to promote it.

  22. Linda says:

    My muse, whoever and wherever he, she, or it is, has abandoned me lately. I can barely comment on other’s fine work.
    Linda recently posted…Speaking through the lensMy Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Oh, Linda. I know how you feel. The entire month of Sept and 1st half of Oct were difficult for me in moving forward. I could do blogging and short assignments. But the really important stuff — like starting new chapters in my book seemed like an unachievable goal. I do hope you’ll get your mojo back soon, and I highly recommend you intake you chocolate consumption in the meantime!

  23. KellyWade says:

    Sounds like you’re book is going to be right up my alley- I love chocolate! I love your take on blogging and it’s so true. The freedom that comes along with sharing your ideas with no boundaries or limitations is awesome and allows for complete creative control in our own hands. Its a great outlet to share everything you want to say!
    KellyWade recently posted…Foods That Trigger HeadachesMy Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks, Kelly. If you love chocolate, please drop over to https://chocolatour.net. It’s really a great place to be.

      I will check out your blog as I hope you don’t have chocolate listed for triggering headaches (but I won’t be surprised if you do.)

  24. Mike says:

    Not sure if I have a muse, but I do enjoy blogging. What keeps me going is knowing that blogging helps me in keeping my writing skills sharp. It’s also fun to share my knowledge and interests with others.

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Right on, Mike. Blogging is indeed a great exercise for many things. The only difficulties it has caused me is that it is difficult to “change speeds” and shift from a blogging tone to a journalism tone if I’m doing a freelance assignment. Good thing that most of the writing I do is travel related, where we’re allowed to put our opinions into the mix. πŸ™‚

  1. July 10, 2013

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