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Walking Your Muse

November 29, 2007
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Walking Your Muse
By Perry P. Perkins

“Spend time every day listening to what your muse is trying to tell you”
– Saint Bartholomew

If you are anything like me (though I’m certainly not accusing you of that) you’re a burgeoning writer who spends much of your time trapped in a small room, staring at a computer screen and praying for enlightenment.My writing room/kennel/coat closet holds many wonderful memories…a few triumphs, a few failures, and any number of finished pages that I can look back on with pride and a wonderful sense of accomplishment. The only problem is, short of a rejection letter avalanche, the scenery seldom changes.

After long hours at the keyboard, those four walls can start to close in, becoming a creativity deprivation chamber. The same old sounds: the whir of my computer, and the hum of the overhead fan. The same old smells: the aroma of books and paper, a whiff of potpourri from my wife’s chambers (also known as the rest of the house) and the occasional, unwelcome contribution by my basset hound, Phlash.  In this void of sensory input, nothing is refilling the reservoir of creativity that I’m pouring into my work, and both begin to dry up.

In the deafening absence of typing, I grab a jacket and a leash, and head out the door.

On a walk, I can get a latte, find a park bench, read an article, and just watch the world go by. The constant flow of sights, sounds and smells stimulates my creativity; seeing a car with a funny bumper sticker go by, the smell of rain on warm pavement, or the sway of cedars against a blue sky. My senses become more attuned, bringing new thoughts, and queuing old memories.

After a while, my muse cracks an eye, yawns, stretches, and finally comes awake, demanding a swallow of my coffee. Soon, that guy in the funny hat becomes the quirky doorman in my current short-story, the shriek and warble of a police siren weaves its way into my novel.

The reservoir is filling back up.

In fact, this very moment we (my muse and I) are sitting on a park bench in a light morning fog, Phlash at our feet, reading this month’s issue of a favorite writer’s magazine and sipping a strong Italian espresso.

Here are some suggestions we’ve come up with on taking your muse for a walk:

1. Consider walking alone.
This is a personal issue, but I find that my most creative times come when it’s just my dog and me. He never wants to talk about the bills, or painting the house, or where we want to go for dinner (though I’m sure he has suggestions), and it doesn’t seem unfair to expect him to keep quiet while I struggle to find a funny way to use the word weasel in a new article.

More importantly, he usually thinks my ideas are great, seldom comments on my sentence structure, and always wags at my jokes.

Note: If you want to be a happy, successful, married writer, it’s a good idea to plan some additional walks with just your spouse and leave the recorder at home. The dog is optional.

2.  You’ll need a means of tracking your thoughts.
I recently traded in my old cassette dictation machine for a compact digital recorder. I’ve found the digital to be so much more diverse in allowing me to store my thoughts in separate project folders on my computer, rename files so I can quickly find them later, and not have to hassle with fast-forwards and rewinds to find the note I’m looking for.

On the moderately priced Olympus model that I chose, I can even take a low-resolution photo to capture those scenes that even a thousand words might not have brought back to me.

The recorder, digital or tape, allows you to get a thought down quickly without losing yourself and the “feel” of the moment, trying to find the perfect words (that part comes later.)

My original plan was to minimize the number of gadgets I carry by combining a recorder with a MP3 music player. After much comparison shopping I was disappointed to find that most of these devices focus more on the music and less on the voice recorder, often burying that feature in a second, or even third submenu, making it complicated and, ultimately, frustrating to use.

Finally, I decided that I’d tough it out and just pack the extra two ounces when I wanted music as well. That kind of suffering is good for the writer’s soul.

3. Find a quiet place, but not too quiet.
Make sure there’s enough going on to invoke the senses. Try to find a location where other people’s conversation will not disrupt you, and where you are not interrupting others by taking notes (I tend to get self conscious about recording my ideas in public, and nothing will send the muse into hiding as quickly as embarrassment).

I like to walk as varied a route as possible, through a busy section of town to a quiet park or playground, a shady spot along the river, or an outside table at a coffee shop.

This is not a place for “finish work” but an opportunity to create new ideas and expand on current projects; ideas that you’ll fine-tune in the quiet of your writing space, undistracted, and with your reference materials at hand.

So, if the walls of your office are starting to close in, or if your creative pool has become dusty and leaf-littered, try taking your muse for a walk.

Give her some fresh air and sunshine, buy her a cappuccino, and be ready to write down what she has to say…

***

Perry’s Bio

Perry P. Perkins was born and raised in Oregon.  His writing includes the inspirational novels: “Just Past Oysterville,” “Shoalwater Voices,” and the eBook, “The Light at the End of the Tunnel.” Perry is a student of Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writer’s Guild and a frequent contributor to the Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies.

Perry’s work can be found online at http://www.perryperkinsbooks.com/

Permission is given to copy this article for ezines, newsletters, as web-sites as long as bio and link to my website are included.

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