The Muse and Inspiration: Do We Need Them?

My muse and I can't help but feel inspired in a winter such as this.

My muse and I can’t help but feel inspired in a winter such as this.

The way I see it, there are two opposing views in the writing world when talking about inspiration and the muse.

1. A good writer doesn’t need a muse or inspiration.
2. A good writer needs a muse and inspiration.

Sometimes though, I’m not entirely convinced these two opposites are actually opposing views at all. Let’s look at these statements in more detail.

1. A good writer doesn’t need a muse or inspiration. 

The way I understand this view is that it sees the muse as an excuse to not write. If your muse doesn’t manage to inspire you, it’s not your fault that you’re not writing. My thesis supervisor often says that inspiration is for amateurs. What writing really requires is a lot of work: sitting down and making writing happen, no matter what.

I don’t think this view sees writers as coming up with things to write out of thin air. The way I see it, something drives the writer to write – even professional writers who do commissioned work say that they need something to drive that project forward. There is something inside a writer that can only be released by writing. If there wasn’t, we might as well all give up. But we don’t give up, do we? No, because we have to write. 

2. A good writer needs a muse and inspiration. 

I feel that this view doesn’t allow slacking off either – at least not in the way I see it. Allowing yourself to feel inspired is one of the wonders of this world. I find it magical that an idea can descend upon me and compel me to write it. I’ve recently spent some time describing my inner muse to myself to make her more real. It’s like giving my mind a physical form. Writing is a lonely job, but not so much if I have my muse with me. (Talking to your muse is unlikely to make you seem more sane in other people’s eyes, but we wouldn’t be writing if we cared about other people’s opinions too much.)

Writers still have to do all that hard work, but what drives them forward has been given a name: The Muse. Inspiration. So you see, I agree with both views. I have my muse who I can battle with at times. I feel inspired and embrace what I think of as the spiritual aspect of writing. It doesn’t mean I don’t see writing as hard work. I sit in front of the computer until I can’t feel the chair under me anymore. I write even though the words don’t always come easily. Writing is hard work – even if your muse is by your side.

What do you think? What’s your muse like? Do you have one? Do you think writers need one? How do you see inspiration? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Merry Christmas to all my followers and occasional visitors! Enjoy your holiday – I hope it will be an inspirational one.


Pick of the Month, Writer’s Guide Edition: TED talks

This month I’d like to share something different in my writer’s guide picks. That is, inspirational talks from TED and TEDx events. In the past few days, I’ve spent hours listening to insights into writing and creativity, and I’d like to share some of these with you. You might already be familiar with some or most of them, as they are a couple of years old. They’re all 18 minutes, so listening to one won’t take up too much of your time. Let me know what you think of them! Were they useful? Do you disagree?

Elizabeth Gilbert: Your elusive creative genius

I found this talk a refreshing look into the creative process. Gilbert talks about the link between art and suffering. Is it needed? What can we do as artists to change our mindset, and what might that alternate mindset be?

Simon Van Booy: How to write your novel in under 20 minutes

“Don’t worry about understanding anything – understanding is overrated.” Van Booy talks about the process of writing, how to create your writing conditions and how to feel inspired. He also points out the relationship between writing and playing, which I found interesting and relevant. The love and respect he feels towards writing are very obvious in this talk, and I found the ideas made a lot of sense.

Jarred McGinnis: Writing is the only magic I still believe in

McGinnis speaks about the wonder and the magic of words. He uses the example of speech act theory to demonstrate how words have the power to change the world. McGinnis’ style is very academic, which I connect with, but he also trusts and believes in the magic that is writing.

Adam Falkner: How can writing change the world?

This talk is, once again, about the power of writing and about the honesty that it requires. Falkner demonstrates, through his experiences in teaching, how engaging in dialogue can help us understand and embrace difference. I found this talk inspirational and encouraging – how could we use writing to communicate our identity and share our view of the world with others?

That’s it for today. I hope you find these talks useful!


A Quick Summary

I’m so sorry for not posting lately! It’s been a hectic time for me and I simply haven’t managed to find the time to write this blog. (Excuses, excuses…) Keeping this blog active is definitely going on my list of New Year’s promises.

So what’s been going on? Here’s a quick summary.

Luckily, writing:

1. I’ve gotten a lot of valuable feedback for a play I’m writing, so it’s steadily making progress.

2. I’ve learned new techniques for writing, such as writing without a pen. Basically it means thinking about the action before you write down a single word.

3. I’ve booked a date for handing in my M.A. initial report – that is, twenty pages of text. It’s in late January and come February, I’ll get feedback on it.

4. I’ve been talking about starting a writers’ group with a couple of friends. That way, we could all maintain a steady writing habit.

5. I heard a very inspirational talk by one of my favourite writer/directors, Elias Koskimies. He gave a lot of practical advice on writing and talked about his life and how it has shaped him into who he is. A lot of what he said instantly clicked, so I left the talk feeling like someone finally has words for how I feel. Amazing!

So you see, I have been active with other projects. Let’s see if I can get back on track with this one as well!


That First Paragraph

I’m pretty sure I’m crawling up to a checkpoint with my thesis. It’s not massive, but all the more important:

Writing the first sentences of the first draft.

To be honest, I don’t know if I’ve delayed it too much, but here I go. I’ve done a lot of reading and finally have enough ideas to start writing. I’m not advancing chronologically either. Instead, I decided to write whatever seems most relevant at the time. Right now it’s a short description of the content of my material.

I’m still struggling with my theory. Somehow I feel like I don’t have enough to start writing my theoretical background, because I’m hesitant on what actually is relevant for my study.

Progress, however, feels wonderful.

Do you have any tips or thoughts? How do you know when you know enough – or do you write and then see what you need to research?