Invoking the Muse: How to Get Inspiration You Can Use I: Hoodoo vs. Hard Work

Thus far I’ve been talking about obstacles to writing and how to get over them.  I may revisit that topic–I’ve been thinking a lot about the problem of aiming low because you don’t feel like you deserve to have success and nice things, so that’s sure to come up soon–but for the moment I’m going to focus on invoking the muse.

Muse Clio

The muse Clio.  Muses for male artists tend to be scantily-clad women (Jung looks meaningfully over my shoulder and mouths the word “Anima”).  What would muses for female artists look like?

Ewan McGregor

Why yes, I did just do a search for “Ewan McGregor undressed.”  Why is that so much worse than ogling a topless Clio?  You can thank me later, ladies, after you’ve gone and churned out the 3,000 words this GIF is sure to inspire.

Anyhoooooo, one of the many challenging things about writing is that it requires both a lot of hard work and a certain amount of hoodoo, and both have to come from you.  Anyone promising you that you can just easily pick it up is selling you something.

The hard work part is obvious enough, in that you just have to buckle down and do it.  It’s immediately evident and gives the appearance of being under your conscious control.  The hoodoo is harder because it has this illusion of effortlessness, but is notoriously difficult, one might even say impossible, to control completely.  People can get hung up on one end of the spectrum or the other in an attempt to avoid the part they don’t want to deal with.  Unfortunately, starting, then completing, then selling or otherwise putting out into the world, a writing project involves all aspects of the process.

Here’s a little diagram of the hoodoo/hard work continuum:

Hoodoo/Hard Work Continuum


Hoodoo                                                                                                                       Hard Work


Inspiration     Writing     Marketing/Publishing         Editing           Formatting


Notice that even inspiration, which is definitely the most hoodoo-heavy part of the process, is set a little towards the “hard work” end of the continuum.  The actual writing and marketing and publishing are somewhere nearer the middle, since they are both certainly a lot of work but still involve a strong hoodoo aspect.  Editing and formatting are the most responsive to sheer effort, but still require a touch of hoodoo in order to preserve and showcase the inspiration that is at the core of your work.

So, how do you get that inspiration to come calling?  It’s the chanciest part of the whole enterprise, but also the most essential.  Without that central, unifying artistic vision, you will not be able to produce worthwhile work.  So it’s worth your while to try to develop it and get good ideas.  Some suggestions for where you can find your creative spark are coming next week.  (What can I say, I’m a tease.  It will get your creative juices flowing).

Next topic: dreams and visions (and reality)!

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