Let me tell you about a ... uhh ... friend of mine. She was sitting on the toilet, minding her own business, doing her... business, when someone stuck their head around the door and started screaming really important information at her. I...she... had never got off the toilet, flushed, washed her hands and run back to her computer so fast in all her life.
That, dear reader, was an attack of the muse. To non-writers, the concept of a muse must seem like a bizarre imaginary friend that creative types carry around with them. I suppose that’s true in a way. Let me tell you though, that friend, is temperamental at best, often shows up at inconvenient times (see above) and if you throw them a party - put everything in place just the way they like it and dress yourself up all pretty, you’ll be disappointed to find they don’t turn up.
There is a reason my muse popped up whilst I was ‘otherwise indisposed’. I believe that inspiration sits on a very fine edge between the conscious and subconscious. During those moments when you are awake but not really paying attention to anything, you’re just functioning at a base level of awareness, running on auto-pilot, and your mind regresses into some hidden cave full of treasures. The vast majority of my plot and character revelations occur whilst I’m in the shower. Something about the white noise of the water, the soothing feel of getting clean and the utter bliss of warm water sends my mind into writer mode. My poor husband is learning not to speak to me until after I get out the shower and sit down at the laptop to frantically type up the shit I’ve just thought of. I get irrationally mad at him if he distracts me; it’s as if being brought back into the real world will cause me to forget something important in my imaginary world. Actually it’s not irrational to get mad, because that does happen. I’ll wager most writers have had that moment when they wake up in the middle of the night with some amazing revelation of story that they simply needed to act on and write down.
The trick is to try and replicate that state of mind during the times when you are sat with the document open – or pen in hand – ready to write. No easy task, granted. How to achieve that will vary from person to person. I like to listen to some calming instrumental music and zone out. It also helps to take a long walk or just sit quietly for a time with a blank mind.
The muse is a fickle creature, but when he/she wants to play it feels like you’re opening the best present ever on your birthday. Best of all, it’s free.