Outsmarting the Muse

Our dog, Chewie, is a runner. As in, if he spies an open door, out he runs. And for the first few years of his life, we chased him. Through strangers’ yards, across vast, grassy fields, and into muddy horse pastures. We started using hot dogs to coax him home, with limited success. He would get within arm’s reach–just close enough to eat every last bit of hot dog—before taking off again, gleefully and without remorse.

But something amazing happened when I tried a new approach: I stopped chasing him. Now, if he gets out the front door, I sit down on the porch and watch him while he sniffs around the neighbor’s yard. After a few minutes I stand and call him, voice pitched high and overly cheerful, clapping my hands until he eventually chases me into the house.

By changing the game, I’ve saved so much time and energy!

In my writing life, I face a similar problem with inspiration and motivation. My muse is a runner. I spend way too much time trying to chase her down; too much time worrying about writing and not enough time actually doing it.

By applying the Chewie principle, I’ve devised a new strategy to outsmart my muse.

1. Patience: I will have more patience, with myself and with whatever challenges come my way. I don’t always need to chase the muse, especially when other facets of my life need and deserve my undivided attention.

2. Positive Attitude: I will approach writing with optimism and enthusiasm, even if I have to fake it some of the time. (“Look, muse! Look how much FUN I’m having, sitting here at my computer! Wouldn’t you like to join me having all the FUN?”)

3. Routine: I will sit down to write at roughly the same time and place every day, so that the muse will know where to find me.

4. Atmosphere: I will create a comfortable and inviting atmosphere to bribe tempt the muse into hanging out with me. A quiet space, maybe with a little music playing, is ideal. Internet distractions highly discouraged. Pajama pants and Diet Coke preferred.

Even if your muse is more cooperative than mine, these four steps can help your writing life become more productive and less exhausting. And if you’re struggling, I urge you to change the game.

Rethink your strategy.

Outsmart that muse.

No hot dogs required.


Growing up, Christine Hayes loved reading stories about creatures that curl your toes and legends that send a shiver down your spine. Now she loves writing about them, too. Her debut novel, MOTHMAN’S CURSE, was released in June 2015 through Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. Christine seeks inspiration by haunting flea markets and estate sales, searching for cool vintage finds with a story to tell. While earning her degree in music she visited Asia for the first time, and later moved there with her family for several years. She has been addicted to travel ever since. Christine and her clan now live in northern Utah. Find her online at www.christinehayesbooks.com.

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