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Thursday, January 30

Input for Writers: 6 Ways to Feed Your Muse

By Bethany Henry

Part of The Writer’s Life Series


JH: Being productive isn't always about how much you write. Sometimes, it's about how well you manage your muse. Bethany Henry shares tips on how to feed your muse and keep your creativity flowing.


Bethany Henry writes fantasy novels and blogs about writing and wellness at bethany-henry.com. When not writing, she can often be found on the frisbee field, drinking tea, or reading picture books with her two little girls. Sign up for her email list for weekly posts on writing craft- along with fun extras like quotes and freebies.

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Take it away Bethany...

Everything I hear lately has been about hustle. Hustle hard, hustle often. Be productive! Be the boss.

It’s all about output.

Bethany Henry
Our output is measured by how many pages we’ve written, how many hours we’re working, how many words we’re typing per minute. And yes, it’s helpful to track our work and it’s important to push ourselves to achieve our goals. I’m a big believer in having big goals and finding ways to follow through on them.

But when “hustle” is our constant mindset it is simply exhausting.

Focusing on our output forever simply isn’t sustainable.

Part of the problem is that as writers, our work comes from within. Our creativity comes from our minds, from our memories, from our hearts.

Churning out page after page can make us run the risk of creative burn-out unless we are finding ways to refill our creative well, so to speak.

This refill time is our input. This is how we feed our muse.

Taking time to have quality input into our lives is just as important as our measurable output.

Making time for refilling our creative well is tricky because for the most part we’re only recognized for what we produce. We don’t get praised or land an agent because we read a pile of books, visited a museum, or took a walk in the woods.

Yet it’s these acts that are vital for our creativity to flourish, for the gardens of our minds to be healthy and well.



Input Strategies: 6 Ways to Feed Your Muse


This list comes with the caveat that all people and writers are different and so everyone will have different strategies that work well for them. Practice and try different things until you find what makes your creative soul happy!

When we take the time to nourish our minds we’ll find it leads to wonderful results.

1. Read Read Read Read


As Stephen King famously said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time or the tools to write.”

As writers, it’s pretty much a requirement to be reading.

We should be reading our favorite authors, we should be reading in our chosen genres, and we should be reading elsewhere as well. Read varied and read often! We should be reading outside of our comfort zone, reading in genres that are unfamiliar to us, reading what people are talking about to find out why it works (or doesn’t).

Exposing ourselves to stories, characters, and words will expand our own library of knowledge and ideas.

What are you reading these days? 

(Here's more on When Your Muse is Missing in Action)

2. Study Writing Craft


We all have more to learn.

Sometimes I don’t want feedback or to learn from masters because I believe I know it all... but that’s a lie told by pride. There is always more to learn and ways to improve.

Always.

If we want to improve then we need to be looking for ways to learn.

One of the great things about our world today is that there’s an overwhelming wealth of information at our fingertips.

There are some brilliant blogs run by people who really know their stuff. Fiction University alone has enough resources to keep you busy reading and learning for a long while! Check out the topic index on the left hand side of the site or search for whatever is on your mind.

Also take a look at Fiction University’s curated list of online resources for writers.

And then there are some fantastic books to read! Wonderful writers share their knowledge to lead the way through what it means to be an author as well as the nuts and bolts of the craft. You can find some of my favorites here.

We all have more to learn, and we owe it to ourselves and our work to push ourselves forward toward greatness.

And by learning more about the craft of writing we are better preparing ourselves for our work, which in turn will allow our writing to improve.

What’s an aspect of writing you’d like to learn more about? 

(Here's more on Exercises To Help You Create FICTION not FRICTION)


3. Dabble in Creativity


The written word is just one form of art. The world is filled with ways to express creativity!

Often as writers we allow writing to take up all of our time and attention. But in some ways, taking time to dabble in other forms of creativity can actually help our writing in the long run.

Music, painting, dance, photography, cooking… there are countless ways to be creative.

Dabbling in different types of art can expand our horizons, help us to see things differently, and help enrich our writing when we return to it.

What creative outlet would you like to take some time for? 

(Here's more on On Maximizing Creativity)




4. Adventure Time


At some point we need to get off of our computers and go experience life.

Ray Bradbury states:
“In a lifetime we stuff ourselves with sounds, sights, smells, tastes, and textures of people, animals, landscapes, events, large and small. We stuff ourselves with these impressions and experiences and our reaction to them. These are the stuffs, the foods, on which The Muse grows.”
We need to get outside! Leave our desks, stretch our legs, and soak in the life around us.

It’s time to go for a walk, try something new, visit that museum you’ve driven past a hundred times, eat something you’ve never tried before, really look at the color of the sky, play with a child.

Pay attention to what we hear, see, and taste.

Let it fill us, inspire us, and make us wonder.

And let it fill our writing with life.

What’s something you can do to experience life today? 

(Here's more on A Guide to Creativity and Time)


5. Health Check


Our physical, mental, and creative health are all connected.

Taking time to take care of our bodies and minds is critical to wellness and isn’t something we can afford to overlook.

Evaluate where you’re at physically, mentally, and spiritually these days and identify where there may be room for improvement. Invest in yourself.

Maybe take some time to drink more water, spend time with your family, journal, or simply take a nap. Find ways to practice self-care.

How is your physical and mental health these days? 

(Here's more on Unleashing Creative Flow: Nurturing Your Body, Mind, and Spirit)

6. Do Nothing


Our minds are amazing things. They create worlds and stories out of nothing! Along with a million other tasks.

With all this going on, our brains need time to process information. Even when we take breaks they are working in the background, fiddling with a problem, absorbing knowledge, and solidifying memories.

In fact, these breaks actually help our minds to process information better than if we worked and studied continually.

And sometimes when we think we’re doing nothing at all we may find new ideas blooming out of nowhere. We may find that the very problems we’ve struggled with may not be so complicated as we thought.

Doing nothing gives us space for imagination to spark, for our thoughts to wander. It grants us time to think about things without needing an answer and provides a safe space where no answers are impossible.

This is our chance to dream.

And dreams are the lifeblood of the writer.

When was the last time you took time to do nothing? 

(Here's more on Writers--Give Yourselves a Break)


Prioritizing Input


So let’s prioritize our input as writers! Let’s invest our time in ourselves and in our writing. And as we feed our muse and our creative gardens, let’s be prepared to watch them bloom.

What about you? What strategies refill your creative well? Please share what works for you, whether it’s from this list or something else we can all benefit from!

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