Is Your Muse a Mean Girl?

Sometimes I swear my muse auditioned for Mean Girls. She ambushed me on my drive home from work with four writing topics. I didn’t have paper! I didn’t have a pen! And I wasn’t about to text and drive. I tried to mentally juggle the ideas until I got home and could make a dash for my laptop.

And then I pictured myself running across my driveway in my heels and pencil skirt, jogging down to my basement-level apartment, and bursting in as I dropped my bags, keys, and lunch box, and dove for my laptop. The image irked me. Who the Hades does my muse think she is? “If these are really great ideas,” I said to her, “then you’ll still be here when I’m ready for you. I’m going to think about something else now.”

And I turned up Justin Timberlake’s “Not a Bad Thing.”

Not it’s not, J.T.–I ain’t got time for bullies. And I don’t have the energy for the needless pressure to bow to the creative urge. So here are a few ways I take charge of my creativity:

Show up
A brilliant idea is no good if you don’t show up to develop it. If you do this enough times–no matter how inspired you feel–those ideas will start to show up at the same time. It’s practically the law of averages.

If I’m feeling frazzled and unfocused, I take my work to a favorite coffee shop. The atmosphere soothes, and removing myself from the endless to-dos in my apartment–laundry, dishes, binge-watching Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix–keeps me on task. Plus, a bit of people watching can spark new ideas.

Time out
There’s a time to push through and a time to quit. If you can’t get momentum, take a time out. Take a few deep breaths. Let your mind wonder. Let your feet wander. Creativity might just whisper in your ear. And this time, you’ll be prepared to listen.

Talk it out
Are you so set on an idea it blocks you from exploring others? Bounce ideas off friends, coworkers, and loved ones—ask them to brainstorm with you. Some of my best inspiration has come from these conversations. Verbalizing my ideas also helps me sort my outline.

Set boundaries
In their bestselling book Boundaries, Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend write that life without boundaries is out of control. And let’s face it, it’s also exhausting. Being creative should not induce anxiety. If you’re in the middle of something else when creativity ambushes, it’s time to have the boundary talk with your muse.

The good ideas will stick. And the others? They’ll probably go bug someone else.

How do you handle creativity?


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