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Cures for the Quarantined Muse by Deborah Riley-Magnus

By nature, we writers live in the world of “What If?” What if there was a planet made of only water? Or rubber? Or fire? What if our main character lived in a cave? Had green skin? Walked on all fours? What if the world was dropped into a horrible pandemic and we had to … oh, wait … that’s already happening, right?

So how are we writers dealing with this dilemma? Especially those of us who have discovered that our muse is also in quarantine… SOMEPLACE ELSE! We’re used to being able to touch, and dream, and think, and chat with our muse. We listen for her whispers and shouts. We carefully soothe her when she’s angry or petulant. We even plan our days and nights around our muse’s moods.

She is our lifeline to finding The End. Without her, we whither and eat a lot of Girl Scout cookies. We can’t help it. We are destitute!

I, personally, have resorted to a few rather bad habits. Every single day something arrives via FedEx, or UPS, or the USPS. As I drag my still pajamaed and inexplicably tired body off the sofa to retrieve my newest treasure, I can’t help but wonder. What did I buy? A new Wheel Cutter from Joann Fabrics. New bras from QVC. (Seriously? QVC? I never even watch QVC before Covid 19!) Toilet paper from Amazon was a godsent. Yummy nut bars with dark chocolate and sea salt from Costco. A sewing machine. A really cute cross body purse … you know, for when I can leave the house again.

This is a different life than I ever intended, and often I think aloud, “This has GOT to stop!” But not until I buy that new, reasonably-priced iPhone! Right?

Okay, now I’m broke, always hungry, and mourning the loss of Major League Baseball… and most of all, my muse. Give me a red cloak and a stiff white hat and I could swear I’m living in The Handmaid’s Tale! (Don’t even get me started on TV binge watching. It’s at a whole other level!)

Usually, we writers and authors are very disciplined creatures. On Facebook, between my personal page, my new little group page, and my author page, I have roughly 16,700 friends and followers, ALL writers. And I ask them, “How are you dealing with this?” The answers are shocking.

Many of us already worked at home, so technically, nothing actually changed, but EVERYTHING has changed, hasn’t it? So, the real question is… How do we get our mojo back? How do we reconnect with our all-important muse?

Between developing a variety of new bad habits, I’ve stumbled on a few really positive ways to reinstate my inner storyteller. These are tools that have helped me peek over the sofa back and locate the creative pieces of myself, then stack them neatly in a place to actually create like I did, like, a million years ago.

I call them CURES FOR THE QUARANTINED MUSE. They’re specific approaches I’ve taken to regroup and restart my engine. None of them took me directly to my keyboard, so don’t expect miracles too quickly. These cures are designed to lure the muse back to you, entice her to play, and explore the things that bring each writer joy and creativity.

 

CURE #1 – Do something with your hands.

Something other than changing channels or playing Candy Crush. What do you like? Everything’s good.

  • If you don’t know how to cook, take an online class or check out the recipes in those cookbooks you never opened before.
  • Draw or paint. Don’t worry about what it looks like. Even a simple, unidentifiable doodle can spark brilliance in your brain and light you up. Draw yourself out of the mundane. Play with color pencils, paint, felt tip markers. Draw on paper, fabric, the wall. Create!
  • Every part of America is passing through spring and looking toward summer. One can purchase flowers and bushes, even vegetable plants, online or on QVC. Don’t have a yard? Use pots on your balcony or window sills.
  • Yes, sew. Make face masks for yourself, and people who need them. Put a few in an envelope and leave them at an elderly neighbor’s door. Not in need of masks? How about clothing, or a wall hanging? I’m currently designing an extremely complex quilt and plowing ahead on this artistic project. It involves sewing, and textures, and beads, and even a bleaching technique. Sewing can be so much fun and I it can be extremely creative. The muse is drawn toward creative energy.

 

CURE #2 – If you can’t write … READ!

  • Fiction books. If you write fiction, read all those books by your favorite authors laying dormant in your Kindle. Read your own genre and read other genres you never write. Do more than read those books, dissect them. Figure out what makes them different and good, or not-so-good. Stretch your brain cells like you used to before Covid 19 arrived. Create a few sparks in your brain. It’s been a little dark in there lately.
  • Non-Fiction books. Lose yourself in history, culture, religion and spirituality, memoirs, and general discovery. How much do you know about your own town or city? Sri Lanka? The space program?
  • How-to books. How cool would it be to learn how to change your car’s oil? Make a TurDuckIn? Create batik art? Juggle? Raise lamas? This avenue is not only interesting, it’s pre-research for future books!

 

CURE #3 – Broaden your education.

You can find tons of courses online!

  • Finish or expand your degree. What a perfect time to add a few new letters to the end of your name. Expanding your knowledge is not only future research, but a great way to round out your life.
  • Learn photography or videography. Most of us have a cool camera we seldom use because we don’t really know how. This is a skill that can bring visual creativity to the forefront.
  • Learn woodworking! Yep, built something. It could be a bird house, a tree house, a piece of furniture, or maybe even doll house furniture. Tools and materials can be purchased online and arrive at your home in seventy-two hours. (Don’t ask me how I know this.)
  • Explore … Astronomy, computer science, political science, environment, philosophy, psychology, ancient worlds, environment and much, much more! When you look into things that seriously interest you, you warm up a seat for your muse. It sings to her! Check out Open Culture for 1,500 FREE Online courses from top universities, http://www.openculture.com/

 

 

CURE #4 – Do those things you never had time to do before.

  • Master YouTube. You know you want to. YouTube has free music and tools you can master before you choose to move up to more complex software. Imagine the videos you will post in your own YouTube channel!
  • Discover your family’s ancestry. I get so excited to roam through Ancestry.com. I’m always looking for that hidden, saucy scandal. I know it’s there.
  • Clean out your junk drawers. I bet you never knew those earrings you thought were lost were hiding among the empty ball point pens and rubber bands. You never know what you’ll find in there.
  • Do some author marketing. Okay, I know, this is the last thing you want to do. The only problem is, you can no longer use “no time” as your excuse.
  • Meditate! 15 minutes each morning, floating within a silent mind can make a world of different in a person’s creative outlook.

 

 

CURE #5 – Play the Opposite Game. This one is so much fun!

  • Instead of eating those store-bought cookies, bake fresh cookies. Be creative. Add orange zest to the chocolate chip cookie dough, or change raisons out for dried cranberries or dried blueberries. Yum!
  • Instead of staying in bed until 10 in the morning, choose one day each week to watch the sunrise, and set your alarm accordingly.
  • Instead of watching the news and obsessing over the Covid 19 death numbers, switch to YouTube and learn how to salsa dance.
  • Instead of thinking about how much fun life used to be, gather up all those post cards you bought over the years, write them out to your family and friends, and mail them off!

 

Here are the facts. The muse is a fragile creature, and the things that attract her most are simple.

Passion, Color, Music, Joy, Silence, Excitement, Expansion, Faith. Make yourself feel great. When our mind is most light and receptive, our muse is most ready to swoop right back in.

I’ve heard it said that the world will never be the same after this pandemic. However, we can make sure our creative worlds far more interesting when things open up. I can’t wait to see what you write.

From my home to yours, be safe, be well, and by all means, BE CREATIVE!


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Deborah Riley-Magnus is an author and an Author Success Coach with forty-plus years professional background in marketing, advertising, and public rela...