10 May 2011

When and Where the Muse Strikes You

Image: Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I read Stephen King’s ‘On Writing”, and the bit where he talks about closing yourself in a room until you have your words written doesn’t ring entirely true with me. Yes, I need to be disciplined in order to get the story done, particularly at the business end. I need to not watch TV, surf the internet or stare lazily out of the window. But when I’m confronted with the page, I tend to get a little anxious if I’ve come to the end of an idea. I start to panic when I can’t think what should happen next.

So I decide to stop writing for the day. I go and do something else menial – making myself a smoothie, going for a walk, having a shower, cleaning the kitchen. Then, my mind starts to review the story, almost of its own accord. It starts to drift past the words I have written, and then… pow! A fragment of a conversation, a paragraph or even a whole new scene has suddenly descended on my brain. I race back to the computer (sometimes having to turn write frantic notes while I wait for it to start up again) and record my inspiration. If I had just stayed rooted in my chair, staring hopelessly at the screen, I wouldn’t be able to progress.

Quite often ideas come to me at very inconvenient times – right after we’ve turned the light out at night, or when I’m driving home from work.

King does go on to say that he gets many of his ideas out of the blue when he’s doing other things, but he doesn’t seem to accept that you can’t make yourself be productive sometimes just sitting in a room alone with your computer.

It’s like that with many things in life, no? It’s so easy to fall asleep in the middle of the day when you should be cleaning the toilet, but not so easy at 4am when you’re stressed out about work or family. If you have a bit of spare cash, you can never find anything you want to buy, but when you’re up against it clothes and books start calling your name.

I suppose it’s just one of those ways that life makes things interesting, if not a little frustrating. So, you tell me. Do you need to get away from your WIP in order to generate fresh ideas? Or am I just really unusual?


  1. I definitely have to walk away sometimes. I also find that I go through spurts of creativity followed by dry spells where I am thinking about my story but have a hard time writing it. I just figure I'll do my best but not worry to much if my process is a little different from Kings =)

  2. Definitely need breaks sometimes. Reading helps me feel refreshed more then anything else, and good movies help me too.

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)