So what muse am I talking about? I'm talking about that goddess called inspiration, imagination and creativity, whose absence leaves many a talented writer gnashing his teeth and rending his garments. For me, my teeth remain ungnashed and my garments unrent, because I've never suffered from a lack of ideas for my work. Does this mean I've learned to 'seduce the muse' or merely that I've learned techniques to stimulate my creativity?
The answer is, both, because in the end run they mean exactly the same. Inspiration comes from the unconscious workings of the mind which we, by definition, can have no control over. However, there are a few tricks you can employ to stimulate the brain into making the neural connections that encourage great ideas.
I recall one of the earliest writing training textbooks I read, which encouraged the novice to carry about a notebook and jot down ideas, fragments of conversation and events, to eventually be blended and transformed into a fascinating novel. It seemed like a silly idea at the time and I never picked up the habit because in my head is the greatest tool for recording information known to man. And as this is the device that will be doing the blending, I think it best to get the information in there as rapidly as possible.
The brain performs this creative process at two points, as it enters and especially as it leaves dream (REM) sleep, when we enter the realm that self-hypnotists and those practising transcendental meditation try to reach. Everybody does it naturally, but few are aware of it. It is the time when the brain performs miracles, taking all its memories and creating something new from them. For most these fleeting images rapidly dilute to nothingness as we get into the business of the waking world, the brushing of teeth and the making of toast. But the writer must know that these fragmentary visions are worth their weight in gold. This is the place for the notebook, on the bedside table, not in your hip pocket. Write down these random imaginings because they're as creative as you're going to get.
So, how do we encourage this process or seduce the muse? There is nothing particularly clever about it, one must live one's life as normal, experiencing as much as is possible. Eating, drinking, talking, reading, watching, listening, travelling, making love, getting drunk, climbing, diving, skiing, fishing, flying, swimming, you get the idea, you have to live life to feed your brain. As an old editor of mine used to say, 'it's all grist to the mill'.
I've played about with self-hypnosis and it does help me to relax and reach a creative plateau, but whether it's entirely necessary I'm not too sure. It's quite easy to do, just sit comfortably, close your eyes, breathe regularly and count down as you become more and more relaxed. It takes practice but eventually you will reach a point where you're not really awake or asleep. Magic happens there.
You must remain aware of the process and prepared to note down what you have created, much material is lost in this transition between states, but what remains can be outstanding.
So, seducing the muse is easy. If only the girls were too.