Tag Archives: Writer-life balance

Adam J. Johnson: Channeling your Muse

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Writer’s block is a topic we like to frequently touch on because it’s something that plagues us all! No matter what type of writer you may be, whether it’s technical writing, blogging, journalism, or you’re purely an author, you have done battle with this daunting foe. It rears its head at the most inconvenient times and makes you feel powerless. It’s seemingly a random occurrence that shows up and leaves as it pleases. This however, is not the case. There are several reasons that we suffer from writer’s block and several reasons why some are less plagued by it than others. Our muse or personal source of inspiration is one of the tools in our arsenal against writer’s block. Sadly, we often view our muse in the same way that we do writer’s block. We think it’s random. How many times have you felt the rush of inspiration striking and urging you to take action? How many times have you thought, “I just don’t feel inspired,” or “I wish my muse would speak to me?” Let me tell you, your muse is like that old friend you haven’t spoken to in awhile. You really miss them and want to talk to them, but you aren’t sure how to approach it. The answer is always as simple as reaching out and connecting with them.

The first step is identifying your muse. Now, I know this may seem pretty basic, but there are several of us who go completely by feel and haven’t put much thought into where their inspiration comes from. Your muse is, at its simplest, what motivates you. Let’s dive into that, shall we? Naturally, this will be different for everyone, but the core ideas are the same. Your muse speaks to you. You just have to stop, cut out the noise and distraction of everyday life, and listen. For authors, I find that your muse is often tied to the genre you are writing in. When you search for her using that filter, it will be much easier to identify your muse. For example, I love Fantasy. I love reading it, and I love writing it! So, I look at what inspires me most about Fantasy and I surround myself with those things while I’m writing. Which brings me to the second step of channeling your muse. Keeping your inspiration consistent throughout your day!

I am a visual person, so Fantasy imagery strikes me hard and inspires me without fail! Since I primarily write Fantasy, I will keep posters with Fantasy themes in my writing space, and I will change the lock screens of my phone and laptop to mirror the ideas of my current project. This is me channeling my muse, keeping in contact with my old friend inspiration. I also love music, as most of us do, so let your muse speak through the music you listen to as well. I personally love metal music, but not all of it is really inspiring for Fantasy, but I find some that is. When in the middle of a project, I listen to a lot of symphonic metal bands like Epica and Nightwish. The orchestral elements submerge me in a feel of the old world and put me in the Fantasy writing mood. If i’m feeling something a little lighter, I will listen to bands like Flogging Molly. The old Irish culture flows through the lyrics while the fiddles transport me to that medieval state of mind. A few common enemies to inspiration are distractions like TV and the internet, so I try to find creative ways to turn distractions into inspiration. Don’t get me wrong, even if you execute this part well, they are still distractions and too much of it will lead to excuses to not get your work done.

So, what do I mean by turning distractions into inspiration? I’m going to continue with writing Fantasy as an example. If I feel like binge watching TV, I try to keep the themes of what I’m watching within the realm of Fantasy. I will watch shows like The Magicians or movies like Lord of the Rings. The internet, particularly Facebook and social media, seems to be a huge source of distraction for us these days. In order to combat that, I try to follow a lot of pages that are Fantasy themed or engage in Fantasy discussions within the writers’ groups. Also, if I find myself staring at my phone or the computer, I will search through Pinterest boards. Just shuffling through Fantasy images usually helps send a shockwave of inspiration through my brain.

Obviously, you won’t be able to spend your whole day totally immersed in themes and elements from your genre. That could even be counterproductive. However, these are just some ways that you can channel your muse throughout your day to keep your inspiration flowing strong. Don’t Look at inspiration as some random phenomenon that strikes as it feels. Remember that your muse is as much a part of you as your willpower or your sense of humor. She is always there waiting to inspire you. It just depends on how much you feed her and nurture the relationship. When you combine steps 1 and 2, you are not only channeling your muse, but you are feeding her. Making her grow stronger and giving her a more prominent voice in your mind. So, instead of it being a step-by-step process, it’s more of an equation to bolster your personal investment.

As always, the team at WU! wishes you happy writing, urges you to stay inspired, and insists that you live limitless!!

Adam J Johnson

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(Illustration: Apollo and the Muses)

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Balancing Life and Writing (Guest Article by Clara C. Johnson)

Balancing the time to write, attending five classes a week, homework, studying for exams, working a full-time job, and spending time with loved ones seems to be for the talented juggler, but I am here to tell you that anyone can do it if you can learn to manage your time well. Unfortunately, many (including myself) heard the famous writing advice that in order to finish your work in progress (WIP) and to become a better writer, you have to write literally every single day. Fact of the matter is, we all have responsibilities outside our writing such as jobs, family, and school that must take priority. In addition, suffering from health complications can also affect your ability to achieve this goal. Frankly, it can be quite impossible for anyone to write every day!

First, I must offer an adjustment to the advice. I think if you plan to become a writer, you should THINK about your WIP every day. This is a much simpler way to help you stay focused on your goals. A simple drive to the grocery store or sitting in the doctor’s office can be a wonderful time where you can think on what you want to do with your WIP. Whether you consider the plot, characters, or a scene you want to add/change doesn’t matter. The overall goal is to get your brain fired up!

As a college student, much of my thinking throughout the day is on all the school work I want to get done by a certain time or studying for an exam I have to take soon. A great tool I learned in my Creative Writing class was to keep a small notebook with me at all times. This notebook is something you should take with you everywhere. Write down your thoughts or describe something you see that interests you. What you write down doesn’t have to necessarily relate to what you are working on right now. An example could be this: you are driving to work, and you notice an old house that burnt down. It may be something you have seen a hundred times before, but you are filled with questions as to what happened to the house that caused the fire. You start to think; what if it was a faulty appliance? Some kids who thought it would be fun to play with fire? You could write this observation down in your notebook for later consideration. An entire story could be written based on this burnt down house.

While this may have nothing to do with your current WIP, you have given yourself a writing prompt. Writing prompts can be a great way to help get your creative gears rolling. You never know, maybe that burned down house could be a vital resource for a story you will work on in the future or your current one. Now, I know not everyone can carry a hefty notebook with them everywhere they go. For you, this “notebook” could be an app on your phone or tablet. There are many different apps you can use for storing your notes. Notecards can work too! Test which method works best for you. As long as you are comfortable with your format, it will benefit you.

My notebooks vary now. I have everything from full-sized notebooks, a small journal, and now a binder to separate my WIP. I spend most of my “plotting” time for my stories in between classes if I get all my homework done early. Sometimes, all I am able to write down is the description of my character’s appearance or personality. The goal is to be able to jot down your ideas onto something for later consideration. Regardless of the format you use, this is the best way I’ve discovered to keep my writing going.

Even then, I have days to a week where I can’t get the time to do it. It’s frustrating and annoying, but I want to say that it’s okay to take small breaks. Things come up, and you may have a couple rough days. Life happens to all of us, and there is little we can do about it. I believe as long as you eventually find the time, you will do it if you truly are passionate about it. Writing is not for the faint of heart and it can seem impossible to do it as regularly as you want. My best advice is to organize your schedule. Set aside time to write and take advantage of the down time you have in between classes, work, or whatever else you need to get done that day. If all you get done is just jotting down an idea for your WIP, that’s okay! As long as you keep up with it and forgive yourself when you can’t do your writing, I’m positive that you will be able to reach your goals! Focus on what you need to do and what works best for you. Each and everyone one of us are different. No two writers are the same.


Clara C. Johnson is a small-town girl who dreamed of magic, swords, and dragons. For the past decade, she has written poetry, short stories, and a novel. She is currently studying English at Penn State University in between drinking too much coffee and writing her next project.