Finding my Muse – in England?

Hopefully you are all logging on to read this fabulous ruby slippered sisterhood blog because of the constantly helpful tips and inspiration and not because your muse is still snuggled in bed. I must admit that earlier this summer, when I began the third book in my Scottish historical romance series, my muse was rebelling like a werewolf being trussed up in 16th century stays – very ugly. Part of the problem definitely had to do with me just having written the first three chapters of a contemporary YA paranormal for my agent to submit. My internal dialogue included words like “massive” and “epic fail”. Not very Henry Tudor.

When I had to shift immediately into the 16th century, my muse was…not amused -LOL! Luckily I had already purchased plane tickets and had planned a trip to England and Scotland where history permeates the very air you breathe. In between packing and mapping my upcoming route through the countryside, I rewrote the first seventy pages of my 16th century WIP three times and still wasn’t happy with it. Ugh! Surely I could convince my muse to wake up and help me in Britain.

My family and I landed in London after an all-night, no-sleep flight and pushed ourselves to stay awake. So despite standing beside the infamous white tower in the Tower of London and listening to French school children learn about Anne Boleyn being beheaded (Je crois que) right where I stood, my muse wasn’t all that impressed. That might have had something to do with my three exhausted, whining kids (ages 6, 12 and 14) who were also dragging behind me.

The White Tower in London

The White Tower in London

On to Hampton Court Palace the next day, my oldest daughter and I were able to run off by ourselves to explore Henry VIII’s kitchen and the incredible gardens. Since I had just finished writing my second Highland Hearts novel, which takes place at Hampton Court, this was thrilling. Luckily I hadn’t gotten anything wrong in the details, but just being there, walking the halls, touching the walls, got my heart pounding and my muse raised an inquisitive brow and put down her iPhone.

That night my family and I made it to our rental cottage on a farm in the lovely Coltswold village of South Cerney. It was like stepping into a fairytale with sheep and horses all around the stone cottage covered with climbing roses where it sat on a duck-filled lake. Walking paths led us through woods and meadows, along canals and under ancient-looking arched stone trestles. Neighbors meandered the footpaths with their dogs and trees bent over creating a shaded vault cathedral of leaves.

Heather & Kids under Coltswold bridge

Heather & Kids under Coltswold bridge

One morning I escaped the family to stroll the footpaths alone.  A light breeze blew, sheep bleated in the pastures and the sun shone in a blue sky above the flittering leaves. The beauty and serenity in the peaceful landscape filled me up until I was smiling outright, a silly grin of pure happiness. I roamed the countryside, watching new varieties of birds and studying the wild flowers and branched bushes trained to twine into fences along the road. And as soon as I got back to the cottage, I made some tea and sat down to write.

I wrote about the details of my new setting, this bit of heaven so d

ifferent from my American suburbia with its snaking sidewalks and rushing minivans. I felt full to bursting to write. My muse was whispering in my ear and willing to put on any period costume I wanted.

4-sisters tree in S. Cerney

4-sisters tree in S. Cerney

What I realized then was that it wasn’t so much that I was in England that I could suddenly write. It was that I was filled up again. With what? Hmmm…I’m not sure exactly. Creativity, peace, inner strength and beauty. Whatever it is, we need it as writers. This is what woos our muse into creating our art.

Think about it. When you are stressed out with time lines, with children or parents or siblings pulling at you, with those gray rocks of annoyance or dread like unpaid bills or illness or loss – you become drained, empty. You have nothing to give, no juice within you to ink your pen, to pour into your manuscript. The well dries out and your muse collapses on a dusty, pebbled road with vultures circling overhead. Quite sad.

Going to London didn’t wake up my muse. Touring Hampton Court gave her a drink. But it wasn’t until I walked in the exquisitely quaint landscape of the Coltswolds that my muse revived, drank fully, and smiled with that twinkle in her eye. The great Tower of London had authentic details that I will remember, but in order for me to write I had to refill my creative well.

Sheep Sheep Everywhere!

Sheep Sheep Everywhere!

I spent the next few days site seeing as well as resting under the magical trees and roses at the farm. We saw Bath, Stonehenge, Avebury, the Harry Potter studios, and Cirencester. But it was the cup of tea on the back patio watching the baby ducks and the cranes on the water that made me want to grab my journal and pen.

This is good news for you and for me. Why? Because this means that you don’t have to travel across the ocean to wake up your grumpy or thirsty muse. Yes, it helps to be immersed in the details you will be writing about, but even with the details, if you don’t fill up the well, nothing will come out on paper. And you can fill up the well here at home. You just need to find some peace, breathe, and explore your world until your muse becomes hydrated again. Here are a few ways I hope to fill my well here at home.

  1. Find new walking paths around my town to take my dog on.
  2. Visit the rose gardens in the town next to me.
  3. Visit the art museum and stare at art until my muse either becomes inspired or swoons from boredom.
  4. Investigate the quaint little shops in my own town while trying not to spend money.
  5. Find a tea shop that serves tea and scones. There’s got to be one around here.
  6. Make tea each day in my own tea pot at home and enjoy a biscuit with it.
  7. Sit on my screened porch and watch the birds swoop or thunderstorms roll in.
  8. Go camping or hiking or to the beach.
  9. Lay on a blanket under the oak in my backyard (with heavy clothes on to keep the mosquitos from eating me alive).
  10. Lay on that same blanket with my hubby watching the stars (nudge, nudge, say no more ; )

The next time you’ve lost touch with your muse, don’t feel like you have to travel the world looking for her. If she’s coughing up dust balls there are ways to revive her right in your own little corner of the globe. Fill yourself up. Only then will you have the creative juice to fill pages with your words.

What are some ways you wake up your muse?

17 responses to “Finding my Muse – in England?”

  1. Great post. Traveling and vacations ALWAYS refill my creative well, Heather. A third of my books’ premises came to me while I was on vacation.

    • Thanks Laurie : )
      I hope you kept receipts for those trips for tax write-offs : ) I’m turning in all my receipts for the museums I went to and my travel costs to get there since I use all those settings in my books. My husband keeps asking me to write a book set in St. Lucia or somewhere tropical. Hmmm…I wonder why? ; )

  2. Jenn! says:

    “Filling up the well” I love this Heather.
    I fill up with music. Music gives me all sorts of inspiration. I also work as much as I can outside. My mind is clear when I’m in the warm sun, listening to the birds and other outdoors noises.

    Love the blog, love the pictures, and so glad you made the trip to England. Sounds like a dream come true.


    • Oh, yes, music is a wonderful way to fill up. I forget it all the time, but when I start listening to certain songs and strong, dramatic instrumentals, it does something wonderful to my blood. It’s like wind filling sails back up.
      I love to work outside too and even brave the 90 degree weather on my back porch with the fan turned on in order to be surrounded by nature when I write.
      Thanks for stopping by, Jenn! Heather

  3. Love the pictures, and needed the daily dose of inspiration today, Heather – thanks! I just turned in a book today, which I challenged myself to write in two months to meet this deadline. But, yeah, the well’s a little dry. I plan to spend the next week doing fun things with the kids (maybe visit a museum in town I haven’t been to, and a movie or two) and doing some writing when I can, but without deadlines. Whee!!

    • Thanks Anne Marie : ) Congratulations on THE END!! I always feel a bit weepy when I type those words. Yes, time to refill the well. You could start by taking a lovely bubble bath tonight : )

  4. What fun pictures! I find the quickest way to spur on the muse is to NOT think about writing. If I’m engrossed in something else, whether that be housework or sitting in the sun outside, or talking a peaceful walk…that’s when I get inspired and fired up to write.

  5. Kate Parker says:

    To heck with the muse. She can climb into my suitcase. I want to go to England! There’s something in the air there that brings my muse to life. Of course, writing English set mysteries may have something to do with it! Loved the pictures. I am so envious.

    • LOL, Kate! Yes, there is definitely something in the air there (besides the smell of sheep)but with three kids, it is sometimes hard to breathe it in.
      Next time I’m just taking the hubby : )

  6. Tamara Hogan says:

    What a wonderful trip, Heather! I find both listening to music and spending time near waves and water to be great sources of inspiration. I’m a landlocked Minnesotan, but whenever I can get to Lake Superior, or the ocean, to watch and listen to huge waves crashing in, I do.

    I have never felt smaller in my life, or more connected to the universe, than the times when I watched epic waves roll in at Mavericks and Jaws. That connection helps me write.

  7. Rita Henuber says:

    Glad you had a great trip.
    Like Tammy the water does it for me. I have a 5 minute walk one way and a ten minute walk the other. Or go across the street and throw rocks at the pnds gator.

    • Oh my gosh – a real gator?? I’d love to meet your muse ; ) I bet she carries a riffle!

      • Rita Henuber says:

        We have several ponds in here and the swamp is about 50 yards away. everyonce in a while we get one. He’s about 5 ft. the old folks who live around the pond think it’s nice until a dog or kitty comes up missing. Then they want to know whay the critter getter wasn’t here yesterday. I don’t let the muse carry, she drinks too much.

  8. Elaine says:

    Having just finished a 4 day writer’s workshop (teaching kids how to write), I fully experienced the “I got nothing” brain cramp. After two 7 hour days of being inside, with very little natural light, the instructor said, “I’m giving you 40 minutes to write an informational piece on something you’re an expert on.” I was tired, my body hadn’t moved enough and suddenly, I was an expert on NOTHING. I attributed it to the premise that my brain had shut down due to being on constant “intake” mode. But after reading your post and acknowledging an anxious gnawing in my soul, I realized that you nailed it! I wasn’t just tired, my spirit was draining! All the elements that “fill me up” were missing. I felt like a caged animal and my senses were seriously deprived. So this weekend I’m going to the ocean and hopefully climbing a mountain for that “view from the top” so that my senses can be tickled with the wind, sun, sand and surf. Then . . .and only then . ..will I go back and write again.

    Your little pearls of wisdom are always so timely and so worth reading. So delighted that you had some alone time on your trip to do the things that keep your writing spirit strong! 🙂

  9. Elisa Beatty says:

    Fabulous post, Heather!!

    I just got back from a lovely week at the beach in San Diego (during which I did no writing…though quite a bit of reading) and I needed that soul refreshment.

    Just swimming in the ocean made me feel like good energy was seeping back into me after a very stressful past few months.

    Not that I’d turn down a chance to get to England again….


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