How To Find Your Magic

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone! Do you have your green on? Leprechauns, gold and magic surround this holiday, but as writers we must employ a bit of creative “magic” every day to create characters, worlds and emotionally moving stories. Many call this magic their muse.

Originally a Muse was any of the nine sister goddesses in Greek mythology presiding over song and poetry and the arts and sciences. The term has come to mean “a source of inspiration, especially: a guiding genius.” (Merriam-Webster)

Our muse is our creativity, an internal source we draw upon whenever we need to create something new or solve a problem. Which is very similar to the term, lateral thinking (coined in 1967 by Edward de Bono), which means the solving of problems by an indirect and creative approach, typically through viewing the problem in a new and unusual light.

People are born with creative ability, no more or less than the others around them. It is the tapping into this ability, thinking laterally, that helps the artist create new and inspiring projects.

So, what can we do to tap into our well of creative waters? Lure our muses out of hiding and conjure up our magic for the pages of our manuscripts? Over the years I have developed a few techniques to build the muse-alluring rainbow and follow it to the end to find my pot of gold (okay – yes, that was stretching the metaphor a bit for the sake of the day).

Clear my desk. I can’t think about my WIP when there are bills piled next to my computer or kid permission slips or my list of a million little things that need to happen. The clutter pulls my attention away from the book and my muse refuses to waste her time coming near me.

Make a cup of chai latte. I’ve addicted my muse to hot chai lattes. I make them at home to save on cost and limit them for the calories. But if I’m stuck and trying to immerse myself in my book world, the spicy taste of cinnamon mixed with hot milk, black tea and cardamom pushes me right in.

Find my playlist. At the beginning of a new book I create a musical playlist with songs that represent the time period and songs that help me understand the characters (which is why my iPhone has both Gregorian monks chanting and Eminem). I don’t listen to music every day, but when my muse is playing hard to get, the music lures her in like the Pied Piper.

Cut and paste. I’m very visually oriented, so I like to see what I’m writing about. Consequently, I collage my stories, or at least the characters and settings. At the beginning of a new project, I take a day or two to look up pictures of places and people, print them off and glue them to poster board, manila folders or blank books. I also cut and paste them electronically if I don’t have time to pull out the scissors and glue (using One Note). I actually brainstorm with pictures, discovering backstory and plot details in fun or creative images. I prop them up in my line of sight (on my clean desk) when I write.

Collage for CAPTURED HEART – Scottish Historical Romance

Walk. There is something about fresh air and rushing blood that gets my creative energy sparking. If I dwell on a scene while walking, dialogue pops into my head. It is almost like my muse is skipping along, flicking ideas at me until I grasp one and we run with it. By the time I get home I’m usually itching to start typing.

Free Association. One idea I’ve yet to try is called Word Spit (yes, I came up with the name and I’m sure you could come up with a better one : ). Take a blank piece of paper and a pen. Without thinking, start writing down random words, anything that pops in your mind. Often these words start taking on a pattern or interact with one another as they flow from your subconscious to the paper. Take some of the words and try to apply them to your plot or characters, and see if they spark inspiration or a new direction.

We all have a muse, our inspiration for creating art, expressing our ideas, and molding something beautiful out of lifeless material. She or he is a one-of-a-kind personal guide to finding our pot of gold. You just need to lure her in and grab on.

Do you have any techniques for bringing forth creativity? How do you find your magic?



18 responses to “How To Find Your Magic”

  1. These are great ideas, Heather! I can’t wait to see what suggestions everyone has (yes I am searching for motivation right now). I think I might try clearing my desk and see if that gives me a jump start.

    • Thanks, Tina!

      I know, the muse is a fickle lady. Another idea just came to me – going somewhere you haven’t been before, like a museum or art studio or a quaint shopping area. Or take a road trip and see where you end up. Or watch a movie set in the time period or flavor that you write. New things can spark new ideas : )

  2. What a great bunch of kick-starters, Heather! I, too, am a huge fan of visuals, and a few years ago I started creating a Pinterest board for each of my manuscripts. Pinterest allows you to keep “Secret” boards, or as I call them, “Working” boards. The great thing about using Pinterest is I can eventually make the board visible to everyone. Industry pros like a cover designer or publicist use my boards to get a great idea of setting, tone, and characters. And ultimately readers get an expanded look into my story worlds. Win!

    So…how do you make your chai latte??? It’s my comfort-pick-me-up-fave beverage on the planet, but I haven’t found a home-brew that comes close to the lusciousness I buy at my local coffee house.

    • Thanks, Shelley!
      Yes, I’ve started using Pinterest also. I just released a secret board once my book came out, but I hadn’t thought to send it to my cover artist and publishing team. Great idea!

      Chai tea lattes are different everywhere I go. I like the Starbuck’s sweet version, but I have a sweet tooth (I know, bad). So I buy the concentrate at the grocery store and mix with milk and cinnamon. Although I do have a from scratch recipe I use when I have time and want something authentic.

      I boil milk with cardamon pods, whole black pepper corns, star anise, cinnamon sticks, ground ginger, and a bit of sugar. Then I add loose tea and let it steep with the lid on and then pour through a fine mesh for a pot of delicious chai latte. I’ll try to find the exact recipe and list it. : )

    • I don’t seem to have the patience for collages, but I do like the Pinterest idea! Thanks!

    • I’m a picture person too! I have pictures of all my characters and their possessions, homes, clothing. It’s part of my fun creative process. But never did I think about doing a board on Pinterest. I will need to do this. Thanks, Shelly.

  3. Elizabeth Langston says:

    Thank you for these ideas. My muse has been on vacation for a while, and I need something to lure her back.

  4. Chai Tea Latte

    1 cup whole milk
    2 cups filtered water
    1 cinnamon stick in pieces
    4 cardamom pods
    5 cloves
    1 tsp. black peppercorn
    2 star anise pods
    ¼ tsp. ginger powder
    2 Tbsp. sugar
    1 Tbsp. black tea

    Put milk and water in medium saucepan. Add cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, peppercorns, anise pods, ginger, and sugar. Bring to boil (watch close so it doesn’t boil over), then simmer for 5 minutes on low heat. Turn off heat, add tea leaves and steep, covered for 2-3 minutes. Strain out spices, then enjoy! Serves 2.

  5. I’ve been looking to connect with my muse for a while, so these are great tips. Thanks!

    In the past, clearing my desk and taking walks was really helpful. I’m hoping to get back into that routine. I think I fell out of a routine and have stumbled around ever since. Also, I’m going to try diffusing oils that are good for focus. Or maybe relaxation. I’ll be playing around with that, too, in coming weeks. 😉

  6. Happy St. Patrick’s day, Heather.

    Great list. For me, showers help bring my muse on. Besides the white noise it the one place I will not allow the world to intrude.

    Also, lemon scented candles help us.

    And during the summer, just sitting by the pool with a pencil and pad in hand dialogue just flows. > So change of location and instrument.

    • Speaking of candles, when I first started writing fiction seriously, I would buy a scented candle with each new manuscript I started. I’d even buy my critique partners candles for theirs. The idea was to root us scent-wise in our stories. I haven’t bought any candles with my last few mss…too busy with deadlines and life, but I think I may give it a go again. “Story candles” bring me back to such a peaceful and joyful and hope-filled part of my writing journey. 🙂

  7. “Clear my desk.” I feel the same way, except it’s about my whole house. I feel really uncomfortable working when my house is messy or some chore needs doing.

    I recently made up a schedule of cleaning to do each day. Mondays are living room & entryway, Tuesdays are bedrooms & upstairs hallway, Wednesdays are bathrooms, and so on. The first week each cleaning block took about two hours, which was rough, but now I’ve been through it all and it only takes about an hour a day to maintain. (We have a lot of carpet and two cats.)

    It’s sort of fun, too. Usually after lunch, I put on my Who Run the World playlist and turn it up…on headphones, so I’m just silently jamming around and house with my vacuum and bottle of Simple Green.

    I feel like I can relax and work knowing that I have a plan for doing domestic chores.

  8. Tamara Hogan says:

    Great list, Heather! Listening to music is always my go-to tool for creative inspiration, because it conveys emotion through both lyrics and sound. It’s not unusual for me to find echoes of the background music I was listening to in that day’s writing. For example, listening to U2’s “Every Breaking Wave” might catalyze my own water metaphor in that day’s scene, or I’ll find the word “break” in the manuscript, but used in a completely different manner. It’s completely subconscious.

    I’m also inspired by watching, by observing, which means getting away from the keyboard occasionally. Whether it’s watching the gorgeous cinematography of “Planet Earth II” on BBC America, listening to live music, or going to the Mall of America to people watch, I think it’s essential for us to engage with the culture, at least occasionally.

    Thanks for the Chai recipe! Sounds delicious.

  9. Elisa Beatty says:

    Fabulous ideas, Heather!!


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