Ray Bradbury

7 Items for Feeding Your Muse


Is your Muse a vegan, carnivore, gluten intolerant, or something altogether? Okay, maybe that’s not what I mean.

The Muse is the subconscious, creative part of us, the voice which guides the words that flow from our brains to our hands. Stephen King says The Muse is a basement guy. He rarely makes an appearance and only summoned with hard work and showing up to the page.

Ray Bradbury says the Muse is the subconscious. The creative fuel which makes our writing our writing. Bradbury also contends the Muse must be fed.

But what do you feed a Muse?

Bradbury says the Muse menu must include (Zen in the Art of Writing, pp. 31–48):

1. Poetry- because it stretches muscles we often never use. It keeps the senses of taste, touch, smell, and hearing attuned and integrated into the written word.

2. Books of essays- because you need to expand your version of the world from the voices of others. Hear differing viewpoints and opinions on how the world is, how it should be, and everyday life.

3. Short stories and novels- read the people you hope to write like. Read the stories of authors you admire. But also read the stories you don’t want to be like or authors that stretch your abilities. It’s good to read things out of your comfort zone.

4. Trash and treasures- read awful stories and silly books so not becoming like these writers. Read treasures of the past that no man or woman will touch with such excellence. Trash and treasures are important for feeding the Muse and growing in the craft.

The Muse is a muscle to be stretched and stomach to be filled. Many writers fear they’ll run out of good ideas or will attain no amount of success in their work because of unoriginality. But if you read a lot, and absorb the world around you, there will be plenty of things to write about.

Let me add a couple more items for the Muse diet:

5. Living relationships- you need a steady diet of healthy relationships for the Muse to thrive. Not online ones, real, living, and breathing humans to interact with.

The healthiest and most successful writers have healthy relationships. If you have a spouse or partner or kids spend time with them and invest in their wellbeing.

6. Curiosity- become a kid again. Ask Why and How questions again. The best writers are insatiably curious about how things work, humans, God, and the universe. Stop and stand in awe of what’s around you. Go to a museum, concert, listen to beautiful music, or go on a hike. Pause, think, reflect, consider the face you’re alive.

Keep your curiosity at all time highs. You’ll find much fuel for the Muse.

7. Healthy food- okay, this one is actually about food. You need to fill your body with good nutrients. You can’t live off cigarettes and donuts.

Cram a vegetable and drink lots of water. Your physical body and spiritual body and whatever part the Muse lives in, needs good food for creative fuel. Take breaks, exercise, and yes, interact with humans.

Feed the Muse. Feed it often. Feed it well.

What else did I miss?

Originally published on The Writing Cooperative