writers / writing

When Your Muse Speaks, Do You Listen?

I had a bad week, mostly because of my current WIP. I had a disagreement with my agent. What the disagreement was, doesn’t matter. What does is that we had different visions for my book.


Photo credit: Nicolas Cherel

That made my Bad Week. We’ve always seen eye-to-eye on the big picture of my thriller. He’s offered sage advice, intuitive criticism, and each time when I thought it through, it was like a Vulcan Kal-tow experience where one piece pops the entire picture into crystalline clarity.

This week didn’t feel like that. I knew it was wrong like you know jumping into a pit of flames will hurt without doing it. And somewhere in my core, like never before, my muse revolted.

I went to sleep, pretty depressed if I’m being honest, and woke up with my Muse batting around in my head like a crazed bird, screaming about edits that had to be made. In short, she was telling me my agent was right–albeit her solution was different.

Which all gets me to the purpose of this post. People often talk about their ‘muse’, but what really is it? In Greek mythology, it is the goddesses who disseminates knowledge in the areas of inspiration, literature, and the arts. To writers, it’s our creativity–our right brain–that piece of our being where our writerly voice lives, where our innovation is nurtured, where we alone can go for insight into plot and character. We might confuse her/him with our sub-conscious or sixth sense and we might be right. S/he’s certainly invisible and guides you if you listen. She can’t be summoned–s/he’s fairly headstrong on that subject. I’ve tried, emptied my mind so s/he could fill it to no avail.

Here’s the important part so listen, especially if you’re new to this writing world: Your muse is the miracle worker. S/he’s that part inside of you that means anything can happen. S/he guides your hand to write better than you can with a voice you barely recognize as your own. Where you can’t see the path from Prologue to Epilogue, she takes your blind hand and guides you. Those nights you feel like your pen contains nothing but gibberish and are tempted to highlight and delete–don’t. In the fullness of day, your words may be magic.

I didn’t even know I had such a powerful muse before she invaded my dreams last night and slapped me around. Before my agent, one of my beta readers had suggested a massive plot twist that would mean weeks of rewrites. It was a thread that wound through 80% of the story. Just so you understand the enormity of  futzing with this thread (to stick with my metaphor):

  • It changes the opening
  • It moves a plot crisis from being introduced half way through the book to within the first two chapters. I know you understand how much reweaving I will have to do.
  • It changes motivations of my characters. What was supposed to be a turning point is now a precipitating incident.

I’d have to pull it out, rework it, and reweave it. It would require concerted effort, a boatload of cerebral energy, and a degree of trust that it was a good change. Yes–that’s what my muse picked as the defining change.

This morning, I spent two hours staring out my office window at my gorgeous peaceful backyard with its glistening pool and bubbling fountain, my dog snarking around chasing his tail, and realized everything my agent wanted could be solved by listening to my muse.

The moral of this story: When your muse talks, listen. She’s your creativity, your instinct, your 6th sense about writing. She’s what will differentiate you from all other writers out there. Ignore her at your own writerly peril.

Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-sixth grade, creator of two technology training books for middle school and four ebooks on technology in education. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blog, IMS tech expert, and a bi-weekly contributor to Write Anything. Currently, she’s editing a thriller for her agent that should be out to publishers this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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6 thoughts on “When Your Muse Speaks, Do You Listen?

  1. Ah yes, the tapestry of a story in the firm grip of your muse. I’ve had that happen, though fortunately it wasn’t so much of a rewrite of an existing thread but the adding of another thread and the complicated weaving necessary to incorporate it. Good luck. You can do it.


  2. So are you re-writing it again? An armada of work, I’m betting. Will you make your summer deadline? Oh, wait, I’m talking to Jacqui Murray – of course you’ll make your summer deadline. I am curious however, why Agent didn’t suggest this major change months ago?
    Don’t know if I have a muse. I get inspired but is that a muse or just an itch in my fingers? A muse sounds elegant, sublime, and I don’t ever feel elegant or sublime.
    Finally got to read the Publishers Weekly review of my work that was submitted to ABNA. Wrote some kind comments but also said the story is “routine historical” and that it has “little insight.” I have to agree, especially with the first comment, but at this point I think I lack the insight to make the significant change this person was looking for. Maybe my muse, whoever she was, has abandoned me on this one.


    • I’ve heard similar stories from many writers, so I’m done feeling sorry for myself. Even an NYT best-selling author I’ve struck up a friendship with reported the same thing. Interestingly, I like the story better with each change.

      Do you read Daniel Silva? His latest book (Fallen Angel) takes place in part in Jerusalem and all the Jewish holiest of locations. Fascinating details, scenery, and all woven masterfully into the plot.


  3. My muse always gets excited when someone makes a suggestion that I balk at. I had an editor tell me recently that I needed to re-write my novel (that I’ve already re-written three times >.<), and while I complained and tried to fight it my muse was secretly working in the background. When she was ready she hit me over the head in the shower with the tweak that would make the whole thing work. Yes, I still have to re-write the entire book because of this tweak, but just like the editor said – it's going to make the book so much better! Now I'm excited to do all that work, just so I can have an amazing product at the end 🙂

    Good job listening to your muse, and good luck re-writing!


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