Meet Anne Janzer.
Anne Janzer is a writing coach and author. Her most recent book, The Writer’s Process: Getting Your Brain in Gear, was named one of Indie Reader’s best self-published books of 2016. When not listening to the voices in her head or reading mysteries, Anne enjoys working with writers to help them get their ideas out into the world. She blogs regularly on the writing practice at AnneJanzer.com.
Guest Post – The Mystery of the Voice in My Head
I hear a voice that no one else hears.
Sometimes it whispers a complete line of a poem not yet written. Other times I hear a single word or idea. It often sneaks, unwelcome, into my bedroom before the sun rises, to wake me with its whispers.
This isn’t plot of a psychological thriller. It’s the day-to-day life of a writer.
Listening to Your Muse
This voice isn’t some demented, literary stalker. It’s my Muse. You’ve got one, as well.
The Greeks liked to think that a bevy of gods, the nine Muses, dispensed inspiration to artists and scientists of all kinds. Cognitive scientists might tell us that the muses are the beneath-the-conscious mental processes that connect different topics in our brains, forging new neural pathways and working with the raw material we feed them. These processes look for patterns, connect disparate ideas, and rummage through stored memories to find anything appropriate.
We’ve all experienced the contributions of the Muse in one form or another. The Muse might appear as an idea that pops into our head, seemingly out of nowhere, that solves a problem or advances something that we’re working on. Or it might send a dream that seems strangely relevant to our current situation, or the song that pops into our head and stays there all day.
The other morning, I found myself singing a movement from Brahms’ German Requiem, over and over. When I stopped and thought about it, translating the text from the German, the line of text was strangely appropriate to an essay I was writing.
Mysterious? Yes. But pretty cool when you think about it.
Making Room for Your Muse
There’s comfort in knowing that the Muse is part of us, rather than some impartial deity. If it’s part of us, we can learn to work with it.
Despite her awkward habit of appearing at the most inopportune times (in the shower, in the early hours of the morning), I love my Muse. When I treat her with respect, she delivers ideas and suggestions that make my writing better.
I invite my Muse to my work, like luring a shy fawn from the woods. I leave room in my writing process for her contributions.
For example, after working for a while, I take a break and do something else that doesn’t require my full attention. The best thing I can do is take a walk or go the gym, then let my mind wander back to my writing.
Getting outside and taking a walk quiets down my own thoughts enough that I can hear the contributions of the Muse. When I leave room for her like this, she usually delivers.
In fact, the more regularly I make a practice of inviting the Muse, the more consistent she is about showing up.
Sure, she still likes to get started at 6 am, when all of my rational processes would rather be sleeping. But that’s a small price to pay for living with this mystery as part of my daily life.