What to Expect from Your Muse

As many of you know, this past year I became a first-time father. And as I think about care and feeding the muse, my sleep-deprived brain can’t help but draw parallels between it and my infant at home. And the more I mull it over, the more I realize that babies and muses are pretty similar. They both bring everything from great joy to hair-ripping frustration. Their schedule becomes the center of yours. Their happiness takes precedence over yours, for yours is fused directly to theirs.

And so, if these two things are so alike…mustn’t the care and nurture also be?

Let’s take a look.

Boiled down, babies 0-6 months-old and muses are simple creatures. Their needs are basic. They get upset when something is wrong and they let you know it. For babies, it’s crying. For muses, it’s writers block, crappy writing, paralyzing fear, etc. However, I found that following a few guidelines can make all the difference.

They’re hungry. New infants eat all the time…and like clockwork (and all around the clock). Muses need to be fed often and at regular intervals. Unfortunately, there isn’t a formula premade for the muse, but over time, it’s easy to recognize what nourishment your muse craves…be it long walks, playlists, or salted caramels. 
They’re tired. Babies sleep more than they are awake. And good luck trying to get an overtaxed infant to sleep. Muses need their rest too, so step away from the manuscript and go grocery shopping or watch reality TV.  And just as an overtired child, running a muse beyond the point of exhaustion will just make her all the fussier. Look for the signs of her tiring (no ideas seem good, you’re boring yourself, etc.) and take that break…it may mean you miss a deadline or have to sacrifice going to a party later, but honestly, the work will be much, much better. 

They have a dirty diaper. Babies poop and pee more than they sleep (okay, not really, but it sure feels like it). This is a function of their bodies starting up – gross, but necessary. And a constipated baby is not a happy one. Again, muses are the same…they need to excrete their systems too. As writers, our fears, hopes, and obsessive facebooking can plug up our muse. Let her get it out of her system – but into a diaper. Allow yourself  those couple of hours in the morning (as Katherine does) to check social media, but then turn it off before opening the manuscript. Or I let myself worry about querying agents while I walk the dogs in the morning, but calm the nerves when I sit down to write.

They want to be held. Sometimes babies get scared or don’t feel good or (God forbid) are teething. During these moments, they need loving, protecting arms. A muse is the same way. She needs hugs in the darker moments…and, as Talia said, that’s why writers need the kind ears of a supportive writing group.

They need to be set down. I won’t lie: it’s not easy to just set a cute baby down and let him play on his own, especially when there’s very little time in the day to coddle him. But, in the long run, letting him have independence and alone time breeds self-sufficiency. Muses need this space to play too. She needs the Slutty Next Novel to think about, even if you’re on a deadline for this one.

I’m sure there are more similarities, but honestly, I’m too sleep deprived to come up with them.


Great parallels! Especially like the "set the baby/muse down" one. It's hard, but necessary. Otherwise you'll be carting a thirty-pound muse around, & that's not good for an aging parents' joints.

The first year is almost over, Bret! And it only gets easier from here, as I'm sure all seasoned parents will tell you.

That's a joke, but not a funny one.

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