Thankful Thoughts: How to Encourage Your Muse

It’s November, and thoughts during this month naturally turn to thankfulness. Many friends on social media sites have taken the “30 Days of Thankfulness Challenge,” and I’m enjoying reading multiple posts on a daily basis. But this is a post about encouraging your muse, and you’re probably wondering what thankfulness has to do with getting that contrary gal (or guy) to work. Well sometimes it’s all about being thankful.

Mr. Darcy (Colin Firth)

My muse is an odd bird. You might assume she’d enjoy rainy days filled with thoughtful music, multiple cups of tea and all the dark chocolate she can find; that a little over-the-top emotion from me is all it takes to get her creative juices flowing. You know, kind of like the scene in Pride and Prejudice where Darcy pours his heart out on paper to Elizabeth (although he was pretty disgusted with her at that moment). The all-night vigil he keeps with feather pen in hand, desperately trying to explain how wrong she was about him (except for the part where he purposefully keeps Jane from Bingley). He writes with abandon, sealing his words with a big blob of red wax, and instead of going straight to bed, heads towards the grove where he hopes to find her (I’ve watched it way too many times).

But I’ve recently realized there’s a better way to get my muse moving. “Tell us please!” you say. “Don’t keep us waiting one more minute.” OK, here it is…BEING THANKFUL!

Yep, you heard me. One of the best ways to get my muse in the writing frame of mind is practicing thankfulness. Here’s how it goes…

I get up, pack lunches and help get breakfast. I send my husband and daughter off to school, look at my computer and sigh. “I don’t want to sit there all day!” I moan. “I don’t have anything useful to say to anyone. I don’t care about deadlines. I’m tired.” Then I walk by the offending machine to get a shower (and hopefully an attitude adjustment). By the time I’ve had my caffeine (Diet Coke), I’m feeling a little better, but not good enough. So I read my devotional and Bible and spend some time meditating. I close my eyes and open them, and there it is; the blank screen staring back at me. “It’s time,” I say aloud, “for some thankfulness.” My list goes something like this:

I’m thankful for…

  • The chance to work from home. When there’s three feet of snow outside, I don’t have to commute, put on a coat or even get out of my jammies if I don’t want to (but I always do). This is a very good thing.
  • My family. When you’ve seen your kid go through two major surgeries in two years and watch him graduate, get a great job and get married all in a few month’s time, that is something to be thankful for. I write to help all of them realize their dreams while I’m realizing mine.
  • My health. When you get diagnosed with RA and you think you’ll never write, or do anything, again, you don’t take little things for granted. Each time I wiggle my fingers or get up from my chair, I remember a time when I couldn’t.
  • The ability to think and process information in a way that others can read and understand. We writers take this for granted regularly and we shouldn’t. Just like you might wish you could run a marathon or play an instrument, there are many people who would love to be able to do what you do.
  • God’s grace in my life. Even if God never blessed me with one more thing, He has been very good to me. That is reason enough to work hard and be grateful for the gift each and every day.

My list gets much longer when my muse is especially contrary. But most days, after these five things she gets the message that it’s time to get back to it and be joyful in the process. And if there’s a little dark chocolate somewhere in the house that makes her even nicer.

Even if you don’t practice the “30 Days of Thankfulness Challenge” in your life this month, at least take time to be thankful for the gift of language and story and the heart to use both to bring others joy.

Sensibility- The ability to put words together into stories or information that can benefit others is a gift. Use it and treasure it.

Sense- If your muse isn’t showing up for duty, inspire her by creating a “Thankfulness Journal,” or “Family Diary.”

How do you encourage your muse? What are some things for which you are thankful?



I’m A Writer. I Should Know Better.

I didn’t plan on 2015 beginning with a rejection letter. I’m a writer. I should know better. But there I was, barely awake from New Year’s Eve revelry and putting away the Christmas decorations, reading my first rejection letter of the year. ‘C’mon!’ I thought. ‘Not this year. Not again.’ But as I mentioned earlier, I’m a writer. I should know better.

And now, a week or so later, I’m still wondering why that first rejection letter of this year literally knocked the wind out of my writing sails. Maybe it’s because I’ve been at this for so long now that all the writing gods and muses should be smiling on me and dancing joyously whenever I send out a manuscript. Maybe it’s because by now I thought I’d have agents knocking on my door and editors who loved me so much there’d be a stack of contracts just waiting for my hot little signature. But I’m a writer, and I really should know better.

We all get wounded in this business, but for someone like me, who has a really thick skin when it comes to rejection, and a hitch-up-your-big-girl overalls-and-move-on attitude about what I do, this came as a complete shock. Silly I know.

But it’s OK to let that happen to you every now and again. You might as well feel what you’re feeling rather than pretend it doesn’t hurt you right where you live. I’m not naïve enough to believe that my writing is always good, marketable and sellable at the same time, but this manuscript is. I know because that’s what I’ve been told over and over again.

So there you have it. Even crazy, sensible me has difficult writer days. I thought they were all behind me. But I’m a writer, and I really should know better. The key is not to let having a difficult writing day turn into a horrible writing week, month or year. It is what it is- one bad day. And if nothing else, I’m learning to give myself a break and have those days when I need them. I’m older and wiser (I hope), and I know that my happiness does not hinge on what’s in that email or envelope. If it did, I would have given up years ago.

So in honor of rejections, here are some great quotes from great writers to pull you out of your bad writing day and motivate you to keep trying. Cheers!

“This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address’. Just keep looking for the right address.” – Barbara Kingsolver

“Rejections slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil – but there is no way around them.” – Isaac Asimov

“I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.” – Sylvia Plath

“You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance.” – Ray Bradbury

“Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”  – Neil Gaiman 


Sensibility- Let yourself feel what you feel. Suppressing your disappointment when rejections comes isn’t healthy for your mind or your body.

Sense- Give yourself exactly 24 hours to grieve when a rejection comes. Then eat some chocolate and get that manuscript back out there.


What is your best rejection so far?


Just Brush Your Teeth! A Little BIC Primer

I saw something pretty crazy on television the other day (and no, it wasn’t a reality show).

It was a toothbrush that plays music while you brush your teeth. Designed with tweens and teens in mind, this amazing tool is supposed to have your kids up and dancing while keeping their pearly whites clean and healthy. Forget the fact that dental hygiene is just a part of what you have to do every day. Throw away the idea that having no cavities or gum disease is a reward all its own. No! Now boogieing while brushing is apparently the only way to get teens to brush! What’s next, floss that sings while sliding between your teeth? Seriously, when we saw that commercial, my family and I exchanged glances– two teens included—like “You’ve got to be kidding me!”

So what does a be-bopping toothbrush have to do with writing? Well, like brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing once a day and using mouthwash is the only way to keep your mouth healthy, BIC time (butt in chair for those of you unfamiliar with the term) is something you must do to keep your writing moving forward. There is no magic bullet when it comes to producing quality content that readers will love. You have to sit down, look at that empty screen and start typing. Something, anything, until the words begin to flow and you realize an entire hour has passed (or two even), and you hardly even noticed. BIC time is hacking out that rough draft, making those revisions, taking care of line edits and then doing the whole thing over again the next day. Lather, rinse, repeat. And just like brushing your teeth does not include looking in the mirror, putting the toothpaste on the brush, and getting a cup ready for rinsing, BIC time does not include answering emails, reading the latest publishing news, tweeting, posting or working on a writing course. BIC time is writing, plain and simple. Without those nervous moments of waiting for the flow of words to do just that- flow- your muse will never have a chance to speak to you in that magical way she does when all is quiet and it’s just you and a blank screen.

Not everything in life is meant to be 24/7 fun. BIC time in writing is a lot like brushing your teeth. It’s just something you have to do. Unless of course you want your teeth to fall out or your characters to never come alive. Does it get easier? Sure! Just like brushing your teeth has its own routine, the more BIC time you have the easier it is to get in the “zone.” So turn off the tunes and just brush your teeth. You may find yourself singing a song of your very own!

Sensibility- Writing can be a magical experience if you give yourself quiet moments to hear what your muse is trying to say.

Sense- Look at your schedule and set aside BIC time. For beginners, set a goal of at least three one-hour writing sessions each week.

How much BIC time to you set aside each week? What do you do to help yourself get in the “zone”?


Enriching Your Writing Life

Thanks to so many of you for commenting on my new and improved blog, Sensibility and Sense. And thanks for joining me here for conversations about the writing life from right where we are. You’ll notice at the end of each post I provide a two-sided take away- the sensibility and the sense. Think about it as two little truth nuggets “to go;” a gift for stopping by even if you don’t have time to read and comment on the entire post.

Today I want to talk about setting aside writing time. You’ve heard it on every writer blog, author website and at every conference: “You must write every day in order to be successful.” And after more than 20 years in this business, I absolutely agree. In order to be your best-writer self, you must write something every day. But if you’re in the middle of raising kids and helping your husband finish his education and get his business off the ground, like I was many moons ago and still am, some days writing time is hard to come by. So, rather than beat yourself up for not working harder (which parents who are also writers often do), or beat yourself up for writing when the floors need vacuuming and dinner is waiting to be cooked (which writers who are moms are very prone to do), let me suggest changing the mantra from, “you must write every day,” to, “do something every day that enriches your writing life.” But what does that look like?

Enriching your writing life may be as simple as taking your kids to library story time, digesting as many picture books as you can while you’re there, and then checking out a bag full to read during the week. It can also be keeping a small journal or notebook with you and jotting down things you see in the lives of your children and their friends that might make an interesting story. It might just be taking a walk and clearing your mind of clutter so great ideas can come pouring in, or having a conversation with another lover of children’s books about the latest award winner. How about opening a file on your laptop before you put in the next load of laundry and jotting down a few thoughts before the dryer buzzes? Daily writing-life enrichment comes from so many places if you’re paying attention. Because in this hard-working writer’s opinion, writing is as much about being an expert observer as it is about being a gifted storyteller.


  • Sensibility- Your love of reading and writing is a wonderful gift. Nurture it by finding ways to feed it every day.
  • Sense- Nurturing writing looks different for each person. Accept where you are on your journey and find practical ways to enrich your writing each day, even if you don’t have time to sit down at your computer and get in the “zone” for three hours.


What are some ways you enrich your writing life on a daily basis?