How Writers Can Feed Their Muse through Community

Today’s blog post is by Scott Stavrou:

Of the many trials Odysseus faced on his long journey home, one of the greatest was overcoming the seductive song of the Sirens that sapped strength from body and soul. Even the brave and stalwart Odysseus knew that he was defenseless against their allure, so he had his crew lash him to the mast until they had passed the island of the Sirens.

Likewise, the writer’s life today is beset by so many seductive but creativity-sapping siren-songs. No matter how strong your passion for writing is, the world offers too many perilous distractions. You have emails to send, bills to pay, social media singing out to you.

With all these many beguiling entertainments, obligations, and amusements, you sometimes have to remind yourself to lash yourself to the mast and ignore the many singing sirens of distraction and r-apply yourself to your passion for writing down your words, telling the story only you can tell and telling it as well as possible.

Start Small to Nurture Your Muse

How to do this? First you start small, lash yourself firmly to the sanctity of your time and space. Secure your own writing spot, a safe haven away from distractions that is only for you and your writing. If you don’t have an office of your own, carve out a small corner, a kitchen table cleared of other commitments, a makeshift desk devoid of all other detritus and debris.

Cervantes wrote Don Quixote in prison—and crafted a character that still tilts at windmills with vigor all these centuries later. Your space can be anywhere, but it must be sacred to you and the people around you; a place for you and your writing, only.

The Internet is great for inspiration, but most times writing is more about intensity and perspiration. Join the growing legions of writers, like Jonathan Franzen, Nick Hornby, Dave Eggers, and Zadie Smith, who disconnect from the ensnaring World Wide Web. After all, you’re in charge of your writing world, and it’s up to you to make it work.

Once you’ve nurtured the proper relationship with your muse and your creative self, you have to start thinking about the next stage: taking your story into the world. Here, too, you can start small, enlisting a trusted friend willing to be a frank first reader. But eventually you’ll want to nurture other associations.

Seek an Inspired Community

The writing community can be a valuable resource—a place where you’ll find legions of like-minded peers, classes, workshops, and confidants to share both struggles and successes. If you don’t have a local writing club or group in your hometown, join one online. The work of writing can be too solitary at times, but the production of great writing is more often than not a result of being surrounded by other people of similar ilk or inspiration.

Be Geniuses Together

Great writing comes from experiencing great thinking and great ideas. Fostering such alliances is likely to be one of the most vital things you can due to nurture your own creativity.

Think of most of the famous writers throughout history and their famous friends: the Algonquin Round Table; the Inklings; the Bloomsbury Group; Paris in the 20s with Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Stein, Pound, and Joyce, all feeding off of each other, all fervent in the belief that one day they would wake up and be geniuses together.

Think about the benefits of community:

  • Creativity thrives in clusters of camaraderie and competition
  • Genius germinates in groups
  • Community allows you to expand your horizons to feed your muse

You Cannot Write Well If You Do Not Live Well

If you’re like most people, the limited horizons of your home and work and the twelve-inch space between you and your computer screen just might not be enough fodder for fueling the muse. To write a book that will open your reader’s eyes, you need to make sure that your own are wide open.

Think about attending a conference or writers’ retreat, where you’ll not only enhance your writing ability but add more experiences to nourish your muse. Good living makes for good stories; good stories make for good writing.

Is there an author you’ve dreamed of studying with or a place you’ve dreamed of seeing? Seek to make your dreams your reality. New and novel experiences make for new and novel thoughts—all of which make for better books.

Comparing Conferences and Retreats

There are as many unique writing retreats and writers’ conferences as there are voices in the creative world, from local to global, traditional to unconventional. They can be informative and inspiring but can also be highly-charged, competitive environments, often more focused on the marketplace of publishing than the nourishing of creativity.

Great for networking, but not always ideal for nurturing. Conferences, with their shorter duration and sharper focus, can help with making connections and gleaning motivation.

Advance into Retreat

Writers’ retreats tend to be longer, ranging from long weekends to several weeks or more and place more emphasis on instruction and education, on the nurturing of craft and creativity, the forging of new bonds, and the enrichment of new experiences. With the ever-increasing explosion in the number of books published annually, there’s never been a broader and more diverse offering of writers retreats, both near and far, and you’re more likely than ever before to find the ideal program for your needs.

Find the Right Retreat to Unleash the Right Words

Whether you thirst for a quiet cabin in the woods or sunrise yoga and creative classes on the California coast, or yearn to venture further afield and drink deeply from the wellsprings of Western civilization while gazing pensively at the romantic rolling green hills of Italy or the white-washed villages of Spain or the Greek islands, you’re likely to find the writers’ retreat that’s perfect for you.

In the immortal words of St. Augustine: “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” The worldly writer will travel the globe with the same voraciousness with which they devour good books, to glean new ways of seeing the world.

Make every effort to connect yourself with creative people and captivating locales, and immerse yourself in the right setting for you to find the right words.

Each and every journey has its own personality, and sometimes the trip takes you places you never dreamed of. Sometimes, like Odysseus, you must lash yourself to the mast and remain steadfast in your resolve to overcome the sirens of distraction.

But once you’ve forged a firm connection with your own writing goals and surrounded yourself with the right peers and places, you’ll be able to hoist your sails and steer the ship of your creative self to its journey’s end: taking your story into the world.

scott stavrou head shotScott Stavrou is an American writer and creative writing teacher living in Greece. He is the author of the award-winning travel book Wasted Away and the novel Notes on Leaving Venice. He writes and teaches Creative Writing with Write Away Europe. Connect with Scott at his website and on Twitter.

Feature photo by Atlas Green

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  1. I wish that I could travel and go to conferences and retreats. Unfortunately, I live on a fixed income and can’t. I do try to research what I can, but it isn’t the same experience. This is a very interesting post. Thanks for all you do to keep us informed. I need to get more involved in the community, but I am such an introvert.

  2. Rebecca – most of the better and established Writers Retreats in the U.S. and abroad tend to have Fellowships, Scholarships or available stipends. You’ll find plenty of them with a quick search of ‘Writing Retreat Fellowships.’ If that’s not for you, you can always create your own ‘retreat’ with a few fellow writers close to home to get your own community started until you’re ready to venture further.

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