On that first note, I never knew people used the word muse outside of talking about mythology until I met other aspiring writers who told me they couldn't write until their muses inspired them. I don't rely on the muse quotient because it is never high. From what I've seen, people who rely on a muse produce a couple thousand words two or three times a year. If your muse quotient works for you, then keep at it--what is wrong for me can of course be right for you. But if the muse method isn't giving you the results you want, tell the muse you're going to be working every day. Your work ethic will inspire her to inspire you more frequently.
Waiting on my muse doesn't work for me because I'm a slow writer at this point in time, and I'll never finish my WIP or any other drafts if I rely on being inspired.
Now for the other part I mentioned about getting stoned. I've never had any desire to do drugs. It's relevant to this post because a few months ago I got out of four years of undergrad writing classes in which people proudly proclaimed they had written 25 pages of fiction the night before while high and/or drunk. (I've also never been drunk :D) For those of you not in the know, when someone turns in a story they wrote while high/drunk, the story will ALWAYS BE WITHOUT FAIL a thinly veiled version of the author's life in high school, during which he alienated someone he loved because he was too much of a surly bastard to express how he really felt. End scene. It's ridiculous, and it only brings about trite writing.
I started this post just to say that when I want to get in the mood to write or do other artistic activities, a good ritual is to burn incense and listen to music by people with ethereal voices, which amuses me because it is supposedly what people do while smoking pot. That led me to thinking about inspiration, and here we are.
So back to inspiration. There are a few things I do to inspire myself consciously. This is different from waiting for the muse. The muse grabs you when you least expect it, but doing things consciously is a ritual all your own. It teases the muse by going "heyheyhey, look at this creativity party I'm having. You know you want in."
Here are my means to beginning production:
Go somewhere very quiet. Yesterday I found the perfect patch of grass behind an Episcopal church at the end of a dead end road. No one was outside, and it was far enough away from the highway that I couldn't hear any cars. I was looking for a certain mood while brainstorming about a book I want to write which will take place in 15th century France. All I had to do was turn my back on the neighborhood, stare at the trees and a passing murder of crows, and there was nothing to remind me that I wasn't where I was pretending to be. Being near a church also helped set the tone since my manuscript involves a church--a Catholic one.
Get the atmosphere right. I line edit in my room where I can concentrate on just the right words. When I'm warming up, though, I want a place lively or serene enough to evoke the location I intend to describe. I never stop taking notes mentally, and sometimes I can't help but take a break from the dance floor or neglect a lecture for just a moment while I jot down a brilliant sentence or turn of phrase that pops into my mind.
If you want to write, but you're stuck inside or in an extremely unattractive and dull neighborhood, check the internet for videos and photographs of places on and beyond Earth to help inspire you. Favorite these or collect them in a folder. I'm going to start collecting inspiring pictures of France on Pinterest. Beware, the internet is addicting.
Find out what your artist friends are making. There is nothing like a bit of friendly jealousy to make me want to write all the things. This is really a competition with myself, and an imagined one with my friends. I love hearing what my friends are writing about, and their dedication inspires me to write more. Honestly, my dream isn't to be a published author alone; my bigger dream is to be a part of a community of published writers made up of people I've known my entire life or just a year--all of whom I deeply admire.
Read something in the tone you want to emulate. I read something by one of my favorite authors if I'm having trouble finding the right tone or voice. This makes me feel like a phony, but I power through it. Reading someone else's work for inspiration is a starting point. The short story I'm working on now is in it's fifth draft, and this is the first draft where I can see a hint of the narrator's voice rather than my voice telling the reader what is happening.
Try not to be anxious when you don't produce as much as you want. I don't think anyone produces as much as they want in as short a time frame as they want. People who rely on the muse seem okay with a low production rate because they trust their muse. I don't have a relationship with a muse. Instead, I have an anxious passenger.
"You're not writing, you know," my anxious passenger says. Twenty times a day.
"No, I'm peeling an orange at that moment," I say. "I'll get to the writing in a bit."
"It's been three hours," says the anxious passenger. "You're still not at the keyboard."
Then it is usually midnight, and I haven't written anything. The anxious passenger starts rubbing off on me. I get upset about wasting the day even though I know I'll be up until 3am. Thus, my latest tactic is to stop telling myself I can't work at night. Remember how much I love quiet. Nighttime is the quietest time of all around here. I've finally convinced myself I can write whenever I want as long as I allow myself to do it. Maybe what makes writing so painful is that part of me wants to hold my ideas hostage because once they're on the page, they won't feel as shiny and new until I've spent months polishing them.