A Guide To The Anti-Muse (And Never Letting Guilt Be A Motivator)

July 7, 2011
"Never let guilt be a motivator," my mom would tell me and my two older brothers growing up. "Never be swayed by guilt." My Mom's "mom-ism" came to mind one day while sitting on the couch on a lazy Sunday afternoon feeling guilty about not having written the past few days.

I have a terrible habit of letting way too many days go by where I don't write at all. Usually it's preceded by a terrible wave of self-doubt, or when I have questioned my story ideas. So, rather than overcome that feeling and just discipline myself into writing, I do what I usually do best -- dwell and obsess. This is when my Anti-Muse looms the largest.

You haven't heard of the Anti-Muse? Well, in case you haven't found out already, let me tell you this -- every single writer on this planet (and others) have two creatures that follow their creative self everywhere. I'd like to call the first one, "The Muse." "The Muse" is a beautiful winged creature that is as flighty as a butterfly, sheer as a rainbow and as commonly seen or heard from as a white dove.

Now, the second creature I'd like to think of as "The Anti-Muse." It's covered in dank, dark, horrible muck from the bottom of the deepest swam with fangs of a vampire and eyes of a black hole. And both of these creatures serve different purposes.

The Muse follows writers around in tentative curiosity. It looms behind corners, and flies away the second we try to take a long look at it. When it's ready, it sits on our shoulder and whispers into our ear. Then, in a second, it giggles and rushes away, leaving us with the very thing we have been waiting for all along.

Then, there's the Anti-Muse.

The Anti-Muse usually looms a lot closer. It stands over us, just waiting. It waits for the moment when The Muse goes away and all we are left with is our own discipline. It waits until we start typing or until we press our pen into the pages and that's when it begins to whisper...You're no good...You're no good at all... When it watches us put the pen down or play solitaire on our computer, it realizes it has won and waits behind us for the next moment, laughing. The Anti-Muse is perfectly fine if we want to look at it square in the eye...it feeds off of our creativity anyway...

And let me tell you...The Anti-Muse looms largest at different times for all of us...And for me, it looms largest when I've let too much time go by between words and guilt sets in.

I've realized though...discipline serves as the greatest muscle against this feared creature.

So, on that beautiful Sunday afternoon, as I just sat there with the Anti-Muse chuckling over my shoulder and watching as my creativity energy became weaker and weaker...my guilt becoming stronger and stronger like a weight on my chest...something clicked.

I announced, "I'm going to write."

"Good," my mom said.

I got my laptop, opened it up, and started typing. I wrote while the Anti-Muse slowly melted away...

And I felt free and I wasn't sure why. My guilt left me and I just wrote.

I can't say that I allowed guilt to be a motivator. My mom was definitely right about that. Letting guilt be a motivator serves no purpose. I can't "guilt" myself into writing (and neither could anyone else). And I've realized very quickly that The Anti-Muse becomes a lot stronger when guilt is in the picture.

My inspiration that day was becoming stronger than the guilt of not writing and...just writing. It's a discipline to write regularly. But once you do, that muscle becomes stronger...and The Anti-Muse goes away. And you know...really the power of The Muse is in your hands. I'm beginning to finally realize that...


  1. Anti-Muse. Like something out of a horror story. Cool post.

    Your mom’s right about not letting guilt be a motivator, though. It can be disingenuous, I think (maybe)...writing not because you want to, but because you feel like you have to. But then you sometimes just have to throw that feeling away and just do it. I’ve been there tons of times.

  2. Very cute- but you shouldn't put so much weight on the Anti-muse. Forget about that jerk and move forward with the butterflies.

  3. This made for great reading!

  4. Nicole, once you've mastered that anti-muse you can begin to see him in a different light. Mine is called Monroe. He is a tiny, purple, beer-drinking, loogie-hockin fairy that can curse in several languages...and we get along just fine. It's his quirky irreverence that helps me to keep up with my blog....^-^....

    Schedule a certain time each day to write, and stick to it. Pretty soon it'll become a habit.

  5. Thank you all for your responses!! :) I had fun with this blog post.

    Thanks to blogging and my writing schedule (500 words a day is my goal. Usually when I go for meeting that goal, I exceed it!) I have been writing more and most importantly -- enjoying it more! That bad ole Anti-Muse is sulking in the corner more often lately. (Laila, Monroe sounds like fun! Maybe mine can take a few tips from him).

    Rob, your idea about the Anti-Muse being like a horror story would actually be a pretty good idea for a novel...a story where all the writer's muse/anti-muse are part of this world where the writer's go when they write...

    Hmmmm...that gets me thinkin actually...

  6. Thanks for this! I've actually been sort of stuck myself, dwelling in guilt for neglecting the craft, and drowning in self doubt. After reading this I'm feeling a little better about things!

    Hope you have a great weekend!

  7. Fabulous post! I so need this right now. You're totally right.

    *looking for a bucket of water to pour on my anti-muse...*

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  8. Thank you Lindy and Sarah! I am so glad that this helped you!!

  9. Very interesting blog and I really liked the story of the Anti-Muse. Seems so true! I also love the background on this page. Nice and inspirational! Take care and good writing!

  10. Admitting you're a writer is the first step to recovery! Following you now. My blog is http://bethelisaharris.blogspot.com. If you like paranormal/romance/adventure w/a little sarcastic edge from the main character you may want to read Vision. All the info is on the blog. Thanks for the return follow and best to you!

  11. "Never let guilt be a motivator" very wise words!!

    I'm stopping by from SITs.

  12. @Beth @Robin @Lena Thank you for your comments!!

    @Lena thank you for the compliment!! My Anti-Muse inspired mr after all! :)
    @Beth I'm following your blog now Beth!! I can't wait!! Thank you for following me!
    @Robin They are wise words!! I have more from my mom I will probably use later!! Thank for stopping by!


I love comments! Unfortunately, though, due to an increase in spam comments, I am going to be moderating comments for a while. But be rest assured, I'll be approving yours shortly. Thanks for stopping by!

All Blog Posts Belong to Nicole Pyles. Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top