Muse, Motivation, Wish, Goal

What motivates you to write? What would you consider your muse?

Those questions may sound like they’re asking the same thing, but if you think about it, they do differ. In my mind, motivation isn’t the same as muse. The muse shows up rarely and often at inconvenient times, like when you’re in the shower or when your hands are too full to grab a pencil. I think of motivation as a driving force that’s there regardless of whether the muse comes or not.

It’s almost like the difference between wish and goal. People tend to confuse the two because they both refer to something that’s out of reach at the moment. Wishing is passive: you throw your penny into the well and proceed to hope that whatever you wished for comes true, without feeling the need to take any action. A goal is active: you’re taking steps to move toward your desired outcome.

When someone talks about the muse, they most often talk about how it feels to wait for the muse, like waiting for the wishing well to finally grant a wish. When someone talks about motivation, they often mean something that keeps them going: the need to put money in their bank account or food on the table. You need something to motivate you, not just a wish or a muse, to reach your goal.

Muse implies thinking about something, pondering it, mulling it over… but not necessarily doing anything about it. Motivation implies motion, movement toward a goal… doing something. Muse and motivation can work together, as can wishes and goals. If you write and produce something every day, you’re sustaining your motivation. The muse may appear and give you the occasional burst of inspiration, but you can’t solely rely on it. The muse may give you a spark, but that spark will quickly disappear if the motivation isn’t being sustained. Likewise, a goal may be inspired by a wish, but the wish alone isn’t going to be enough to achieve the goal.

So if you hang around making wishes and waiting for muses, you won’t maintain your motivation, and your goal will remain ephemeral.

3 thoughts on “Muse, Motivation, Wish, Goal

  1. Great post! I definitely agree that there’s a difference between motivation and muse. Motivation for me is what I consciously want (to write a story, to get better at something, to share a novel with people, that sort of thing). My muse … Actually, I think of it as my muses, in plural, because it feels like I have different ones that lend me their voice for each story I write. I hope that makes sense. Anyway, my muses are the inspiration, the “what ifs” and the drive to write.

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    1. That’s how it is for me too. For now the muse is just random ideas that I get, but the motivation is the characters. They want to keep going!

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