Thinking About My Muse – An Offering of Gratitude

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Ask most any writer about their muse, and they will tell you of his or her inability to control him (John Updike claimed that his ran off with the postman and now only occasionally sends a postcard). I’m using the gender-specific “him” because my Muse happens to be male. Muses in mythology are, of course, female. Mine is a strikingly ordinary man who inspires the extraordinary. Don’t blame him if I’m not always successful in recording what he says.

As I mentioned in my post on creative inspiration, my Muse is somewhat amorphous. It took me forever to realize that I only had a limited time with him before he took off, only to return weeks, sometimes months later, looking, acting, and talking like someone else. Hey! Where are you going? I was just starting to get used to you!

So what’s a girl to do? Never finish anything? The Muse shakes his head in frustration. No, a girl must learn to draft quickly while the idea is still exciting to her so that she can finish it later. Don’t blame me if you took so long to realize that I can’t be around forever. I have frolicking to do. I’m needed in Dublin (or London or Paris) next week.

My Muse of the moment whispers in my ear at night as I fall asleep, showing me various possibilities for my characters. In his voice, soft and low, he asks the question “What if…?” Some people read to fall asleep. I make up stories (with a little bit of help). The next morning, he stands by patiently as I review them in my mind and put them down on paper. He smiles when I have those Ah-ha! moments, seemingly pleased to have been present for the epiphanies, great and small. He often appears to enjoy the creative process as much as I do. Don’t blame me if I have to leave you right after I give you that smile. Again, frolicking.

Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes he’s a distraction. That voice is easy to get carried away on, hypnotic, like a melody from the music of the spheres. I’m lost in the realm of imagination, ideas tumbling one over the other, and I am watching them as they go by. Days have passed, and I haven’t actually written a thing. Don’t blame me for being so gorgeous. You’re the writer. Write something.

Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working. –Pablo Picasso

Ay, there’s the rub! We can’t blame the Muse when we are the ones not doing the work. The Muse is there to whisper “What if…?” He stands beside us on our quest, finds the ship for our voyage to the unknown, gives us a map, sparks the fire of imagination, and touches us softly on the shoulder when we forget where we’re going. Don’t blame me if you’re not doing anything with all that I’m giving you. It takes two, you know.

We are the ones who must record the history of our voyages with the Muse, in whatever our art form. We have to do the actual work and then say, “Thanks. It was a great trip.” Sometimes he has to go frolicking. That’s where he gets those magical ideas that he’ll later pass on to you.

Don’t blame your muse if he isn’t reliable enough for you. He’s standing right there beside you waiting to whisper in your ear that next “What if…?” Maybe he’s just waiting for you to create something from the last “What if…?” before you move on to the next thing.

And by the way, Muse, I’m listening.

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