The Muses

I wrote ages ago about muses and how I didn’t have one. However, I recently realized that I do have a muse. I have several of them, in fact. It’s just they’re not what I thought they’d be.

A muse, according to the dictionary, is “a person or personified force who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist”. I have always interpreted this to be more of the figurative meaning, an imaginary being that sprinkles creative dust on my head, which infiltrates my brain and gives me ideas. And in that respect, I never had a muse. I was never blessed in such a fashion.

As it turns out, though, I have been blessed with multiple muses over the years. I just didn’t realize it at the time. I was looking for fairies when what I got was people, places, and things.

My muses are concrete nouns.

For example, there’s a tree across the street in my neighbor’s yard. I don’t know what kind it is. It’s just big and it’s been there for years and it’s very pretty in the fall, but the wind strips its leaves pretty quickly. It’s usually bare by Halloween.

That tree has been in several of my stories and at least two of those stories came from ideas I got from that tree, from wanting to write about it. It was a muse.

There are places that I’ve used the same way. The library I work at has popped up in my stories long before I started working there. I wouldn’t be writing Defending The L right now if the library hadn’t inspired the story. The local lake, the house across the street, the zombie car wash, all inspired stories. They were muses.

And, yes, there are people who’ve served as muses. People who I think would make excellent characters so I build stories around them. People I want to give starring roles. People who I will absolutely not name here nor will I name of any of the stories they inspired. But they were all muses.

The thing about these muses, the real thing that I think tripped me up in seeing them for what they were, is that I thought of muses as more of something permanent. The fairy that was always there, flitting about with their creativity dust. As it turns out, muses are more impermanent than I previously thought. I don’t think that they’re always supposed to stick around. They serve their creative purpose and then they return to being the nouns they’ve always been.

Of course, muses, like inspiration and creativity and all of those other intangibles, are highly individual. I’m sure some people have muses that stick around forever. Maybe one day I’ll be lucky enough to have that happen.

And I’m sure there are some people who are lucky enough to have the fairy kind of muse, sprinkling creativity all over them. I know that I’ll never be lucky enough to have that.

I’ll have to settle for the nouns that happen to catch my attention.

Writing–Musing on Muses

Clio, muse of history, holding writing tablets...

I don’t have a muse.

Other writers talk about having muses. Their muses abandon them and show up in the middle of the night, begging for attention. They show up with nothing but a blank page or they leave them with pages and pages of finished work.

But I don’t have a muse.

I think it’s a neat idea. Like a little, disagreeable fairy that helps channel your creativity. It’s something to blame on the bad days and something to champion on the good days. It makes writing feel a little less lonely to know that there’s this little writing devil with a halo sitting on your shoulder.

But I still don’t have one.

I show up and I write. Some days go better than others, but in the end, it’s just me.

This doesn’t make me any better because I don’t believe in invisible helpers. In fact, I feel a little deficient because I don’t have one. Call me a little jealous. I’d like a little sprite to discuss things with on my writing journeys.

Instead of muses, I just have characters. Some are persistent little things that won’t leave me alone. And I do talk to my characters a lot. I ask them questions and hope they’ll cooperate and answer them. That’s how I develop the stories sometimes. I just sit back, look that character straight in the eye, and ask them, “What gives?”

Okay, all of this takes place in my mind (I save the talking to myself for hashing out dialogue to make sure it sounds real). Sometimes those interviews go well. Sometimes I find out the characters just want to exist and they really don’t want to do anything of interest.

I suppose talking to my characters is the closest I’ll ever get to having a muse. They show up, kind of like a muse does, and they help me write their stories. Sometimes they’re more helpful than other times. Sometimes they can be really annoying pricks.

But in the end, when it comes to the actual work, they step back and let me put fingers to keys and pen to paper. When it comes to the actual work, it’s all on me. I’ve got no muse to bail me out there.

Which is a shame. Some days, I could use it.