Ah, the elusive Muse.

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Muses are the personification of inspiration and are artistically depicted as beautiful women, garbed in flowing gowns, igniting the Artist’s passion and guiding him/her to capture the images in their heads. The concept of the muse as a person or creature comes from Greek mythology, but the idea is entrenched in Western culture to the point that actual living people are retroactively assigned the role: I’m thinking of Wyeth’s Helga and Proust’s Albert(ine).  The Muse figure sparks creativity, and goads the artist on. There is a kind of possession that takes place, driving the artist to work at odd hours. She can helpful, a kind of fairy godmother, or a madness-inducing demon. And then there are times when the Muse is dormant. The Muse that cannot be summoned, and drags the artist to self destruction.

In my formative years, I syncretized my childhood imaginary friend with my muse. After all, my imaginary friend actually was female, and, in addition to having witchy powers, she was a writer.  I’d often joke that my muse was lazy, distracted, and mean.  But as I grew, I began to find the idea of being chained to Inspiration (which is the major aspect of Musedom), both as an idea and a metaphor for writing to be precious and limiting. Inspiration, of course, is very important. We’ve all been compelled to create at the drop of a hat, as soon an image or idea forms in your mind. But  the act writing (and other art forms) is mundane and craft-based. Inspiration tends to abandon you at the syntax level. Accordingly, I have changed my conception of the Muse.

Instead of being one person or figure, I make my characters my muse. And I include things like Setting, Mood, and Language as characters. I find that using these things as touchstones, I can (usually) navigate a particularly difficult patch of writing.  When you dialogue with your text, ask questions, make it a living thing that you interact with, it takes shape. Then you are no longer at the mercy of the temperamental whims of your muse.