Saturday, April 14, 2012

On "The Muse" 
"The Muses (Greek: Μοῦσαι, moũsai:[1] perhaps from the o-grade of the Proto-Indo-European root *men- "think"[2]) in Greek mythology, poetry, and literature, are the goddesses of the inspiration of literature, science and the arts. They were considered the source of the knowledge, related orally for centuries in the ancient culture that was contained in poetic lyrics and myths. The compliment to a real woman who inspires creative endeavor is a later idea." (Wikipedia)

The start of every literary creation is the simple idea. The idea can be anything. A picture, a scene, an ending, a fight. But it's enough to motivate the thinker towards something bigger.

In the reading and writing world, we often hear authors referring to the "Muse". Oftentimes, we nod, smile, humor them and consign this attribution to being part of the inherent schizophrenia that makes their novels oh-so-delectable.

I've found that it's oddly accurate to refer to "the lightbulb" as my "Muse". There I am, doing the dishes, and as I scrape off that petrified pea and watch as it is sucked into the vortex of my sink's drain, I suddenly hear it: my Muse is calling! It's like having words whispered into my ear or being overtaken by the scene from some as-yet-unimagined movie.

The Muse, by-the-by, is quite insistent, a little grouchy, and has the cliched timing of a waitress.

And she will not be denied!

No, these aren't simply little ideas that present themselves, but a powerful force that requires immediate attention. Sirens and bells go off and everything must be halted. For a writer ignores the Muse at her own peril.

The Muse is also a bit touchy and comes around on her own good time (further proof that the Muse is female, I'm sure).

The Muse is not without humor (in addition to her previously listed delightful attributes), of course, and oftentimes, all she lends is just enough information to spark your curiosity, leaving you wanting.


Fortunately, however, we are not without our resources. Mere mortals, we- we've learned to deal with the unspent need on our own terms.

My current strategy has been quite successful and I owe a great deal of it to "Muse #2" ("Muse" for short; "#2" was already taken), a friend who is gracious enough to lend a hand to the creative flow of my work.

No need to gasp in horror at my admission of additional help! "Muse" has helped me to overcome those moments where The Muse has left me hanging, by spouting my own ideas back to me. Somehow, having them re-worded is enough to re-inspire me and stimulate the flow of creativity. "Muse" is my sounding board. "Muse" sees the rough edges, the crazy hair, the red eyes, and gently spins me about to reface my mission.

Without my "Muse", The Muse would have had a baseball bat aimed at her cranium, many a-time.

It is through this that I have learned that writing is more than the simplicity of pen to paper or finger to keyboard.

It's a complex process full of twists and turns. It's long nights spent in front of the keyboard, bleary-eyed and unable to feel my butt cheeks because I've been sitting too long. It's strands of hair between my fingers because I've been yanking at it for hours and I'm still staring at that damned bleeping line in Word, in the exact same spot I was when I started.

For me, successful writing is a team effort. It's someone to hold me when I'm sobbing about insurmountable obstacles. It's someone who politely redirects my attentions when I decide I'm inserting a platypus as a secondary character (it's really not a bad idea, Phineas and Ferb make it RAWK; Go Perry!). It's someone who hears the heart of my story, not the words I've written and reminds me who my characters are.

So I thank The Muse for her efforts to spur creativity in the masses. But my gratitude goes to my friend, "Muse #2", who has stood by me and without whose help I'd never have made it this far.

Here's to you, "Muse #2"! And to those like you!

And may you receive the acknowledgements you deserve: for your help, your diligence, and your tireless generosity.

And to The Muse? Midol, honey... Midol.

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