Sunday, October 14, 2007

Get out of the way! Or: Don't anger the muse

When writers talk about writing, it's only a matter of time before the subject of the muse comes up. What does the term actually mean? In Greek mythology, the word "muse" refers to any of the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne; each goddess ruled over a specific field of art or science. When an artist today talks about a muse, they mean the source of their inspiration. So asking "where's your muse" is another way of asking "where's your inspiration?"

So, then, the muse. For some writers, it helps to actually visualize their muse as a grumpy man in the next room or three sisters in the basement. Others might use a photograph of their main character or other tangible item that could have been pulled from their story. Some listen to music that their characters would like. Still others claim to not have a muse.

Many moons ago, I used to be one of the latter. I bristled at the notion that motivation could come from something other than myself. Recently, though, I realized I've had a muse all along; it just wasn't easily recognizable because it changed with every story I wrote. During The Gemstone Prophecy trilogy, I imagined a magical stone I could hold in my hand. As "Return of the Black Seraph" happened, I held fast to the desperation and despair my protagonist must feel. For my current short story project, "Gabriel's Wish," I find that I do my best work while listening to the What Women Want movie soundtrack.

Basically, it comes down to this: get out of the story's way. Let it be written how it wants to be written. If that means hand-writing instead of typing or working at a cafe instead of at home or listening to music instead of total silence, do it. And don't question it. Let the writing happen.


Paul Genesse said...


Great post. I really agree with what you wrote. The more I learn about my own muse, the more I realize that I have to take care of her. She must be nurtured and cared for, not bitch slapped and yelled at!!

My muse is kind and gentle, and she generally likes to look at cool fantasy art and listen to soundtracks to be put in the mood. Getting her in the mood can be challenging, but when she's ready for action life is so good . . . .

Paul Genesse

Author of The Golden Cord
Book One of the Iron Dragon Series

Kelly Swails said...

Funny thing, the muse. Mine is unpredictable at best and schizophrenic at worse. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Ken Swails said...

Excellent post, Kelly.

My muse is generally connected to my ass. It needs to be sitting in the right chair. For some reason, the muse isn't around when I'm sitting on the couch. Go figure.