Saturday, April 3, 2010

Coercing the Muse

On Wednesday my friend Watery Tart talked about Neglected Muses at her blog. She named some ways you can piss off your muse and make it not want to come around, and talked about how to be kind when it's around. It's a great entry, and you should go read it now. Don't worry, I'll wait.

OK. Done? Good.

This made me think about what I do to lure my muse into my writing room. I used to try to force it. I tempted her with blank pages, great music, the perfect arrangement of pillows in my writing space. But my muse was a fickle bitch for a long time. She'd whisper in my ear just before I was falling asleep, then run away, giggling. Or, she'd give me one or two lines of poetry and then just stop, refusing to talk, smiling her infuriatingly enigmatic smile. BAAAH!! So frustrating.

I've been thinking, and I've realized that one of the reasons my muse was so tricky for so long is because she wasn't really interested in the work I was doing at the time. Short stories are fun, she says in her lilting, musical voice, and I love poetry - it's in my blood, I AM related to Calliope, after all - but can't you write something... longer?

Of course I constantly blew her off for years about long-term projects, but she kept handing me ideas that could easily be turned into books. My first published short story, "Avenue of Dust", is about a man who starts the end of the human race by administering some kind of poison into the water system of Paris. The story's not very long, maybe ten or twelve pages - but everyone who's read it cries out to know what happens next. "Does Frank get away and get back to the states?" they ask. "Do they find a cure? Does everybody die?" I always say, "I dunno, what do you think?" in return to these questions. (In truth, I think almost everybody died, including Frank, but that's a whole other story... eh... novel... right?)

Other stories are also little snippets in a larger tale. My poor muse! All this time, I've been feeding her short rations. Until the last nine months or so. And let me tell you, when you finally give a muse exactly what she wants, she doesn't want to leave. She's not teasing or tricksy. She loves you and appreciates what you do for her - after all, you give sound to her voice. You're the medium she chooses to work in. Once you prove it to her that you're not going to quit, she will open up and give you an entire universe of ideas.

But you have to take care of her. You have to remember to give her what she wants and needs, or you'll end up just as frustrated as she is. Tempt her with the things she wants. Is it a long, freestyle lyrical poem she wants to dictate to you? Maybe a screenplay! Or maybe she wants you to paint tonight instead? Listen to her. She'll tell you what you're supposed to do. And the best way to coerce a muse into giving you inspiration? Offer yourself and your talents to her, and be open to whatever she suggests. It gets easier once you start practicing this on a regular basis. Don't fight it. Don't force it. She'll let you know what it is.

And when she does, it'll be amazing.

12 comments:

Raquel Byrnes said...

Can muses be guys...because a needy demanding chick whispering in my ear would only distract me from writing. A nice quiet dude, maybe throwing out ideas while tossing cards into a fedora...now thats the ticket!

Jen said...

I used to be in that situation! I was writing chick lits and my muse would never give me enough and then I had a dream and I utilized a story I had come up with previously that was suspensful and viola my muse was working in full force and 5 weeks later my first draft is now complete!! Silly muse!

B. Miller said...

Hahaha! I think Muses can be whatever you want them to be. I love the idea of your muse throwing out ideas while tossing cards into a hat... very telling!

Thanks for the comment!

Mary McDonald said...

Yes, give the muse free rein. What works for me is a set time limit to write. So many times I sit down without a clue what to write next, but most of the time, something decent comes out.

Caledonia Lass said...

Ah yes, the whispering in the ear as you would fall asleep and then run away. I hated that. Kept me up nights!
I have to admit, I didn't want to go back to writing after making my first huge, embarrassing publishing mistake. My Muse kept after me, though. She wouldn't let me rest until I worked it through, fixed my mistakes and problems. I love my Muse.

WELCOME TO MY WORLD OF POETRY: said...

A very interesting topic, I had a poetry book published two years ago Ok It's not THE greatest one ever but when the finished article was in my hands I felt a sense of achievement.
I look forward to your letter "D" WORD.
Have a happy Easter.
Yvonne,

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I can relate. I've been trying to come up with something new, but the muse kept returning me to my original idea. Now that's I'm plotting the sequel to my book, it's so much easier.

disobedientwriter said...

Hi - I just stumbled upon your blog for the first time. "But my muse was a fickle bitch for a long time. She'd whisper in my ear just before I was falling asleep, then run away, giggling."

LOL! Love this - my muse is a fickle bitch, too. I basically force her to come back, or I'd never finish. It's not the healthiest relationship. I hope to one day be a full-time writer & then I'll indulge her every desire. But for now, I have to squeeze my novel into a handful of hours a week. So my muse does as I say (at least I try to make her do that)

disobedientwriter said...

Hi - I just stumbled upon your blog for the first time. "But my muse was a fickle bitch for a long time. She'd whisper in my ear just before I was falling asleep, then run away, giggling."

LOL! Love this - my muse is a fickle bitch, too. I basically force her to come back, or I'd never finish. It's not the healthiest relationship. I hope to one day be a full-time writer & then I'll indulge her every desire. But for now, I have to squeeze my novel into a handful of hours a week. So my muse does as I say (at least I try to make her do that)

Lola Sharp said...

I don't really have a 'muse', writing just comes to me.
Inspiration comes from anything/everything, but no 'muse' per se.

I hope you have a Happy Easter, B!
Love,
Lola

Talli Roland said...

Loved this post! My muse and I are workin' together now, finally. I set her a strict routine and she usually shows up at some point when I'm at my desk!

Marjorie said...

I'm starting to think that the Tart herself is a muse! She is always inspiring me.

Most of the time I ignore my more personal muse. I always end up wishing I hadn't.