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A Muse by any Other Name

  • Yeah, ok, play on words. Maybe you're groaning, screaming at the monitor "How could she!!". I could because it's before 6am and at only 1/4 cup of my hazelnut coffee so it sounded like a good title to me.

    I've been musing about muses. I've heard people talk about them like they are real beings. Sort of an imaginary friend of childhood but for adults. This concept eludes me though.

    I write horror. The last thing I want is some monster actually coming to life and talking to me about my books. It would go something like this:

    Donna sits at her computer. Slowly, a mist forms at her feet. The mist grows until it is at eye level with her. Tentacles reach out, embracing her it seems. A face forms in the mist as Curakan reveals himself. His voice is deep, gravely as he whispers in Donna's ear. Donna slowly goes mad as she writes the story her muse is giving her.....

    Yeah, no thanks. I just can't picture that and really don't want to. Well I guess I just did as I wrote it, didn't I? Point is, I don't get the concept of muses so I looked up what others say about it.

    Stephen King: [quote]There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer. He lives in the ground. He’s a basement kind of guy. You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in. You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you. Do you think it’s fair? I think it’s fair. He may not be much to look at, that muse-guy, and he may not be much of a conversationalist, but he’s got inspiration. It’s right that you should do all the work and burn all the mid-night oil, because the guy with the cigar and the little wings has got a bag of magic. There’s stuff in there that can change your life. Believe me, I know.


    ― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

    Dean Koontz - [quote]His problem is writer's block, or to be more specific, lack of writer's block. "I don't want to sound like Shirley MacLaine," he says, "but it's almost as if story ideas are beamed to me. I can sit down for 15 minutes and come up with a dozen ideas. A lot of writers fall into this the-muse-has-left-me thinking and walk away from their work. I find that the muse never leaves me. I have to shove her out."



    I like this one from the Stephen King message boards:

    [quote]It's not so much that Mr. King visualizes such a cigar smoking person before he writes, but that he's giving the reader a visual of the way his individual muse is foundational. The muse is necessary to creation (whether you think of it as the literal foundation of the writing or as the janitor who keeps everything going--that's a bit neater analogy).

    His point is that the writer does the real work, not the muse. From thence come ideas, but you have to goose it a bit to keep it working. You put in the hours. To get back to his apartment worker analogy, if the muse--inspiration--is the janitor that keeps things running, the writer has to remember that he is the building owner, the one in charge, that gives the janitor instruction

    I think it's summed up best in one of Mr. King's most famous quotes (and one I have hung in my writing area):


    There is even a book, Shaggy Muses that depicts several well known female authors and their dogs as their muses. So, for me, the concept of having a muse eludes me, however, the writing doesn't. Perhaps some day I'll find what my muse is, perhaps it's just the creativity that lives in me, in all creative people. I just know that I don't want to put a name on it, give it a life, etc because it just doesn't feel right for me. This is something each author needs to decide. Do you have a muse, or more, with a name and personality? Do you just have a creativity that lives inside you and speaks through you?