Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The brutality of a muse

There's been more drama than usual in my personal life since my father had his stroke. He's home and doing well -- back to knitting -- but he's got a noticeable gap in his mid-range memory. He has no trouble with short-term memory tests, as long as he maintains his focus (we're all absent-minded types, in my family,) and his long-term memory is fine, but he honestly forgets things like the trip planned for late next month or that there are no cigarettes in the house for a good reason. The writerly side of my mind has been taking notes, of course.

Another source of drama that's somewhat relevant to my writing life is that I -- acquired? -- a muse. I'm not sure what the right verb is; that's like saying I acquired a bolt of lightning. My muse wasn't so random as lightning, though. Unexpected, but not random.

Classical Greek muse, courtesy of
If you're not familiar with the term, a muse is a person who incites artistic inspiration. The most recent fictive treatment of muses that I recall was a storyline that Neil Gaiman included in the Sandman series. In that story, a man was holding one of the Greek muses captive and using her to fuel his career. Sandman freed her, and punished the man with such a flood of inspiration that it amounted to a curse. It amounted to madness.

My experience with this muse has been closer to Sandman's curse than anything else. I had this idea that drawing inspiration from people would be a happy, exciting process -- rather like the brainstorming I did with fellow writers while at Viable Paradise.

No, this verges on frightening. Obsessive. Every thought, however tangentially related to my muse, throws out tendrils and sprouts into a story idea, like accelerated grapevines intent on choking my mind. Genre doesn't seem to matter: sci-fi, dark fantasy, urban fantasy... dammit, I don't even like urban fantasy*... And while that's difficult enough to wrestle with, I dread its end and the wound my muse will leave.

Dread and crave; what a peculiar masochism creativity entails.

Most of the posts I have seen about inspiration talk about drawing it from other books/films/music, or personal experiences that set off "what if" cascades. I can't remember anything about real-life muses. So if you have any experiences to share, I'd love to hear them.

*I kid you not, a few thoughts about my muse in order to write this and an urban fantasy idea spins out of nowhere. Had to stop and jot it down, since it came with enough details that it might work. Not all of them sprout that far on their own, but they all come with this urgent potential.


D.G. Hudson said...

Perhaps that feeling of urgency means you SHOULD write it down.

I don't have a live muse, but Calliope is my muse and I have a painting in my study where she sits on a bench watching me. (making sure I write) I learned of her at a craft fair, researched and we adopted each other.

Good luck with life's dramas. (I call them observations.) Here's one example:

Crystal Collier said...

I love it when the muse is working overtime! Fortunately I've been able to tame mine. I tell her what time of the day she's to attack, and she only disobeys when I'm showering or about to fall asleep. No worries there, right? LOL.

Liz A. said...


Well, I bet things will calm down sooner or later. Perhaps some time spent with a quiet mind?

L. Blankenship said...

>Perhaps some time spent with a quiet mind?

My yoga practice has been sort of a life raft through all this... and after three weeks of no contact with my muse, the creative flood has ebbed a bit. It's more manageable. But for how long...?

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