Dating back to classical mythology, the idea of a muse as a source of creative inspiration is with us to this day.
Accounts vary but the original nine muses, said to be the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, were credited with inspiring everything from epic poetry to music, dance and astronomy.
I’ve had many sources of inspiration coming to mind recently as my agent, Linda Tate, and I presented a session called Getting back the Joy of Writing at the national conference of Romance Writers of Australia.
The conference spanned enough late nights and early mornings that I was yawning as our presentation approached, definitely not a good look. Coffee was the obvious answer. Now caffeine and I don’t usually get along. I even drink decaffeinated diet coke, known to my friends as “why bother?” On this occasion I was able to grab a cup of “real” coffee and kick start my share of the session with nobody the wiser.
In our presentation, Linda talked about the need to set up a time and space to write, showing a graphic which said, “But first, coffee.” I’m sensing a theme here. Not that I support the idea of relying on stimulants. The downside is too risky, as everyone from Oscar Wilde to Stephen King found to their cost.
In truth it’s better to be your own muse, as most writers know deep down. But there’s no harm in personifying your creative inspiration if it works for you. I’m not averse to having Chris Hemsworth turn up on my doorstep. Not sure how much writing I’d get done though.
Let’s face it, when I met my muse, actor, writer and philanthropist, William Shatner, I was hard pressed to get a word out, although he was perfectly charming, as were his companions from Star Trek, LeVar Burton and Sir Patrick Stewart. Just the idea of sitting down to a private chat with them left me speechless. Not my usual condition, as many of you know.
This week on Facebook, writer friend Ebony McKenna posted: Another 1500 words today. They are terrible words. Slapped down on the keyboard with no heart or thought while my muse flakes on the sofa eating bonbons. Want to trade muses?
Erin Grace responded: mine is at your place feeding your muse the bonbons.
Alison Stuart said hers was still stuck at the cricket.
Ebony’s last line was telling: I’m reminding myself, at least I have something to edit.
However you perceive your muse, here are three ways to enlist their co-operation.
- Have a deadline
Nothing concentrates the writing mind as well as having work due in a set time frame. Some writers can only work to a looming deadline. I’m one who starts a project as soon as the contract is signed. But then I used to do my assignments in the breaks at university.
- Have a great idea
If a story and characters won’t leave you alone, nagging you as you try to sleep, your muse is urging you to get up and do the thing. I’m writing this at 4am not from choice, but because I want to share these thoughts with you.
- Enjoy having written
The reality is that writing is hard work, but nothing beats the joy of reading over your new words, whether two hundred or two thousand of them. And as I said at the conference, the writers most likely to struggle are the “good” writers who challenge themselves with every new project.
What works as your muse? Chocolate, wine, coffee or simply the satisfaction of having written? Perhaps Chris Hemsworth? Sorry but William Shatner is mine, in fantasy anyway. Share your thoughts in the comments below. It’s moderated to avoid spam but your comment can appear right away if you click on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.
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Save the date –
My new workshop on Making Your Book Work
Saturday Oct 12 in Canberra for ACT Writers Centre