I have been re-reading Stephen King’s “On Writing.” It never gets old, reading that one. While my favorite part of that book is when he talked about fossils and tools, I also loved the way he described his muse.
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.
Back in high school, my relationship with creative writing was love/fear. Not love/hate. Never ever hate. There was fear, yes. There was a lot of fear and worry and anxiety each time I would spew out something new. Add to that the fear of having to read it out loud (I hate public speaking. Speech class sat right after Math in my Most Hated Subject list.) plus the fear of hearing what my fellow writers have to say. To get by and be able to write something decent, I relied on the idea of a muse. Or, to be more specific, the mainstream version of a muse, the generic muse. Whenever I became lazy in writing, I’d tell myself it’s because my muse has not yet made an appearance. I waited for the magic dust to be sprinkled on me. More so, I imagined my muse to be a girl.
For years, my writing veered from utter whimsy to downright serious to being light and fluffy, and then go back to being somber and dark. It was a crazy see-saw ride. And while I was baffled with what was going on with all this varying twists in my writing, I didn’t do anything. I just went on with the program because isn’t it easier to just go with the flow? Was I ever wrong. Like most things in my life, it was not until a couple of years later that I began to clearly understand the craft of writing. (I’m a late bloomer in so many things. It’s a curse.) Since then, I have learned what works for me and what doesn’t. My grasp of writing is deeper and more solid. I was able to actually connect with the characters I have created, the world I have built. And re-discovering my muse is one of those things. I have since then accepted the fact that while my muse is actually a guy (I’m not totally shattered by that discovery, though) and he is about as helpful as an ice-cream on an already chilly day, he does make up for his absence when he decides to show himself. He’s there and suddenly… I seem to know exactly what to write and how to write it. My fingers should be fast enough to catch up with the thoughts firing across my brain. I rarely pause and mull things over what I have just written, as I am inclined to do often. I just write, write, write. And when I have finally exhausted my sudden burst of creative writing, I put the cap back on my pen, let my fingers crack and pop and indulge in that sweet moment of accomplishing something. And my muse, where is he? Didn’t even join me to celebrate this sense of finishing at least something. He just up and disappeared once I have put down my pen. I don’t even know where he lives or what he looks like. Does he have wings? Does he live underground? Do these things even matter? All I know is that while his appearance is about as predictable as The Mad Hatter’s mind, he does his job well and he helps me get some writing done. My muse, together with my fresh take and understanding of the craft, have made writing more enjoyable.
What about YOUR muse? I’d really love to hear about it, even your writing process.