I’ve been reading a lot of books about the craft of writing lately. While they all provide a lot of great advice, they seem to have one common suggestion: Get to know your Muse.
In a writer’s life, a muse is that little voice inside that tells us what to write. It gives us ideas and words that we wouldn’t have thought of on our own – things that truly seem to come from somewhere beyond ourselves. They just pop in naturally, unexpectedly, and they feel like a gift. A Muse can’t be instantly called upon, it must instead decide on it’s own to grace a writer with it’s presence. Sounds weird, doesn’t it?
Stephen King describes his muse as a “scruffy little beast” that comes to the edge of his writing space and bites his ankles and pees on his floor. Sometimes it hangs around for a bit and provides the words, sometimes it hightails it back to where it came from. Ray Bradbury, one of my favorite essay and short story writers, describes his muse as “that most terrified of all the virgins. She starts if she hears a sound, pales if you ask her questions, spins and vanishes if you disturb her dress.”
All this reading about The Muse has made me wonder about mine. Is it a male or female? Where does it live? How often has it visited? How do I get it to come back?
I know I’ve met my Muse a few times. It’s coming to visit me more and more these days, I think because I’m putting more effort into consistently writing. I’m getting a schedule down, and my Muse is starting to understand when to show up. But it does still visit me at odd times – while I’m showering, when I’m about to fall asleep, when I’m at the park watching my boys play. It likes to show up when I don’t have a pen and paper handy – I can hear it chuckling over my shoulder at the way it spills the words into my head and watches me frantically look around for a place to unload them. A few nights ago when my Muse decided to fill my head with words, I heard it bending over in fits of laughter as I wrote in a tiny notepad, in the pitch black of the midnight hour, in my bed. My husband must have heard my Muse too, because he awoke from his slumber, wondering what the noise was. Of course, it could have been my pencil-scratching that he heard, as I was blindly writing in crooked little lines across the paper. And I definitely heard the Muse snickering when I tried to decipher those scratchings the next morning.
It’s a funny little relationship we have, my Muse and I. But I’m really enjoying getting to know him. Or is it a her? I can’t quite tell yet. All I know is that it usually visits when it’s darn good and ready to, and I’ve placed little notebooks in every room of the house, in every car, and inside of my purse. I’ll be ready next time.