Monday, July 21, 2008

Musing About Muses

Maureen Johnson, author of SUITE SCARLETT and other YA books, has an interesting post about muses. She calls them "credit-stealing parasites." Personally, I couldn’t agree more.

I don’t have a muse. Never have, never will. Maybe I was absent the day they were passed out to writers. Who knows? But if I did have one, I’d probably kick her out the door.

I know, that sounds kind of harsh. I've just never been fond of muses because every writer I know (who has a muse) speakes about her like she's an outside influence. If she's in a rotten mood, the writer can't work. If she's happy, the writer is so productive she can move mountains. It almost sounds like muses are slave drivers, issuing orders to serve their whims.

Personally, I’m no one’s slave. If I want to write, I’m going to write. Muse be damned. My inspiration is never affected by outside influences. It's deep, very deep, within me, and I can tap into it at any given time - it's not based on how happy or fickle a muse is feeling.

I guess you could argue that a muse is really internal since she's basically an imaginary friend. But she's still an external projection of that. And that just doesn't work for me.

I know this isn’t a popular view in the writing community, and I see the lynch mob heading my way because it sounds like I've just insulted everyone's source of inspriation.

No! Wait! Let me explain!! I really do have a point!

Every writer is different, and what works for one may not work for another. Muses don’t work for me, but that doesn’t mean I’m saying “death to all muses!” If you have a muse and like working with her, then YAY! I’m glad you’ve found something that works.

Just make sure she knows who’s boss: YOU.


Anonymous said...

Every writer is different... every writer has their own way of acheiving ideas. The important part is getting one, whichever way works! ;)

Unknown said...

I couldn't agree with you more: inspiration's nothing--it's all about putting in the work to actually do the thing!

PJ Hoover said...

I'm so with you on this one. Muses are right up there with writer's block. Not part of my writing life.
But fine for someone else. I guess it's all how we like to view ourselves.

Tabitha said...

Pema - very true. And if a muse works for others, I'm all for it. :)

Beth and PJ - you betcha! As long as you're getting stuff done, who cares where the idea came from? It's when a writer blames the muse for not letting her get work done. That's when I say it's time to put her in her place. :)

Angela Ackerman said...

I personally think that people use a muse as an excuse for success or failure. No one should put their fate in the hands of anyone else...real or imagined.

Now, there's nothing wrong with using someone as an inspiration. But know that their role is over once you put a pen to paper (or fingers to a keyboard).

Angela Ackerman said...

before I get hate mail, I should say the above sentence should read, 'some people' use a muse as an excuse, lol.

Marina said...

What's that I see approaching? A man with a pitchfork and a flaming torch?

I'm with you on this one, Tabitha. It's nice to have someone to blame when you don't feel like working. "Oh, I couldn't possibly write today, my muse has deserted me." But it's just an excuse. The writing may not come as easily on days like that, but if you show up at the keyboard, something will come.

The bit I don't get is why people want to give credit for their own hard work to some ethereal other. "Credit-stealing parasites" indeed.

Write2ignite said...

No muse for me, either. I have to say (and will duck when I say it) that I never had imaginary friends. I was too busy having fun with my flesh and blood best friend (my sister!).

I pray before I write and ask the Lord to give me what I need. BUT, if I don't have anything to write - I don't blame it on Him! He's given me freewill, a sound mind and the gift of creativity. I have to choose how to use it! Ya know?

Anyway, thanks for saying what I've been thinking. I'll take some of the wet noodle beating for you. :)

Tabitha said...

I gotta tell ya, I'm a little relieved that no one has come ready to bludgeon me to death. :)

Angela - couldn't agree more. I think a lot of writers don't see that the muse is done once the real work begins. :) And I agree that some writers can't let that go, hence the "muse excuses."

Marina - [ducking from the pitchfork and torch] :) I also don't understand how a writer could credit his/her muse! She didn't do the work, I did. It's not her name on the manuscript, it's mine, gosh-darn-it! I think more writers should shove the little hussey aside and take what they're due. :)

Donna - I never had imaginary friends either, which is odd since I have an extremely overactive imagination. You'd think it would have come out that way, but no. :) It's refreshing to see you've taken your creativity into your own hands. You ask for a spark, but don't grumble if it doesn't come. I think that's just what we have to expect as writers. :)

Amy Laurens said...

Heh, I talk about my 'muse', but only as a convenient term for my subconscious, which dishes up all my shiniest ideas. And there's none of this 'my muse is being stubborn', or whatever :) So I shan't lynch you - today %-) *evil cackle*

Mary Witzl said...

Another fine post.

Gee, all this time I've felt so awful about not really having a muse. I know there are times I seem to write well and times that everything I generate sounds wooden and false, but I can't put this on a muse either. And I'm someone who believes that my food processor has a mind of her own and that the legs of tables and other inanimate objects frequently reach out to trip me up.

An acquaintance used to insist that her cat was her muse. (I'm afraid she actually spelled it as 'mews' -- awful, right?) This drove me wild. Maybe that's because my cat comes and sits on my lap and drools on my wrist when I try to write. She cheers me up, but she doesn't inspire me one bit. And I wish she'd stop drooling.

Unknown said...

Hooray! It is so good to see so many anti-muse people! They are like NATS, those things!

Tabitha said...

Inky - I'll keep an eye out for future lynching, then. :)

Mary - Mews?? Oh my... Glad you're feeling better about not having a muse. You know, I'm starting to think that muses aren't as common as they appear. Maybe those who have them are just so vocal about it that we think everyone is supposed to have them. Which makes the rest of us feel bad. Well, feel bad no more! :)

Maureen - the one who started this blog entry! It was refreshing to see someone so vehemently anti-muse. Thanks for stopping by!

Angela Ackerman said...

A drooling cat? Ewwww...

very amusing. Get it? a-muse-ing.

*weeps with laughter*

Liana Brooks said...

Muses are interesting. I don't think I have a muse. I like to pretend, but what I really have is sources of inspiration. I'll see something, hear something, do something... and get an idea... and the idea spawns characters... and then the characters live. After that iut's a bit scary because the characters can be very demanding. They don't always do what I think they should, and sometimes they ruin plot lines by wanting to do (or love) someone completely different than I planned. But it works out in the end.

Tabitha said...

"I like to pretend"
Too funny! I used to feel that way about my inspiration, because I thought I was *supposed* to have to have a muse. Like I wasn't a real writer if I didn't have one. :) I've since come to my senses and found my own way. Sounds like you have too. :)