Many writers have this problem and I think the best thing they can do in this situation, is to raise the white flag and hand over control to their Muse. Might as well, because if she acts like mine, she won’t listen to them anyway.
The “Oxford Canadian Dictionary” states that the word ‘Muse’ can refer to any of the goddesses who presided over the arts and sciences. They were the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, traditionally nine in number. The Muse is also described as a poet’s inspiring goddess, a poet’s genius and a source of inspiration for creativity.
The term ‘preside’ is defined by the same dictionary as, “to be in a position of authority”.
So, given that the Muse presides over creativity, I can definitely tell you that my Muse is a good presider and damn close to being a full-fledged banana republic dictator. Because she hardly ever listens to me. Definitely not when I get caught up in the-way-you’re-supposed-to-write frame of mind. Because I have, after all, spent years reading books on finding a theme, putting together a list of characters, scoping out pertinent scenery and outlining a plot. Then I bring all this learned material to my desk and there’s Ms Authority smoking a friggin cigarillo and blowing smoke rings in my face. Sometimes smirking, or even worse, outright guffawing.
Simply put, my Muse wants me to write what she wants me to write, when she wants me to write it. And I’m kind of pissed off at her right now. I’m trying to tell her that I’ve had some luck with short stories and maybe even some proficiency, seeing that I was on the last “Canada Writes” Long List. Well, big whoopee-doo. She doesn’t give one ounce of a crap.
You see, I recently waved a white towel and stopped writing a novel. Because of you-know-who. Instead I decided to begin a brand new and improved short story. Yeah, right. All my attempts went nowhere. Because of Ms Muse, who was rummaging through my bottom desk drawers, looking for god knows what.
And when I said, “Excuse me, ma’am, but could you give me a little hint?” She told me that she’d like to keep it a secret for now. Maybe we could chat about it a little later. Oh, let’s say, at three am?
Well, I started writing anyway. Got some words on my computer screen. But then I got stuck so I slammed my hand on the desk and demanded that Ms Muse spit it out. Now!
“Is this going to be a short story or a novel for fink sakes?! How about a novella? Come on!”
So I asked in a calmer voice, “Is what I’m writing a good beginning for something that involves reading? Is it going to go somewhere, if I keep on tapping out these words on my gd computer?”
She’s friggin gone. She’s not even in the room. She hasn’t heard a word I said.
So what do I do now? Writing exercises until Ms Authority gets around to spitting it out? It’s not like she doesn’t know. She knows. She knows.
So, I left my desk and went looking for my Muse. I found her in the basement. Smoking another cheap cigarillo between sips from her plastic cup of red wine. Rummaging through some of my old children’s stories. Which I had written about, oh, a hundred years ago.
“Have you considered touching up these stories and submitting them to a magazine?” she asked. Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!
Problem is, my Muse is usually right. Dare I say, always right. Even if the rest of the world doesn’t think so. Because Muses have the difficult task of dragging us writers out of our suffocatingly rational, the-way-it-should-be boxes into the big fertile world of juicy plots, vital themes and animated characters. Into writing what will always remain universal. Writing about what is really important to us. And what can touch the souls of our readers.
So I think the Muse has a hard task and I’m thankful Muse is who she is. And I think there are lots of people who, when they read the stuff the Muse has given the stamp of approval to, will agree.