What’s a Muse?
Writers get a lot of rolling-of-eyeballs when the subject of “The Muse” comes up. It just sounds wifty as if you should be wearing tin-foil helmets on your head and channeling Alexander the Great from your previous lifetime. (Notice how no one was ever just a poor schlub in their previous lives). Anyway… This isn’t something that writers concoct to make themselves appear even more wifty. We’re masochists but there really are limits…and I really hate people rolling their eyes. I discovered the concept of a muse early in my writing. It happened one morning when I woke up and Pamela said, “What were you writing last night?” to which I replied, “…huh?” It turns out I’d gotten up at about three in the morning and written an entire scene, with no remembrance of it whatsoever. What I do remember is being very tired when I went to bed and…a little voice or thought inside my head saying, you have to get this scene down…now. Well, I was tired and I ignored the voice, but apparently there is some independent portion of my brain…of many writers’ brains that is doing the creating.
Here’s the thing, though. When my muse is typing…there are no mistakes, no typos, no misspellings…nothing. What’s more strange, however, is the muse has a vastly better vocabulary than I do. I the morning, I find myself running to the dictionary to see if some of the words I’ve used are appropriate, or even exist. I’m not joking…
And it goes beyond spelling and vocabulary. Most of the time when a writer creates a scene or a chapter, it’s just the beginning of a long process of rewriting. When my muse creates a chapter…that’s it, it’s finished, and it’s better than anything I could come up with.
Worse than that, sometimes it seems as if the muse has had a little meeting with a character or characters during the night and when I wake up and crack the whip for them to do what they’re supposed to do, say what they’re supposed to say, or even go to the place where they’re supposed to be, the characters will go on strike…and I blame it directly on the muse. She’s smarter, saavier, funnier, more eloquent, and sometimes a real bitch to work with. I don’t get it either, but it’s there…she’s there.
I know that my muse is a she, rather than a he and I sorta know what she looks like. She looks a lot like the actress, Ava Gardner, from the fifties, only she’s more petulant. I’ve given up fighting with her or trying to thwart her. When she yanks my chain at two-thirty in the morning, there’s no point trying to ignore her. And for my unbending loyalty, she rewards me with letter-perfect chapters. The only real problem here is: She shows up only when she wants to. And when I have to slog through a chapter…sans Muse, it’s a real bear.