Friday, January 23, 2015

Slapping the Muse by Author Patricia Green

There is no such thing as a muse. I’ll get a lot of blowback from that statement, but I am convinced it is the case. Muses were mythical beings, goddesses, from classic Greek music and poetry. They presided over most of the arts, including drama (the written word of the time). They've been around for millennia, in one form or other. But make no mistake, they aren't real. They do not whisper in an artist's ear, or tell them what to write, paint, or create. Writers, in this case and for the purposes of this article, make them up. 
Some writers look at pictures that inspire them. Maybe the pictures are innocuous, or maybe they are sexy. Whatever they are, they turn something on in the author's brain that stimulates creativity. Others have muses who whisper in their ear, telling them where to take their stories next, and which characters to emphasize. But make no mistake, these are auditory hallucinations. No picture or imaginary whispers are actually muses. 
Where does inspiration come from, if not from the muse? Inspiration comes from exposure to people, remembrance of life experience, learning of new ideas, and trying out new situations. Every author starts with a "what if" kind of question, and it's their imagination that drives them onward. Their imagination is not a muse. It is a thought process.

What difference does it make, what you call it? Well, words are a writer's toolbox. What we name things does change how we perceive them. Thinking and believing that it's one's imagination that inspires great writing, rather than a nebulous concept like a muse, is freeing. There's no entity bothering you to write a certain way or say a certain thing. You have no one to rely upon but yourself and your left frontal lobe.

Some people, usually muse-believers, will say that it's a witticism, not meant to be interpreted as a part of reality, but rather a word for something we can't quite put our finger on. It is that ephemeral process we don’t understand but rely upon heavily. Explaining that you're stuck in your work is so much more time-consuming than blaming it on a muse. But is accusing a muse more accurate? I don't think so.

When muse-believers are stuck, they'll tell you it's their muse. They do not take personal responsibility for the mess they find themselves in, whether it be from poor planning, outside stress, or simple distraction. But it is the writer's responsibility to keep the ball rolling. It is her responsibility to relax when needed and let the hindbrain work through the troubling issues. It is not a wayward muse that slows us down or stops us, it is a necessary pause to allow the writer's imagination to work through problems in the work, or our common sense which tells us to pause and take a deep breath.

A muse is a fickle thing, not so the imagination. I think we do ourselves a disservice when we give a myth power over our creativity. This is just my opinion, an opinion I came up with myself, uninspired by mythos or a spirit guide. People will disagree with me, and that's fine. But I maintain, it is a poor idea to use Greek goddesses as a crutch when we need help. If we rely upon ourselves and our imaginations—imaginations which are boundless—we are free to create with no governor. That freedom is more valuable than anything else a writer can use to achieve success.

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