Thriller, suspense, and horror author Jason P. Henry wrote a post about muses for the Blood Red Pencil blog last week. The piece is called Seeking the Muse, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
After many paragraphs to feed our fantasy about the muse and how much we need her, Jason says (right after revealing the shocking news that writer’s block doesn’t exist):
“The muse is a farce, a ghost, she’s more fictional than your novel.”
As I wrote in the comment section:
I do have a “muse.” She looks like that green-faced wicked witch in Wizard of Oz, and she sits on my shoulder and pokes me in the head with the broom handle while viciously berating me. She never gives me ideas because I have plenty of my own, but she makes my life miserable when I’m not working on one of my writing projects.
Really, she looks just like that (in my wild imagination), and she’s totally responsible for my current pain and suffering.
She needs to back off while I get a bunch of other important stuff done so I have plenty of time to write.
Like read the novels by Stuart Neville and Harlan Coben I checked out of the library (and must return when they’re due because others have them on Hold).
Like shopping for new carpet (the stairs and landing are becoming threadbare–it’s embarrassing).
Like having coffee with this friend and lunch with that friend.
Like taking the cat outside for a walk in her harness and leash.
Like spraying weeds.
I’m doing some sort-of, kind-of writing-related stuff, too.
Like lining up more wonderful guest authors for my blog (Jason, are you interested?)
Like editing and scheduling for the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Blog.
Like following progress in the formation of a new Sisters in Crime chapter for Colorado.
Like thinking about pitching my completed historical novel to an agent at the Colorado Gold Conference in September.
Like thinking about my three works in progress: one first draft that needs revising and editing; one almost finished first draft that needs additional chapters and lots and lots of revision; and the new project (because the new ideas keep muscling out the half-finished projects). Notice I said I’m thinking about these wips, not actually working on them.
Can you imagine how bad my headache is when you consider the number of times per day my muse bangs that broom handle against my head?
I think many writers consider the muse to be an idea-generator.
I don’t agree. I think she’s my conscience.
I’m the one who decided I wanted to be a writer after I retired from real-world work, and her job is to keep reminding me…even if she gives me a headache.
How do you picture your muse? What is her role in your writing life?
(Note: Jason P. Henry is a Coloradoan and is going to be conference director for the 2016 Pikes Peak Writing Conference).
Susan Gourley says
Stuart Neville is on my reading list because of you. And those weeds!!! I don’t believe in writer’s block either, only writer’s procrastination.
I know all about writer’s procrastination, Susan. As for Stuart Neville, I’m a big fan. He hooks me from page one and keeps me turning the pages.
M. K. Theodoratus says
My muse has grey fur with white whiskers and a white spot on his chin. He insists on being petted in the morning–and reminds me of the fact if I take too long reading the paper and drinking coffee.
Actually, I let my mind disassociate while I’m petting Wiggles … and then, go upstairs and incorporate the new idea into which ever puzzle I’m writing.it fits into. Sometimes, this causes havoc because the project isn’t the one I’m working on.
I need to learn how to let my mind disassociate, Kay. I suffer from busy brain which leads to scattered thinking and lack of focus. Also lack of sleep. I even flunked meditation.
Petting Katie Cat doesn’t always work because that must be done on her schedule, not mine. I know you have control over your critters, but in my house, the cat is queen and we are her loyal subjects.
Jason P. Henry says
Great post! And thank you so much for the mention. It is interesting how you view ‘the muse’ as prohibiting rather than enabling. Either way, the muse is internal for everyone I think. She (or he) is a manifestation of our subconscious that we conjure up in those moments where nothing else seems to work. If it helps get words on paper… Fantastic! However, it seems you should probably drop a bucket of water on your muse right away! Lol. (and I would absolutely love to guest blog for you!)
Excellent! I’ll email you, Jason, and we’ll set up a date for your guest post.
My muse said to tell you your suggestion wasn’t very nice….
I, on the other hand, am filling my bucket with water. Maybe just the threat will make her ease up and become a kinder, gentler muse.
Allan Emerson says
Don’t know about the “muse” thing, Patricia, but I laughed when I read about you walking the cat on a leash. I thought my wife was the only one who did that! I’m going to tell her she has company. (I’d tell the cat too, but she ignores me.)
Allan, Katie Cat even meows at the door when she wants us to take her out. I’m convinced she thinks she’s a dog. My husband has bonded with the cat just as much as I have, so he takes her out once in a while, too. She really does rule our household.
Margot Kinberg says
Interesting question, Pat! I know exactly what you mean about muse-as-conscience. I feel the same way when I haven’t been as focused on my writing as I ought to be. At the same time, sometimes my muse changes form (she’s like that!) and shows me great ways to put my ideas into words. I don’t know about anyone else’s muse, but mine is a morph.
I think we all see her differently, Margot, depending on our needs. And have you noticed I always speak of her as female?
Alex J. Cavanaugh says
You walk Katie-Cat on a leash? That I would like to see.
I’ve never really thought of my writing inspiration as a muse. I’m just weird that way.
Yes, I know, we’re a little silly about our kitty. But she’s an indoor cat who likes a little fresh air and real grass to munch on, so we take her out for 30 minutes or so two or three times a week. We keep her in the yard, unlike one of our neighbors who lets their cat roam to use my garden as his litter box and to ambush the birds at my bird feeders.