Finding My Muse

February 2, 2010 at 4:49 am | Posted in Writing and Life | 16 Comments
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“My Muse is a beautiful fairy queen named Titania,” a member of the group volunteers.

“Oh, mine’s a gorgeous hunk called Kurt,” chimes in another.

“I’ve heard Vera’s is a cricket who lives on her shoulder,” giggles a third. “She calls him Jiminy.”

“What’s your muse, Linda?” The leader of the writing group looks at me.

“Muse? Oh, I don’t have a muse. I just write or I don’t write. There’s no muse involved.”

“But everyone has a Muse. Even the ancient Greeks had Muses.”

“Well, of course they did.” I say. “That’s where the whole thing came from. The nine daughters of some god or other. I even know that Erata is the Muse of Poetry. It’s always in crossword puzzles.”

“Yes, but why don’t you have a muse?” asks the one with the hunk “I couldn’t write without mine.”

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And thus, for some writers, it goes. They have a muse. They need their muse in order to write. If their muse is having a snit or a bad hair day, they disappear. Sometimes, they take off for foreign parts and take their time getting back. Now, I’m not sure that I want a muse if they are so pernicketty. It seems to me that it is easier to write your own words than to rely on someone who could be so uncaring as to leave you in the lurch without even an explanation.

However, so many people have spoken about muses, that I decided I had better find out more about them. Perhaps even look around and see if there was a spare one going that might like to take me on for a trial period. I’d want a good solid contract though if we clicked; no sloping off when the going gets hard. But then, when I come to think about it, I wonder if I don’t already have a muse. Is it one I am unacquainted with perhaps? One that suddenly did a bunk on me last year.

See, I went for months unable to write more than a few scribbles here and there. I had no inspiration, no enthusiasm, no joy in writing. Prior to that, I’d been on a roll, writing poetry and short stories, and really getting into my novel. Then it all stopped. Writing became a chore I had to work at. I was easily distracted and couldn’t focus. Admittedly, I was tired, and I don’t think too well then, but it seemed to be more than that. Perhaps I did have a muse and it had been working too hard, without any acknowledgement and had decided to take a break. Maybe it was suffering from burn-out. Whatever the case, I reckoned I’d just have to get myself in order and my writing would pick up.

Then, a major health crisis cropped up. I expected there would be no real writing going on for some months while I underwent chemotherapy. And yet, one night, lying in bed for hours unable to sleep, several brilliant ideas relating to my novel came to me out of the blue. I didn’t get up and write them down and, by the time I got round to writing next day, I couldn’t remember most of them. Oh well, I thought. I was probably half dreaming anyway. Then, the next night, I had another brilliant idea, this time for a short story. I got up and made notes. Next day, I wrote… and wrote…and wrote. Mmm, I wondered. What brought this on? Do I really have a muse, and has it suddenly returned from its extended holiday?

As I vacuumed the floor a couple of days later, I pondered on how and when my ideas come. I realised that, as an insomniac, it is very often during the night that I am inspired. Lost in thought, I backed into my glass cabinet and sent several ornaments skidding across the shelves. Opening the glass door, I rearranged the several dozen owls I have in there, closed the door and went back to the vacuum cleaner. When that chore was done I returned to my study. The little silver owl that sits on my desk had fallen over, so I picked it up. Then I straightened the owl feather that’s stuck on top of the monitor with Blu-Tack®.

And it hit me. If I really do have a muse, it must be an owl. Other people have animals that inspire them, so why not me? I love owls. Their big eyes seem to hold so much knowledge and wisdom. Their feathers are so soft that they can swoop with almost no sound. And yet they are efficient predators – nothing soft about how they make their living. They are perfect as a muse: intelligent, wise, efficient, subtle, and good hunters. Are they creative too?

Well, I have been collecting owls – or people have been giving them to me – for about forty years now. They come in many varieties and in all sizes, shapes and colours. They are made of ceramic, brass, wood, stone, glass. Some are solemn and brooding, others playful and funny. They are, in fact, very creative. So, I have decided that I will adopt this owl muse as my own, acknowledge him finally after so many years.

However, I will still go to my computer, or to my notebooks, and write. I will write every day, even when I cannot think of anything to say. If my ideas are non-existent, then I will write what is going on around me, what is – or isn’t – in my head, anything. I will write a blog even. Because, if I do not write, then I will gradually become unable to write. It is the determination to write that makes me a writer. It is continuing to write when I have lost confidence in myself and in my words. It is writing until the right words flow again and I get to that space where the real and the imagined become one inside my stories.

I am glad that I now have a muse. I will not expect Owl – he hasn’t revealed his name yet, if he has one – I will not expect him to tell me what to write. I will welcome him as a cherished companion, and let him sit on the top of my door if he wants to. I will listen to anything he has to tell me, but I will not clean up after him.

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After I’d written this piece, I recalled that we saved an owl family last spring. We provided a nest on top of my rotary clothesline for the two babies that had fallen from the one destroyed by the wind. For a couple of months, I took photos of the little ones, as they grew, until they were big enough to leave the nest altogether. Just after that, I found several wing feathers on the lawn – a gift from my muse to say ‘thank you’? I like to think so.

© Linda Visman 2008-2010

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