Monday, February 7, 2011

What's your muse?

It's always interesting to me to hear how writers view the act of writing. Given we all spend much more time than any sane person ever would, thinking up similes and metaphors, we tend to anthropomorphize or animate just about everything, including whatever it is that empowers, enables, forces, etc. us to write.

Traditionally muses were women, often young and beautiful, which makes sense given the derivation of the word. Stephen King described his muse as a guy who sits in an armchair smoking cigars. The more regular Mr. King was in his writing schedule, the more likely his muse would show up and keep him company.

For me each story has its own kind of muse, and they're all wild, mythical, never before seen animals. For me, the challenge is harnessing them without killing them. If I'm too heavy handed, they become too tame and the resulting story might have some technical merit, but that's about it. So when I'm writing, I go through phases. In the early phases, I try to find the form and shape of the muse. For that I write a TON of verbiage that I will later throw away. Only when I feel confident that I know what kind of beast this is do I move in aggressively. The ideal result for me is to have the muse all hitched up to drive the story, without it being so tied up that it can't take off running and pull the reader through the pages.

What's your muse look like?


  1. Your observation about the tendency of writers to personify cracked me up, because just this weekend I was personifying the Red Box DVD dispenser machine (with my kids, we were having some fun at it's expense).

    However, I don't tend to think of my writing inspiration as a muse, separate from myself. The muse doesn't some to me, more I go to that place inside me where it lives. ;)

  2. My muse is good music.
    I have always liked writing when listening to Shania Twain (old memories of writing incessantly). This now has become a definitely inspiring aspect.

    I also need a good writing space. This is my campground on weekends and in the summer. The nature just makes me creative and full of aspirations.
    Nahno ∗ McLein

  3. My muses have always been the characters, those voices in my head that follow me wherever I go and laugh their thoughts in my ears.

    I get them back. I go follow them around in their universe and make sure plenty of horrible things happen to them. Hee hee.

  4. Yeah, I was a little tired when I wrote that, hence I said "personify" rather than "anthropomorphize", which I've fixed. Thanks, Susan, for just going with it! To personify, though, is to impersonate or exemplify. Really, I iz a profeshunal!

  5. Whatevs. :) I knew what you meant. And I think I both personified and anthromorphized the Red Box.

    Red Box: "Red Box is processing your request."
    Me: "Red Box is very annoyed. Red Box not like your request. Red Box say no."
    Kids: *giggling*

  6. Emily, great post! I love it when they stop and make me think, and then smile. I guess most of my muses start off as places with floating veiled ghosts who gradually transform into living, breathing, vibrant beings. They haunt me until I get them written right. By the end of the book, my characters are dear friends, patting my shoulder and whispering in my ear - or hitting me over the head and laughing. I think you have to be a bit eccentric to be a writer. Or do other people live with invented ghosts as much as we do?

  7. George RR Martin once said that writing was akin to mental illness; it's not normal to spend ones day talking to people who don't exist and building worlds for them (not his exact words, but that was the gist.) I suppose we've just found a way to have our imaginary friends and still be accepted (kind of) in society...

  8. My muse is a spoiled three-year-old who is going to throw a tantrum if I don't come and play RIGHT NOW!

  9. Count yourself lucky! Most of us have to chase ours down.

  10. Mine is a reflection of me, but younger and prettier, and way more talented. And she's skinnier and types faster and has great ideas. Have any of you seen her today? She's taken off again. Send her home if you find her. Please.

    Signed a desperate Leisha


What be on yer mind?