a few thoughts on the muse

29 May

“Every time I hear writers talk about ‘the muse,’ I just want to bitch-slap them. It’s a job. Do your job.” -Nora Roberts

She has a point. And I get it. It’s easy for writers, who tend to be imaginative, and whimsical, and, well… whiny, to dwell too much on fantastic mythical creatures who could come along at any moment and finish all of their work for them.

It’s a job. Do your job.

But I’ve felt that other thing too. Those moments when the ideas and words are flowing so brightly and easily, and you feel like you can hardly take credit for any of it. It’s being given to you somehow, made without your even trying. You’re shocked, surprised, running for a pen, and feeling a little bit like your mind has been invaded. And you wouldn’t mind if it were invaded again.

There’s something poetic about it which, of course, attracts the writer’s mind. A muse. Wouldn’t that be lovely.

I think Nora’s point is that thoughts of a muse could be unhealthy for a writer. Cause you to leave work undone simply because you weren’t feeling inspired enough. It’s a good topic to address.

But Elizabeth Gilbert argues that the opposite is true as well in her wildly popular TED Talk, “Your Elusive Creative Genius”. She discusses artists of all kinds, their often self-destructive lives, and the pressures creators face at the hands of their critics. Our common thinking has a way of pushing artists to the brink (in case you didn’t notice), and she suggests a new way of thinking, one in which artists are free to succeed or fail, both of which are inevitable if you lead a creative life, then move on to the next project.

I like the idea of a muse. A friend in your head whose both a little manic and a little depressive and who you get to put up with if you want to harness your creative side. But here’s the trick: when she’s off getting into trouble, and she will, you better buckle down and get your writing done anyway. Because it is, after all, your job. Do your job

I have more to say, but I’ll leave it for another post. In parting, here is Elizabeth’s TED talk. I hope you’ll find the 20 minutes to watch it. It’s not one to miss.

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