Lori Carlson of The Rattling Bones and I had a comment conversation about our muses. Hers have revealed their names. All of mine have come from the Muse family. A secretive bunch, the most I know is who is related to who. (whom?)
When I was little, it was the muse of imagination. She was about my age, growing up with me. By 2.5, my childhood muse and I were telling each other stories. Stories that never were written down. I had yet to learn letters and punctuation.
An aside: I’ve written almost complete novels, in my head. As a result of memory and cognitive problems, most of them are lost. My muses rarely pushed me to encode my stories. Nor have they been of much assistance digging into the archives of my mind.
My schooling muse was a problem. Much older than I, the stories I wrote for classes disturbed my teachers. One called my mother to suggest I needed counseling. That was grade 5 or 6. It was my mature muse, and all the murder mysteries I read. Sneaking them out of my parent’s’ stack from the library. My mother tended to pick books with out gore and bodies everywhere, so I read more Agatha Christie than Mike Hammer.
At some point in my teenage years, the muses traded off. (I have very little control; my muses are very independent beings.) Whoever the muse in my late teens to mid-twenties was, we wrote a lot of poetry. And, this one made me write it down on scraps of paper, napkins, along the edge of newspapers. Cleaning out my mother’s house to put it on the market, I found the red journal with a lush gilded Chinese painting telling a tale all of itself on the cover. I recorded my life in those pages. My poetry was me.
For many years, it was my mental muse. Grown from our shared childhood, we created wonderous stories. Fantasies that put me in places and situations the physical me didn’t couldn’t experience.
My academic muse arrived when I went back to university to complete my BA. Dry, serious and contemplative, she imposed rules. Due dates. Research. Thesis. Courses to design. Lectures to write. Her evil twin sister became my self editor. Ruthless, heartless, and available any time of the day or night.
The muse of chronic pain and depression always been with me in the shadows. Creeping or strutting into the spotlight. Taking centre stage. She hogs the spotlight like a bad actor. She invited her demon friends to join her. She was manipulative, snarky, jealous, and generally nasty. I’ve yet to completely evict her. She knows the contract between writer and muse. She has made it her life’s work to be a wild child; none of my muses dispel her.
My blogging muses are a strange lot. The “crazy” part of the family, usually kept in attics or hidden in asylums. I never know when they’re home or away.The muse of health blogging, including therapeutic writing, was not happy. The rest of the family pushed some whimsy and looking for a tao into her personality. But it was a tough fit.
Gradually, my current creative writing muse became my mind’s house guest. She is the most ethereal. Hardest to define. She takes long spa vacations located where I would love to be. She keeps her travel plans secret. I call on her to help me with a writing prompt or challenge, and she isn’t home. When available, she is very lackadaisical. She has influenced my self–editor. They go clubbing on a regular basis. A tipsy self-editor doesn’t see things like word substitution, non-added words, and other blatant errors.
She tells me so many head stories, my brain feels like it will explode. If written down, there would be enough computer screens to circle the globe at least once. Because she lacks discipline, these stories are serialized like 19th century novels. Chunks that should be in the bursting files in my computer. If I decide to write them down, she leaves town. But she is the one that sparks and electrifies writing to prompts. She catches the essence in less than a minute. She makes my fingers fly, never letting me in on the plot til I click on “post draft to blog.”
Every writer, I think, has at least one relationship with a muse. I’ve had daughters, aunts, grandmothers, great-nieces, and every version of cousin imaginable. As much as I may complain or criticize them, I’d be lost without one. I would stare at a blank piece of paper, computer screen sighing. I sigh a lot.
I have no idea which member of the muse clan with arrive next. A version of an earlier muse. Something exciting and life-altering. More or less imaginative, whimsical, disciplined, serious, capricious and formidable than those already ensconced in my head. You see each muse leaves a trace of herself. For better or for worse. Like smoke from a camp-fire, each muse engulfs me as she swirls towards the starscape. I love the smell of a wood fire. I guess in my own way, I’ve loved all my muses. Sigh.