my muse(s)

image from Wikipedia. The Muses Clio, Euterpe, and Thalia, by Eustache Le Sueur

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.


7 thoughts on “my muse(s)

  1. DELL CLOVER June 30, 2015 / 5:09 am

    Fascinating that you have a whole group of them… perhaps I do too, but have been unaware. By the way, I read a lot of Mickey Spillane in early years; and I had one English teacher who wrote concerned comments on my dark short stories–but I guess she didn’t think it was important enough to alert anyone, unfortunately.


    • phylor June 30, 2015 / 7:57 pm

      I wrote a horror story for our Halloween writing assignment. Everyone else wrote about trick or treat. But that was a quirk of my imagination.
      I hope now that teachers take a more active role in negotiating between student and family. Your dark stories were the result of a troubled home. Mine, reading and writing ahead whatever grade I was in. If you teacher had intervened, asked you why you wrote darkly, you might have been able to talk about what you were trying to deal with at home.
      I’ve never read Mickey Spillane. I love film noir detective films, but rarely have read the author that wrote/inspired the piece.
      At the time, I wasn’t aware of a muse. Looking back, time-frames could easily equal the muse switch off. You may have a group of muses.


      • DELL CLOVER June 30, 2015 / 8:57 pm

        I’m going to be on the lookout, see if there are a bunch similar to yours.


        • phylor July 1, 2015 / 5:43 am

          There is quite likely one or two in your past. Your present muse certainly knows her stuff.


  2. phylor June 30, 2015 / 4:11 am

    This long comment (a post in it’s self), goes with Summertommy’s comment. Below not above his.
    Because I’ve always told myself stories, there probably was a muse of some sort. Until I started blogging, I never really thought, like you, of a writing muse. If I identified with any of the 9 muses, it was Clio — muse of history.
    So, this is a retrospective reflection generated by Lori’s muses and their names. It feels like I only have one muse at a time, changing as my writing changed. Time-stamped muses of “writing past.”
    I have always personified inanimate objects in my life. So, I guess it makes sense to use the muse as a descriptor.
    I find it fascinating that you have two distinctive and identifiable muses each with different writing styles. I can identify time periods for my writing (like my life), but my muses have always just been, I guess.
    I think of her as this ethereal spirit who pops in and out. I live vicariously through my muse(s); I doubt I’ll visit the spa in Patagonia my muse particularly likes.
    Thanks for sharing your muses.


  3. summerstommy2 June 29, 2015 / 10:05 pm

    Wow but that was fascinating.
    I never considered the existence of a muse until I started blogging and I was asked about mine.
    I thought i just wrote, though in creating Summer and Tommy I discovered two distinct muses. Summer tends to write in poetry and Tommy in prose…..though I do find them alternating from time to time.
    Before that I have no idea who they were. I always thought I went into groove and the writing happened…..But you have identified so many in your life time……I don’t think I started writing until I was a teenager…thoroughly enjoyed your reflection……


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