Saturday, October 27, 2012

We Are Not A-Muse-d!

Apollo and his Muses

I am pleased to offer you guys a guest post today by a wonderful writer, Carlie Cullen. I asked Carlie if she would tackle a subject that is near and dear to the heart of  artist everywhere. 

How do you handle your Muse?

Those of us who have a Muse to help and guide us in our creative endeavours are truly blessed. They feed our minds with inspiration, help our imagination to take flight and soar unbound and then help us translate it to words on a page or screen.

The one problem is we have no control over when our Muse will pop something into our heads or babble in our ears and leave us with the strong desire to abandon our tasks and pound the keyboard. They seem to have no concept of time and the appropriateness of feeding our fertile imaginations with something wonderful which we yearn to explore; they don’t see or will ignore the fact that there are certain periods when we can’t act on it.

So how do we deal with it?

Picture the scene. You’re at work, perhaps in a meeting, and your Muse suddenly dives in with a brilliant idea for your current W.I.P., a tasty twist for the plot and here’s you surrounded by people and trying to concentrate on the business at hand. Talk about inconvenient! You can’t get up from the table and excuse yourself and you’re unable to answer. You also don’t want to send your Muse away for a while – they don’t like that – they take umbrage and sulk for a few days before coming back to see you again. So now you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.

I’ve had this happen to me a few times and I try to compromise with a placebo. I sure as heck don’t want my Muse to disappear on me for any length of time – that doesn’t bear thinking about. The way I’ve dealt with it in the past has been quite effective for me and my Muse hasn’t left me in a strop. I always carry a notebook with me, no matter where I go, to make notes in for whenever my Muse starts to chatter in my ear, or I see something inspiring, or I overhear a snatch of cool dialogue. Obviously I couldn’t take that particular notebook into business meetings, but I always had a pad and pen of some description.

What I’ve done is thank my Muse for the wonderful idea and jotted a couple of key words down in the margin in a way in which I can instantly recall the premise of the idea, but which wouldn’t mean anything to anyone looking over my shoulder. They would be just random words on sight, but the important thing is I would know what they meant. The idea wouldn’t get lost or clouded by the business matters as I had a note of it (I’ve even been known to write on my palm). I would also gently explain to my Muse that whilst I loved the idea, I was unable to respond because of the people around me and ask if we could talk about it as soon as I was free. This seems to work. My Muse doesn’t take offence at my inability to act on the spot and hovers until I go back to her and ask her more about the idea, which I always do as soon as I’m able. It has been known for me to make a rush trip to the ladies room as soon as a meeting is over just to placate my Muse and allow her to have her say.

Now I have to admit, it hasn’t always worked. There have been times when she’s got so carried away I couldn’t get a word in edgeways to stop her. Again I’ve made a couple of notes and at the first opportunity I’ve gone back to her and asked her to explain it again. I hear a sigh and a “weren’t you paying attention?”, but she almost always tells me again so I’m able to make notes or she’ll wait until I’m home and working on my latest project then guides my writing where she wants it to go.

Word association is also a good method of trying to remember what nuggets of gold your Muse has tried to impart, assuming you’re in a position where you can’t make notes (i.e. if you’re driving and yes that’s happened to me too). When I was writing my novel, I was driving to see my sister when up pops you-know-who and she started excitedly telling me about a plot twist she’d devised. She gave me the name of the character and then proceeded to give me all the details. I was trying not to become the jam in a lorry sandwich so couldn’t take it all in, but the name she came up with resonated and there was something on the back seat of my car which would be the perfect reminder. I used ‘dancing’ as the association word for Liam’s story in the book. Now I can see you scratching your heads trying to figure out the connection – allow me to enlighten you. At the time I was a professional dance teacher and one of my longest-standing pupils had a son, Liam, who I’d also taught. Now can you see where I’m heading?

I’m lucky! My Muse is understanding and doesn’t take offence easily. Not everyone is that fortunate. Some writers have a Muse who is curmudgeonly, others have one who take the slightest wrong word as a personal attack and have a fit of pique and then there are Muses who are like old-fashioned school teachers walking around with a cane they tap on their hands, who want nothing more than to whip you into shape, literally. If your Muse falls into any of the less ‘understanding’ categories, my advice to you is; be prepared to apologise, treat them with respect and don’t, whatever you do, upset them too much. They’ll always come back, but boy can they make you suffer!

So the next time your Muse starts to twitter away at an inopportune moment, stay calm, make a note or word association and be prepared to grovel later.

Thanks so much for you insight, Carlie. I don't know how many times I have been in shower and had my muse started talking to me. If only someone would invent a pad and pen that can be used in water. 

To learn more about Carlie and her works you can find her at: 

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