I think my muse wants to kill me. It can’t be contained or put on a schedule. It’s often unpredictable. I know writers who get their best ideas in the shower. Not me. My muse usually shows up when I’m driving in rush hour traffic on Chicago’s Kennedy and Edens expressways. With cars squeezing into my lane and horns honking, I will inevitably think of a new story arc or scene. I know from experience that if I don’t capture the thought in the moment, it disappears. I confess that I’ve quickly typed a note on my phone while driving. Not safe at all, I know. Someone suggested the voice memo feature on my iPhone and now I record my creative ramblings.
On nights when I’m sitting safely in front of my blank computer screen prepared to write, I wait for the muse. Minutes pass. Nothing. At the one-hour mark, I panic when the words that had flowed so effortlessly the day before don’t even trickle. Fearful that my creativity has dried up, my eyes dart around the room looking for something to guide me. Then I think maybe it’s like love and so many other things people say only come to you when you’re not looking for it.
I’m still not sure if you find your muse or if it finds you. All I know is that this muse can be elusive and slippery as hell. Our fanciful, idealist writer side assumes the muse will appear when we’re holed up in some remote cabin with a bubbling brook nearby to lull us into a higher level of consciousness. The glossy ads for writing residencies and retreats reinforce those fantasies. They trick us into thinking the most idyllic locations will inspire us creatively. Maybe they do. But what about those of us who need to fire up the muse on-the-go and on the cheap?
Something as simple as gazing at a ceramic vase or watching the setting sun can inspire the magic of the mind. The problem is I’m not still long enough to let that happen. The calm and quiet of reflection feel like a luxury of privilege to me at times. In today’s America, I stay in a constant state of rage. For those who engage in a spiritual practice, you know that you often have to be still to hear the voice of God or whatever higher being you summon. Lore tells me that muses work the same way. Or do they? When the world is ablaze, can we find our creative center? Or is that too woo-woo to be real? [Read more…]