Monday, March 19, 2007

The Right (and Wrong) Way to Treat Your Muse

Posted by Lisa

Last week’s post (an A to Z essay) was a challenge. I wrote it as part of my homework for Grace Talusan’s weekend Grub Street course. I decided to give another one of Grace's writing exercises a try. It’s a “How-To” essay, using the second point of view.

The Right (and Wrong) Way to Treat Your Muse:

First, remember, be grateful for your Muse. Say thanks when she arrives. No, say thank you, actually. Be formal. Make her feel like the welcome guest she is. In fact, you should whisper something like this: “Ooh, what a lovely sentence before me. Muse, how thoughtful of you to come. Thank you, kind lady. Make yourself comfortable. Please stay for a while. As long as you like.”

No one knows just what form a Muse takes. Is she ghost-like, a vaporous presence that hovers beside you? Does she inhabit your body, take up residence, however brief, in your soul, or in your typing fingertips? Or is she tiny, like a leprechaun, those cheeky well-dressed tykes; is she two inches tall, hiding under your chair, darting about the legs of your desk? Who knows? Because of that, you must cover all bases to treat her well…

Keep the room about 72 degrees; a shivering Muse is an unhappy Muse. Wrap a blanket around your shoulders. What Muse wouldn’t like to cozy up to a cozy writer? Speaking of cozying, brush your teeth, please. It takes less than a minute and makes you much more appealing. And wear clean socks. Absolutely. You don't want to frighten her away!

A Muse, you know, is skittish. Please don’t tell me, that’s news to you. How long have you been writing? They are frightened of, and will scurry away from, each and all of the following (in no particular order).

* Telephone rings
* E-mail bings from your computer (this is a big one – the whole technology thing freaks them out is my guess)
* Children in general
* Husbands, definitely husbands
* Parents too
* Favorite TV shows (my Muse, for instance, will disappear at 9:00 on Friday, when What Not to Wear comes on the Learning Channel it so happens)
* Beautiful weather (coinciding with times when a writer longs to be outside, either tramping on a snowy trail or basking in sunshine)
* A writer’s hunger or need for caffeination (Muses don’t like these cranky pants)

Your Muse doesn’t say good-bye when she disappears. It’s not that she’s rude - she’s anything but. She floats off in a breath. When the phone rings. When the laptop snaps closed. When you take a quick look at your e-mail (I told you not to do that).

To close, do realize, there are plenty of writers. Published, unpublished, stuck in that nowhere land with a pub date in sight but no book in hand as yet. But a Muse, a good Muse, they are few and far between. Treasure your Muse. Don't force your Muse into another writer's hands. Turn off the phone. Forget about the TV. Write alone, in peace.

Love your Muse! Your writing will thank you.