Muse Abuse

Tiger link of the day: I suppose it has to be OK (John Gruber)

I was chatting with someone recently about people who don’t believe in the muse. I have a muse, though I haven’t seen him/her (she has several incarnations) lately, so of course I believe. I think there are three types of disbelievers:

  1. Muse Atheists: those who have never experienced the muse and dismiss everyone else’s experience, from Homer to Shakespeare to fanficcers. This type lacks imagination, so they’re unlikely to get far writing science fiction. We can dismiss their opinions out of hand as they have ours.
  2. Muse Agnostics: those who have no muse themselves but are willing to concede that other people may have the muse. I include in this category anyone who dislikes the term “muse” itself, but will tolerate talk of the unconscious or other kinds of muse-like inspiration. So they’re not so bad once you get to know them.
  3. Moms Against the Muse: those who campaign against the muse not because they disbelieve (though they probably do) but because they think the muse is bad for you, little ficcer. Hair will grow on your palms and you’ll never get anything written, just because you believe the evidence of your own creative experience. There’s a lot of this kind of mommery in writing circles; it’s not confined to the muse by any means. Mom-types can be helpful when they’re preaching at you about plot or manuscript format, but when they tell you they know the contents of your skull better that you do yourself, little ficcer, it’s best to just nod and smile.

Do people use the muse as an excuse not to write? Sure they do. People use anything and everything as an excuse not to write, but that doesn’t mean that jobs, movies, sleep, real life, computer games, depression, spouses, and children don’t exist, or are bad for you, little ficcer.

On the contrary, jobs, movies, sleep, real life, computer games, depression, and children rarely encourage a person to write. Only spouses and muses are encouraging, and of the two only the muse provides actual joy in the writing process. It’s the last thing writers should be preaching against. Some people seem to think writing doesn’t count unless you’re suffering and sweating blood while you do it, so maybe Masochists are the fourth type of muse abusers.

5 Responses to “Muse Abuse”

  1. Kim Says:

    Why does it have to be “moms” against everything?

    Put me in the catagory that the muse not only lives, she takes over my life at the most inconvenient times, leaving great little ideas just when I can’t write them down and laughs hysterically when I demand that she not only remember them (months, weeks, days, hours, minutes) later but remind me of them when I forget them entirely.

  2. mike hollihan Says:

    I suppose I’m a Muse Agnostic, but the folks who really irritate me are the ones who treat their muse as though it’s a discrete entity, a ghost in the psyche if you will. Yes, sometimes ideas will come to me whole, connections between ideas will appear as though by magic, and I’ve been “in the zone” writing many, many times. But these are aspects of my brain, not some supernatural being visiting me with gifts. Just my two cents.

  3. Jemima Says:

    Kim: Because of the alliteration, and the mothering-a-toddler feel of the anti-muse lectures.

    Mike: Just like we don’t really have honest-to-goodness pagans nowadays, though we do have tree-hugging earth-mothering types who call themselves pagans, I don’t think we have people who speak of the muse and actually believe that it’s some sort of separate deity/entity. If you can find me such a person, I’d be very interested to chat with them about it, but I think you’re safe in assuming that no matter how people happen to speak about their muses, they know that they are really just some fugitive bit of their own brains.

    In other words, we’re all materialists now.

  4. Qoheleth Says:

    Two questions. First, are you on the Subreality Cafe Mailing List? Second, if not, why not?

  5. Jemima Says:

    No, because I’ve never heard of it. Also, their web page seems to be 404.