M is for Muse


“First coffee, then a bowel movement. Then the Muse joins me.”  
Gore Vidal

In Greek mythology the nine Muses were the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory. They were the patron goddesses of intellectual and creative ability, literature, music and dance and provided inspiration to mortals.
 
It's a romantic notion, that of a writer having a muse. It feels like something rather grand and lofty, pretentious maybe, something to be claimed by those writers who like to work in fountain pen lying on a chaise longue with Edith Piaf warbling in the background and a fog of Gitane smoke suspended above their heads.

For me, the presence in my writing life of a muse, or, being honest and greedy, muses, is of vital importance. So much so that I wouldn't be able to write without them. And trust me, I am not the chaise longue smoker. Far from it.

To whom would you pay the ultimate compliment: you make me want to write? Who have you visualised as a point of reference for your novel or short story's main character, their appearance, their physicality? If your character was portrayed on screen who would you envisage in the role? Say hello to your muse.    

Make your muse part of your family. Paste photos of them into your journal or carry them on your phone the way you might photos of your kids or dog. Wallpaper your office or the space you've set aside for writing with images of your muse. And if it resembles a stalker's shrine, so what? You aren't attempting to make the pages of Better Homes and Gardens. Unless you are, which suggests you might be better off focusing on interior design rather than writing. At least you might avoid the question, Where do you get your ideas from? Make your muse part of your life but in a quiet, private way. No one else has to know who inspires you. You don't have to share. It's probably best if you don't. Egos can be easily bruised if people discover they aren't the inspiration for your adored protagonist. And they should be adored. If not, where will you find the fire needed to sustain the effort of creating them and their world? 
 
Muses provide impetus to write. Watching them if they're an actor or listening to their music if it's a band or a singer who fulfils the role of muse for you can often be a way into a piece of writing. You'll hear or see something which fires your imagination, something which makes you grab the closest scrap of paper and pen to capture an image, a line of dialogue, a seed of a plot, a piece of description or even just a character's name. It's exciting, like receiving a gift from someone you have a special connection with.
 
Every writer needs a muse. For the way they offer a springboard into our characters and ignite our passion for writing, they're as important as our own private space in which to write, as being taken seriously as a writer, as the materials we need, whether it's a laptop or Bic and battered exercise book, in order to write. Every writer needs a muse. Who's yours?
 
Zoe White

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