let’s talk about muses

Or not. Because that’s just stupid.

Moreover, I’m interested in the actual topic of inspiration versus just sit down and work.

In the interest of full disclosure: I am not good at anything but writing. I have a creative brain but little in the way of skills. My crafting is almost always a one-time thing. I would never call myself a good artist (and I believe my art school instructors would hasten to agree with me). I have no skill with language or math, a terrible memory for history and facts, and a sort of stereotypical dislike for science. In short, I could never be anything but a writer. I just suck at everything else.

I do not think I am special. If anything, I’d say I’m more pathetic than your average bear. My skills are rooted in sitting around and amusing myself with imaginary people, and then typing what I think. It’s not a far cry from a monkey with a typewriter, except for the fact I rarely throw feces.

You did catch the rarely part, right?

I don’t believe in inspiration. Inspiration sounds entirely too divine to describe what I do. I sit,  I think, and my brain does its job. WELL DONE, BRAIN. Here’s a cookie in the form of endorphins brought on by sex and wine.

I fear for those writers who elevate the process to something akin to a religious experience. We are not God, even in our little made-up worlds. Stories, in order to function, require a more articulate hand than that of God. It’s tinkering, not a great flood or… something (let’s be honest here: not only am I not a Biblical scholar, but I don’t really care, either. I was raised by apathetic agnostics, after all. Our spiritual beliefs are summed up with an “eh, I suppose something could be out there. Or not.”)

To believe one is evolved, elevated, in such a way is dangerous dangerous thinking. To claim one needs inspiration to churn out a clump of words is ridiculous. Wouldn’t you think a neurosurgeon refusing to operate because he was “lacking inspiration” horrifying? How self-indulgent.

Okay, fine, a writer isn’t really saving lives (let’s not get too metaphorical here). But the commentary still stands.

A writer is a writer because they write. Sitting around and not writing is, what, a thinker? And he doesn’t even move.

I’ll be here all week, people.

PS. I misspelled “inspiration” every single time I attempted it in this post. My inability to spell can be a topic for another time.

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103 responses to “let’s talk about muses”

  1. ainsworthshakes says :

    I find your writing style rather engaging and hope one day to capture the attention of others the way you do. I am at a stage of infancy with my blog and just absorbing your work is motivating. Keep exuding the passion.

    http://ainsworthshakes.wordpress.com/

  2. Reheated Coffee says :

    I’m tempted to say that your introspection is, in fact, your muse. That’s where I draw my inspiration from. I find myself hearing someone’s comment and turning it into a story or noticing something on the street and going “what if…?” Really, writers are thinkers that just put their thoughts down. You are right that thinkers don’t move. And I used to think that a talent for writing wasn’t anything special, but as someone who has seen countless people who cannot write, I would say that it is very special. If you have that talent–the ability to put your thoughts coherently and compellingly onto a page with ease–then you possess an amazing gift and I would say you can change lives with writing, if you choose to.

  3. W E Patterson says :

    Your comment about a writer who is sitting around not writing is simply a ‘thinker’ cracked me up. That line alone is enough to earn you a Freshly Pressed. Great post.

  4. candidkay says :

    Hmmm . . . I do think writing comes from the ether. And so, if not inspired, what is? I know I surely can’t take credit for all the thoughts that come out in so eloquent a fashion . . . :)

  5. Nurse Anj says :

    You do not only write..you inspire and entertain your readers. And that’s a talent not all writers are gifted with. Great post, LC!

  6. m.e.doane says :

    So you define yourself as a writer simply by the act itself? I suppose that’s… well, literal. You seem to think that there is absolute absence of inspiration. But what about the world around you? What about the people you know?

    I agree that “lacking inspiration” is no good excuse not to write. A writer does write after all. What you seem to miss is that most writers (if not all — even if it is subconscious), write for some purpose. Even if that purpose is to be nihilistic. And the ideas they express can, and indeed have, saved lives. Maybe not as urgently and well-defined as a neurosurgeon might. But nonetheless ideals can have a grand impact on the world in which we live. In fact they can define the world in which we live, the political structures, the religious beliefs, the sense of self.

    How is this not godlike, at least to the extent that similarly an architect and engineer may reshape the world as the Biblical god calculated his creation of the world in seven days? If anything, this god is representative of the human condition, creators specifically. I think your way off base. I’m not sure you’re much of a writer after all. How can you be something you don’t believe in?

  7. ramanda429 says :

    I think what you said totally makes since. I like your wording, and of course the sarcasm. A writer has to have it. :)

  8. Lupe says :

    I decided to weigh in on this conversation about inspiration. I’ve given it an enormous amount of thought over the first decades of my career (when I was young). It started as an abstract. It sounded more magical than I was ready to buy into. But the longer I painted and the more I read it began to come into focus. As a young painter I struggled with the most basic questions about art. Knowing what to paint and how to paint it. It turned out the most important question was, when is a painting done? I could paint on the same canvas until it was mush if left on my own. I needed a mentor to take it from me or I would ruin it. At first I thought it was done when I got positive feedback. When other people thought it was done. Then I thought it was done when it looked like the paintings in the books. Finally, years later I realized it was done when it relayed to the viewer the same emotion I had when I was first “inspired” to paint it. There was something about the subject that caused me to want to paint it. There was something that made me more alive when I saw it. It excited my being. The key is that I have to be vulnerable enough to feel it when it’s in front of me then have the artistic vocabulary to relay a more pure version of it so others might feel it through my art. If I don’t first experience something then the art is empty. For me that “something” inspiration. Inspired art has power. As I evolve as an artist and person I’m more apt to be affected in that inspired way by a wider variety of experiences in life. Until I now live an inspired life. I’m filled with gratitude and wonder. The things I see and the people I meet are blessings. A friend of mine says the paintings are post cards from we bring back from that inspired place to show people where we’ve been.

  9. kenyanvoice says :

    you have reached a point in writing where when i reached there, i rejoiced, a point of writing naturally without seeming to try much or did you try?

  10. Hannah Cox says :

    I talk about inspiration all the time and how important it is in creating work but maybe to me inspiration is more about interests, passion and engagement with the world around you? I totally agree that there’s no divine intervention happening here and lack of inspiration isn’t an excuse to stop doing your job whatever that may be but surely to create work you find exciting there has to be a spark somewhere? (maybe not…rambling thoughts coming out now). Also this post has now inspired me to write a post about what inspiration is and how that affects us positively and negatively….. I’m probably going to go and sit still somewhere while I think about writing it :)

  11. susannecollier says :

    We are strangely similar, I too have a reasonable ability to string sentences together, yet have no other useful talent what so ever. I have to say I have NEVER thrown poo though, you therefore are more skillful than me!

  12. melissashawsmith says :

    Does throwing plates of spaghetti count?
    My man-mate says my Indian name is She-who-throws-things.
    Glad I’ve found your blog!

  13. Nosna Devol says :

    Being a writer isn’t a choice. It’s an inability to shut up. Ask me, I’ll tell you…

  14. Eric W. says :

    Assuming body and mind are half as interactive as is rational to even suspect; movement is thinking, and thinking is movement. I Think those Buddhist in the hills are attempting to ‘do’ nothing same as I’m ‘doing’ something when I write (or more commonly a do a math problem). An act of true stillness may be as difficult or impossible to manage as to still anything going on in my brain! So what is writing? What is action? And why do we do it? That is a question of questions. All I can offer is random quotes from the gita;

    “Act for actions sake arjuna”
    “All beings act according to their nature”
    “Yoga is skill in action”
    “The result of all action is wisdom”

    But I’m completely over ’doing’ this with you being agnostic and all. I’m hardly encouraging anyone to “believe” in anything though- I think true religion is a truth to be discovered, and this is just rationalism/ philosophy really. So please keep ‘doing’ what you do girl- because you’re good at it and I don’t think any other reason is required.

  15. Ron Goralski says :

    I love your writing style. Delicate and rough.

  16. ruthie67 says :

    I love to think of writing as a gift from God. He gives us abilities. If you don’t think you are inspired to write that is your opinion, but I almost agree about not good at anything else. With me, I am suppose to teach but I have too many obstacles in my way and like you all I can do is write.

  17. Sally K. says :

    May I add: a writer is a writer because she/he HAS to write….

  18. Yelena says :

    Great article! I am new to writing…Yet, I truly believe that today writers have a tremendous power in this digital world. Particularly those who have a courage to speak from his/her heart along with a drive to make an impact.

  19. Amy Kriewaldt says :

    I write all the time, inspired or not. But I only share it when it’s inspired. That doesn’t mean everyone (anyone?) likes it either way, but it’s the only time they have the opportunity to see it.

    I love that you rarely throw feces. I’m a person who throws it slightly more frequently than that.

  20. nannus says :

    I think inspiration grows out of work (see http://asifoscope.org/2013/02/19/hesiodos-and-the-muses/ about this).

  21. murphyji says :

    So where does that inspiration come from? I’m a firm believer in Mr/Mrs Muse and grateful for all those moments of insight, inspiration and wonder. Gifts every one in my opinion.When a ‘flash’ of inspiration lights some little corner of the brain don’t you grab it, reach for a pen, write it down, share it? Otherwise you find yourself chasing round in the darkness hoping to recapture it. How many times? Carpe Diem. Tell you what if the muse, Mr or Mrs,happens to visit redirect to my address, the door is always open. Best wishes.

  22. kay40terry says :

    It seems to me from reading your blog you have a great deal of skill and talent, but you are allowing this dreadful self loathing, self deprecating, self defeatist energy and mind set to over shadow and cloud your judgement for your gifts. I would suggest that you try redirecting your focus and energy in the way of learning to appreciate your ablilities to communicate through your unique style of prose. Also I would like to remind you that everyone of us is special in the “Macrocosm” of the “Universe” if we only realize and become “Re-connected” to our higher self which is “Consciousness”. On the subject of religion, the concept of organized institutionalized religion often times gets confused with “Spirituality” which is our true innate, intrinsic nature connecting us to the “Universe” that which is “God”. Institutionalized religions are only here as a psychological tool of control and to serve the purpose to make people feel inadequate, guilty and fearful of their existence and that is where the concept of “Sin” comes in to play. So my advise to you would be to “Trust” and “Believe” in what you do. “Now let us walk the Earth unabated with Honesty being our light, Courage as our shield and Wisdom as our guide”. Casey Terry…

  23. maylamar says :

    You’re on to something but I am going to give the muse some credit (this from a person finally freed from writing about pneumatic locking systems and sawmill technology). Edison said success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration, or something like that. I think writing is 15 percent inspiration and 85 percent disciplin(ation) (wish I could rhyme that better). I didn’t need a muse to write for clients. I needed money. I like having the muse to write fiction but I must have the discipline much more than that.

    Great post, thanks. And don’t sell yourself short. Nothing says “the good life” like a little sex and wine.

  24. camrynforrest57 says :

    You said, “I fear for those writers who elevate the process to something akin to a religious experience”
    … but isn’t that the point? That each writer finds his or her own way, own voice, own inspiration? If you handle writing matter-of-factly as a technical task, and another writer has bursts of emotion, breakthroughs of insight, whirlwinds of words — neither method is right or wrong. Whether it’s a slow, methodical process wrought with discipline and attention to the craft, or an unpredicatable flight of fancy: we’re all just writing. Don’t fear for those of us whose unpredictable work can “literally” (pun intended) change how we think and feel.

  25. Sarah Bergstein says :

    OMG you are HYSTERICAL. Can we just be friends already?! “I do not think I am special. If anything, I’d say I’m more pathetic than your average bear.” Ahahaha. I needed to see this post today… thanks so much.

  26. Shannon says :

    I think inspiration is a level of excitement and enjoyment you have about a project. If you are copywriting an instructional pamphlet or any sterile egg of an idea nothing more than a workmanly attitude is required. When you are engaged in solving a creative puzzle or are deeply focused in making thoughts tangible it’s often helpful to wait until the conception feels ready for birthing.

  27. Andrew Whalan says :

    Ah you might be someone else’s Muse!

  28. Andrew Toynbee says :

    I was smiling as I read your (lightly) self-disparaging denials about what you are good at. It’s a subject that I’m just about to post (‘Jack versus Einstein’) where I consider if those who know a little about a great many things are possibly better suited to be writers than those who are experts in their field. I find that not knowing much about many subjects is now serving me well. :)

  29. jesshatcher says :

    Great writing – extremely engaging. As I am not a writer I can’t really say much, but I will definitely be reading again!

  30. stavi23 says :

    nice. i just discovered your blog and enjoyed reading your post, but i must disagree to some extent. as a writer, inspiration is essential, to me at least. whether it’s an image that makes me want to write, a play or book that moves me, or something my daughter says or does, inspiration is all around me, always. ideas don’t germinate only in my head. my interior designing friend can design an entire room from a piece of jewelry as inspiration, sometimes she works using only a feeling. as for bringing God into it, i suppose that all depends on one’s idea of what God is. for me, God is energy and God is also the Universe and sometimes when I’m in a writing zone, and particularly when working on my memoir, I’ll re-read a paragraph or sentence and don’t even remember writing it and couldn’t write it the same way if I tried. in those moments, i feel something akin to divinity, but not of the “religious” kind. it’s more metaphysical and spiritual and quite powerful. to each his own, i suppose. but i know seducing my muse keeps my creativity sparked. i will agree however that one must actively manifest that creativity muse or no muse. a writer must write. a musician must make music. a chef must create recipes. sometimes it’s the act itself that seduces the muse most.

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