Okay, I admit it: The first time I heard anything about muses was not in English class studying Greek mythology. It was from the movie Xanadu in which Olivia Newton-John played the Olympian muse of dancing and chorus (Terpsichore). While I have since learned more about the history of muses and their presumed effects on human creativity, this film has had a lasting impact on my perspective: When I picture my own writing muse, she is blond, sings, and wears roller skates.
We writers often speak about our muses – that magical, intangible sense of creativity that feels at times like a tap on the shoulder and at other times like being pushed off a cliff. The concept that someone or something supernatural is guiding or walking alongside us as we create worlds and characters, plot stories, and express ourselves through language on the page is rather appealing. It makes what we do seem even more special and spiritual.
But do you actually know anything about the Greek gods? They were a fickle bunch! These characters were selfish, deceptive, and narcissistic on the whole. Yes, they were also strong and heroic at times. However, you couldn’t count on all roses and rainbows from Mount Olympus. Just ask Percy.
Keep that in mind when you think about your Muse and treat her accordingly. Of course it’s wonderful to have that surge of inspiration that enlightens your path as you write your manuscript! But don’t count on her to be available whenever you need to work. She may be off tickling her own fancy for a bit while you desperately need to finish this scene or edit that chapter. Face it: Your Muse is a fickle diva.
That’s why we need goals, strategy, self-discipline, and accountability. Thankfully, A Round of Words in 80 Days is all about that. Muse or no muse, you put in your time and make tangible progress.
Sometimes when you write, you will feel the language flowing easily from your brain and fingertips. You’ll be amazed at how gracefully it’s coming together. And sometimes, it can be as author and journalist Gene Fowler described: “Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” Either way, you are a writer. You can’t trust your Muse to hover over you ready to spill pixie dust on your page. You must trust yourself.
Have a plan. Set goals. Think. Put your derriere in the chair and start typing. Watch as words appear on the screen. Recognize, Hey, this is writing! Check in with your ROW80 writer friends and get their encouragement or their kicks-in-the-pants as needed.
In fact, ROW80 friends often function like muses themselves. They spark an idea with something they say; they cheer you on to write or edit; and they give an attagirl or attaboy when you achieve something wonderful. (Plus, they aren’t nearly so self-centered and fickle as a Greek Titan.)
Go ahead and believe in that beautiful Muse! She’s good company to have around. But believe in yourself and your writer friends as well. After all, that roller-skating, pop-singing gal won’t have her name on the book cover. It will be yours.