Waiting for the muse- and why I don’t…

Beautiful Girl Wearing Long Chiffon Dress. Fantasy Scene

It’s 5am and I’m propped up in the spare bed tapping this out while the rest of my family sleeps. My alarm went off at 4.30. I’ll get up in another 30 minutes and be on my way to work by 6.30am. My muse hasn’t woken up yet. I think that she could be a tad hungover.

As creatives we like to think that we can spend our days just, well, creating…or creating when the inspiration strikes, when the muse arrives. I’ve spent many a pleasant hour (when I should be writing) imagining what my muse- if she ever showed up- would actually look like.

The only experience I have of muses is Kira- Olivia Newton John’s character in Xanadu. Anyone else remember that? Just me? Really? I can still see her coming to life and bursting out of the mural with her sisters…wearing floaty chiffon, leg warmers, and roller skates.

How would mine dress? Would she be a he? What would she say? Would she sit beside me at the desk making encouraging comments:

‘Man, that sentence is good.’

‘Oh my God! That scene is so intense.’

‘I think we need to fix this scene by getting Richie to…’

Would she instead pat my head and say, ‘it’s ok, Jo. Go back to sleep- I’ll come back another day.’

The thing is, the things are:

  • Kira was not the name of any of the muses- although Calliope was. How do I know that? She’s a character in the novel I’m drafting now. I do my research…
  • The muses weren’t in a habit of breaking out of murals and they didn’t wear leg warmers and roller-skates,
  • If you wait for one to turn up, you’ll be waiting a very long time indeed and will get very little done.

When you work full-time as I do- as most of us who are aspiring or emerging authors do- you grab your time when you can: a half hour here, fifteen minutes there.

My writing time each day is this very precious hour two mornings a week when I don’t go to the gym, an hour or so each night after I go to bed and whatever time I can squeeze in on weekends. I wrote a good chunk of Wish You Were Here sitting in the hairdresser’s chair. I have to make the most of every single one of those moments- my muse rarely turns up.

Also precious is the 15-20 minutes each morning between getting off the bus and meeting my BMF for coffee and work. I use that time to:

  • Brain dump anything in my head that needs to be out of my head in order to clear it for story work
  • Character notes or snippets that have occurred to me on the bus
  • Sometimes I write entire scenes in the journal- usually because they’ll have come to me on the bus and will be gone by the time I get to my keyboard later that night

It’s a little like morning pages, I suppose, but helps me make the most of the time I have when I do get to the keyboard. I’ve tried writing on the bus, but the conditions are cramped and my writing illegible.

My muse isn’t around for that either- in fact, when you think about it, she isn’t around for very much at all! Somehow though, the words happen without her.

What about you? Do you have a muse? Does she turn up on time, or hit snooze on her alarm?