My muse is acting up again. She has this habit of getting really excited about a new story idea when I have “no time for writing”: when my non-writing to-do list is juuuust past the point where I start freaking out. Housework to catch up on, errands to run, shindigs to attend, travel to prepare for, people to get in touch with, plans and events to arrange.
That’s when she jumps into the room, ponytail bouncing, clapping her hands excitedly and dropping a fresh new story idea right in my lap, lovely and nearly perfectly formed. I should get it down on paper, is the unspoken understanding–as soon as possible, before this ripe and juicy fruit withers on the branch.
This is how my muse behaves. Excitable and contrary, listless when I want her help and helpfully underfoot at times when I’m not in a good position to receive her–like a delivery person who shows up in that 15-minute window when I’ve run down the street to get milk.
Creative folks throughout history have talked about their muses. We give them different names or forms, or understand them through various frameworks. For some, it is an object they find helpful to keep around in their writing space, something to keep them on task and inspired. For others, it can be a spiritual embodiment: a guardian angel, a daemon, an ancestral spirit. They are as varied as there are different ways to approach the act of creating.
My muse is the character I’ve given to my inspiration. She looks like a younger me in a classic toga ripped from any number of sculptures and images of “Greek Muse™” but without the restrained decorum and somber, thoughtful expression. She wears striped toe-socks and bounces around like a caffeinated jackalope when she’s onto something. At other times, she’s lounging lazily on the couch with a bowl of popcorn, binge-watching some new Netflix show and stubbornly ignoring my pleas for help.
I find my muse fun to imagine and occasionally helpful. She is shorthand for an important aspect of my life as a writer. I talk to my writer friends about how the muse dropped a new story idea in my lap and I am immediately understood. This is important to me, if only because writers–by nature–spend a lot of time in their heads, and the creative life involves unique challenges that can appear downright alien to people who aren’t living in that world. Being able to explain this ebb and flow of ideas, its joys and frustrations, my relationship to it all–even by pinning the blame or praise on some imagined hyperactive doppleganger–is perhaps the greatest gift my muse has ever given me. It is, after all, a story: and stories are how I speak to the world.