Stuck, stuck, stuck in a rut


Have you ever had an image in your head, an idea so strong you can see it, you can taste it, you can smell it…your fingers are poised over the keyboard, you’re ready to type…and your muse laughs, walks over to an overstuffed chair, sits down and says, “I’m not writing it and you can’t make me”?

Argh, I want to strangle my muse!  I want to turn him upside down and shake him until his eyeballs fall out.  For those of you who don’t know, my muse is a cheeky little meadow gnome who talks incessantly and at the moment he’s driving me insane.  There is this scene that I want to go a certain way and no matter what I do, he keeps steering me down another path.  His path.  I balk.  He balks.  We fight and struggle.  The scene goes  nowhere.  It’s stuck.

If the scene goes the way my brain tells me to take it, I can wrap it up in a nice little package.  Bing, bam, boom, it’s done.  It’s tidy.  It’s clean.  If I follow my muse, the scene will get complicated, deepening the story line.  I’ll have to edit several scenes towards the end of the novel, but they’ll be more intense.  A minor plot hole will be filled.  Still, all the scenes combined will up my word count, something I’m trying to avoid.  If I take my path, I’ll stay within my word count.  The minor plot hole will be still be there but I can fill it in in the next book. Still, I don’t like leaving plot holes, and I do want my story to be as rich and intense and as mind-blowing as possible.

“But I don’t want the added word count.”  I whine and stomp my foot

“Add the words,” my muse says.  “You can thank me later.”

‘No.”

“Yes.”

“Ahh, stop it!”  I pull hair out of my head.

Which path should I take?  Should I play it safe and take the path of least resistance…keep the story tight, or should I follow my muse and disrupt my character’s lives by throwing in another twist that wasn’t there before?  Word count or plot?  This tired, battle-worn author wants to know.

Muse…oh muse…where are you?


We often hear this word from writers.  “My muse ran away.”  “I’ve lost my muse.”  “I’d be lost without my muse.”  But what exactly is a muse (other than an awesome rock band)?

The word muse originated from Greek mythology.  Zeus and Mnemosyne had nine daughters called the Muses, and they were all of one heart, one mind, one spirit.  It was said then if the Muses loved a man, then the man’s worries would disappear.   I guess my muse doesn’t love me because I have enough worries to drown a horse.

While some artists attribute their spouses, children, lovers, etc. as being their muse, sometimes these influential critters aren’t always human beings.  Blame it on psychedelic drugs or vivid imagination, many artists perceive their muses as magical or make-believe beings.  For instance, Jim Morrison of The Doors said he called on the spirit world to inspire him and Stephen King said this about his muse:

“There is a muse but he is not going to come fluttering into writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer station. He lives in the ground. He is a basement guy. You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in. You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretend to ignore you… He may not be much to look at that muse-guy, and he may not be much of a conversationalist (what I get out of mine is mostly surly grunts, unless he is on duty), but he’s got the inspiration.”

Rick Bragg, author of All Over But the Shoutin’ says about the muse:

“… it is a glorious spirit. It is a flitting, unpredictable, fairylike creature that falls from heaven, glides twice around the magnolia, and touches lightly down, usually on the “writing porch.” It glows with a kind of elvish energy, and flings a golden glitter of fairy dust across the keys of their old Underwood—because only a Philistine would write on a machine that requires a power cord.

It darts like a hummingbird from ear to ear, whispering sentences of beauty, grace, and power; whole paragraphs that will transform barren pages into poetry, something prettier than real life. And they type as it talks, fast, faster, till the ends of their fingers are a blur, till drops of blood fly into the sticky air—because it’s the damn South—and land on the parchment, feeding the prose, till the whole page grows warm under their hands and they have to rip it out and fling it, smoking now, across the room.

They snatch another sheet and roll it in as fast as they can, but the muse—that hussy—has fled, and all they see is a speck of light, a glimmer of an idea, as it vanishes into the dark.”

Whether the muse is spiritual or flesh and blood, there is one thing they all have in common:  the world is indebted to them.  Otherwise, our lives would be void of almost all artistic impression.

As for me, my muse is a mischievous little imp always running around, showing my mind this, showing my mind that, but he also has an attitude much like Rafiki in The Lion King – always ready to beat me over the head if I don’t stay focused and remember who I am.

What about you?  What or who is your muse?