Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wherefore Art Thou, Muse? - A Guest Post by Edmond Manning

Wherefore Art Thou, Muse?

Sometimes when I hear writer friends chat about their relationship with their Muse, I cringe.

"My Muse doesn't let me sleep."

"I have six short stories, three novels, and a play to finish. My Muse is working me hard."

"My Muse left me; I haven't felt her in months."

I don't get it.

When described in these terms, "the Muse" sounds like a real bitch, quite frankly.  I would say 'asshole,' but in ancient Greek culture and since, Muses have been portrayed as women.

Some origin stories count them three in their number, daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (memory personified) and some Roman stories count them as nine sisters, each responsible for a different gift to civilization. Nobody agrees on their origins. And number. And names.

Solon, an Athenian law-giver and poet sometimes credited with laying the foundation of Athenian democracy, believed the Muses were "the key to the good life" and they inspired people to do their very best. To this day, people credit their Muse for the gift of talent, the patience, the long-term strategy to execute on an ephemeral idea.

But you don't see much about Muses who refuse to let people sleep or work them so hard they don't have time to watch Modern Family on ABC. These ladies are supposed to be inspiring, not whip-cracking task-masters who force a daily word count.

I know not everyone who writes, paints, or creates yarn art thinks of their Muse as this frowny school mistress with horned rimmed glasses, but still the portrait has always confused me. How do you know it's your Muse who doesn't let you sleep? What if it's your own insecurities? Maybe it's not your Muse who has you writing six projects at once; maybe you have ADD.

I guess these complaining tales about Muses perk my interest because I'm not really sure who my Muse is. What she looks like. How does she come to me? Has she ever whispered, "Write now" and I have grunted in reply, "Later. TV now."

I don't know.

I call my Muse the Sparkling Spirit and I don't really believe it/her/him to be a person, not really. I usually think of the Sparkling Spirit as a joyful breeze, that first smell of Spring green when you start noticing budding trees. I also don't think this Sparkling Spirit hangs around my house, nudging me toward the computer and disappointed when I inevitably my web searches nudge their way closer to internet porn. Gosh, I hope not. That would be creepy if the Sparkling Spirit really was an 'invisible she' standing behind me while I sit at the computer, groaning, "Aw, c'mon. Not another Furries Do Riverdance website."


I do not hope to redefine any other writers' relationship with their Muse. If your Muse is your kids, your back porch, Maya Angelou, or a picture of a farm. I think it's important that we each have a connection to something outside of ourselves, something greater. Perhaps more important than defining the Muse is to let her (or it, or a Sparkling gust of wind) move through us, allow us to write infused with another perspective bigger than our own.

And this, this I have felt.

I've written sentences, paragraphs even, and when I typed the final period a bit surprised, I wondered 'where did that come from?' I would like to say it came from me and that I am exceedingly brilliant and clever, and let's not forget gifted. And perhaps I can be those things, some days for an hour or two.

But when I write, I do feel that something moves me to be the best I can be, a feeling that an ancient Athenian blogger named Solon discussed. (Fine, the ancient, Greek equivalent of blogging if not blogging itself.)  I love touching the greater love, the bigger sky beyond my ridiculous, limited grasp. And I do try to be grateful for this experience, mindful that not everyone is lucky enough to experience this flavor of the divine.

Last Thursday, I dined with a guy who read my book, King Perry. We had met online and in a private message he asked if we could together so he could ask me questions. Sixty-four questions, to be more specific. I was deeply surprised by associations he rightfully made, individual lines that I assumed nobody would notice but me. He recognized clues that I deposited revealing secrets in the next few books, and while he didn't know why these sentences were important, he recognized that they were. I did my best to conceal my shock.

At one point I thought, 'The Sparkling Spirit's been to his house, too."

He also asked me a few questions about connections I didn't consciously intend. Trust me, it's humbling to have a stranger school you on symbolism in your own damn book. He wanted to know what I meant by the color peach, which shows up significantly three times in the book.


"The number four seems significant," he said, scanning his notes. "Why were there groupings of four?"

Some days I wish my Muse really were a person who stood behind my shoulder so I could indicate her presence with a jerk of my head and say, "I have no fucking clue. Ask her."


Blurb for King Perry
In a trendy San Francisco art gallery, out-of-towner Vin Vanbly witnesses an act of compassion that compels him to make investment banker Perry Mangin a mysterious offer: in exchange for a weekend of complete submission, Vin will restore Perry’s “kingship” and transform him into the man he was always meant to be.

Despite intense reservations, Perry agrees, setting in motion a chain of events that will test the limits of his body, seduce his senses, and fray his every nerve, (perhaps occasionally breaking the law) while Vin guides him toward his destiny as 'the one true king.'   

Even as Perry rediscovers old grief and new joys within himself, Vin and his shadowy motivations remain enigmas: who is this off-beat stranger guiding them from danger to hilarity to danger? To emerge triumphant, Perry must overcome the greatest challenge alone: embracing his devastating past. But can he succeed by Sunday's sunrise deadline? How can he possibly evolve from an ordinary man into King Perry?

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  1. Thanks for stopping by Edmond!

  2. Thank you for inviting me, MJ! I was delighted to visit Babes in Boyland. (I actually thought I posted this 'thank you' the day the blog came out but when I returned today, I see that I must not have clicked Publish or something. Oops.)