Sunday, November 28, 2010

Strangling the Muse

Not just a creative masturbatory euphemism anymore!

The following is just my personal opinion- my own little quirks and excentricities, and certainly nothing for folk to get offended about, because I don't intent to try to jackboot anybody into my way of thinking on this subject.

That said, I dislike when people talk about their "muse" as some sort of flighty, bitchy personification of creativity that comes and goes as she (almost always she) pleases with narry a care to the woeful writerly wreckage she trails in her wake like the train of a runaway bride.

I think it has to do, ultimately, with what you think art is and isn't. I know a lot of people think of creative pursuits as tapping into a force outside of and above themselves- in some cases people even talk about being empty lenses that bend and focus the divine, or vessels and messengers through which something larger speaks. Their story and their characters, they say, actually exist, and are possibly more real that we are, and they are not creators, only chroniclers.

None of that really jives with my experience. I'm on the opposite end. Oh sure, I have inspiration, but I try to live on the philosophy that that's just a bonus. Shaping and refining that daydream into a story is something that takes practice, and a cultivated skill and understanding of the tools of a narrative that comes from picking apart the best and the worst, and reconfiguring them- intellectual decoupage. Purposeful repurposeing.

It comes down to a trade off. If you want credit for what you produce (and I do!) then you also have to be willing to shoulder the blame when you produce nothing. If you want a dearth of production to be somebody else's fault (even if that somebody's less real than the tooth fairy in this case), then you have to humbly accept the whims of a personification with a track record for punctuality and planning worse than the crew of the Titanic.

In the end, I suspect it's mostly about world view, and one's general sense of agency in the universe. I guess it mainly bothers me because, as I see it, the power is in your hands if you have the will to grab it, and then you don't have to expose yourself to the inconsistencies of a harsh imaginary mistress. Unless you like having someone made up make you miserable.

1 comment:

  1. Not just a creative masturbatory euphemism anymore!

    I nearly spit coffee out of my nose on that one. :)

    This is why I like to joke that my muse is surly plumber named Jim Bob. He does good work, but in stereotypical independent contractor fashion, he can be difficult to get a hold of and doesn't always show up when he says he will. If he shows up and helps get the job done quicker, great, but I'm better off trying to fix the pipes and unclog the toilet without him.