Visiting the Muse
"I don't believe the muse visits you. I believe that you visit the muse." - Michael Lewis
As in, I didn't have one.
I waited until inspiration hit me and then hoped that I had a pen and some kind of paper to scribble on. Most of the times I did not. Most of the time my best thoughts, ideas, or scenes came to me when I was sweating on the treadmill, getting ready for work, singing my way through traffic, in between emails, or collapsing into bed at night - when I was too tired to pick up a pen anyway.
When I did have an open space of time (usually on the weekends) and I sat down dutifully at my computer, I held up my hands and said, "OK, inspiration, come to me now!" like a khol-eyed magician with a mustache and long purple cape. And I waited. And the blank screen and I stared back at each other. And I decided to go do laundry.
The muse, it seems, liked to tell me things when it was convenient for her.
Well, how rude.
Asking inspiration to come to me, only when I was ready for it, was like asking a butterfly to alight on my hand. It was all demand and no patience; a self-centered approach to putting thoughts on a page that negated the Love and Mystery associated with creativity.
The idea of the muse dates back to c. 700 B.C., when the Greek poet Hesiod wrote his Theogony (literally, the birth of the gods), an account of how all things began in the world. Hesiod writes of an encounter he had on Mount Helicon with the Muses - the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, who were believed to be the inspirers of all things artistic and skilled. In his epic poem, Hesiod asks each of the Muses to inspire him. But they have their own requests, as well:
" ... and from a laurel in full bloom they plucked a branch,
... and then breathed into me
divine song, that I might spread the fame of past and future,
and commanded me to hymn the race of the deathless gods,
but always begin and end my song with them."
It seems in this ancient tradition that the Muses expected reciprocity in this relationship. I will give to you if you will give to me in return.
Waiting for my muse to visit me - as with waiting for any hope, any change, any dream - will only result in frustration, disappointment, and lost opportunities.
Instead, I'm adopting a new approach: I'm visiting my muse. I'm asking first if I may visit, and when I do, I bring along the good manners, small gifts, and gratitude that any good house guest would. I don't demand anymore; I ask. I spend time with my muse. I listen to what she has to say. I am reveling in the relationship that is slowly starting to develop.
And it turns out that my muse is quite happy to have company.