The Poison of Muses

I made a traumatic discovery: my muse ran away.

If you have any sort of creative bent, you will find you have a muse: a gardening muse, an artistic muse, a dancing muse (which I think would be the most awesome, after the musical muse). Muses are as unique as the people they inspire.

What do you think Dave Grohl’s muse looks like?

My muse is tiny. Very tiny, but very radiant. She has many different guises: sometimes she sparks and glitters like  fireworks; sometimes she’s not very bright, but glows and pulsates like an ember in the fire; sometimes she’s a diamond of pure white light. And when she’s with me, as tiny as she is, her essence has the potential to fill and animate me.

I discover she’s missing after I read some beautifully crafted posts on other blogs. I recall writing some of my recent posts and realize my muse hadn’t been with me. The scary thing is, I didn’t noticed she was gone.

muse, inspiration, writing

I look for her, but all I find is a rumpled guy, with a face that looks like someone’s pushed it in too hard with the palm of a hand, and a cigar between his teeth. I ask where my muse is.

“I’m it, sister,” he says, not taking the cigar out of his mouth.

“No, you’re Stephen King’s. Where’s mine? I want her back.”

He snorts. “Stephen King’s. You should be so lucky. I’m just a distant relation.” He sits behind a desk and begins shuffling through the papers scattered on it. “Your’s is gone. She couldn’t work under these conditions. I been watching her, waiting for her to crack, so I could move in. You couldn’t have missed her too much. You didn’t even notice she’s gone and I’m here now.”

“But you’re not a muse and you’re definitely no inspiration.”

“Listen sister, you get out of it what you put into it.”

I try to remember the last time I’d seen my muse. As I think back over the past few weeks, I realize her visits had become less frequent, and I had been paying less attention to her. She’d tried to hang on despite the frequent interruptions. It wasn’t that she disliked my family, but she couldn’t work with others around distracting us. And there was the stress. So much stress. It began to lead to impatience, which is sheer poison for a muse.

“Yeah, I’m what you get when you’re in a hurry and don’t care what comes out as long as it comes out on time,” he says. He takes the cigar out of his mouth and shrugs. “Whadaya gonna do?”

“Where is she? Is she ok? I need her back,” I say, trying not to panic. “I’m writing a book, and then there’s this blog, and I have a school year to think about…”

He points at me with the cigar. “Not to mention you were already interrupted ten times while you were writing this.”

“I know but I can’t neglect my family for my writing. What am I going to do?”

“That’s your problem, sister.”

My mind starts whirring. Maybe I’ll just start staying up all night to write. Yeah, I can do that if I really try. No. The reality is I won’t be able to. I’m a like a grizzly bear on quaaludes when I don’t get enough sleep. Maybe a schedule is the answer. I’ve never been able to stick to one for any length of time yet. But maybe this time…

As I wrestle with the chaos, trying to find a way around, over or just through it, I feel a familiar spark. She’s come back, but only for a visit. Impatience is poison to a muse. But I’m hopeful that as I learn to juggle all that I love without neglecting any of it, my muse will once again make her permanent residence with me.

Stephen King's muse


“There is a muse… He lives in the ground. He’s 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 work, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you.”

–Stephen King

This is a revised post from 8/2011



8 comments on “The Poison of Muses

  1. Reblogged this on kinginascent and commented:
    I subscribe to King’s theory in having a practice that I can stick to that’s immune to distraction and mood. The trick is setting the bar low enough to keep it achievable. I love this post, it’s jaunty and aloof.


  2. I wish I could sympathise, but I wouldn’t know my Muse if it mugged me. Though I love the description of your cigar chomping muse, curiously it made me think of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine rather than some crusty old guy. I’m glad though she returned for a visit. Here’s to hoping she comes back for good eventually 🙂


  3. Your muse doesn’t sound very nice. Imagine, going on vacation and asking Ed Asner to sub for her.


  4. Based on this post, I think your muse is back. This was delightful–witty, vividly descriptive, and insightful.

    I think if we over-think the writing process (muses, etc.), we get bogged down. You’re right when you say that reading other posts that “work” remind you of whether your writing is up to snuff or not. I’ve been struggling with that, too. Of course, I’ve been in book editing mode, which isn’t as creative a process as writing a first draft. I have to fix all the problems. But I suppose my muse is still with me, directing me as I reshape what we’ve already done together… 😉


    • Just to set the record straight, I don’t really think there is a little muse fairy sprinkling inspiration on me. But it’s fun to think about. Now the internal editor with the meat cleaver is another story 😉


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