The Abusive Muse

June 6, 2017

 

Like all creatives, I have an abusive muse. 

 

Throughout the ages, people have been dealing with muses. Centuries ago they were pictured as winged, angelic-like figures whispering gentle nuggets of wisdom and inspiration in the ears of poets, musicians, and artists. I have a slightly different take on muses in that I think they are a bunch of jerks.

 

In my time living among insanely talented creatives, I've seen muses in all their forms. Some have actual people who work as their muse. Lewis Carroll had a real Alice who acted as his muse for Alice in Wonderland. Others look to nature for inspiration. Where would we be if Henry David Thoreau hadn't lived near Walden Pond? Most describe the muse as some unquantifiable thing that whispers in their ear and visits their dreams. I read Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott, and she describes her muse as someone in a basement whispering ideas through a vent in the floor.

 

I'd like to introduce my muse. My muse doesn't gently plant ideas in my dreams. She doesn't whisper anything in my ear or through a vent. My muse basically shows up whenever she wants to and bashes me in the head with a sledge hammer. To make matters worse, she normally shows up when I'm working on something else or when I'm actually trying to get some sleep.

 

My muse: "What? She thinks she gets to sleep? That's adorable."

 

This is probably why my brain looks like an Hieronymus Bosch painting. For those of you who don't know who Hieronymus Bosch is, go look him up right now because wow. His work is a gorgeous hodgepodge of the beautiful and bizarre. Now back to muses. 

 

It's easy to see why I call mine abusive, but here's the thing. I bet most of you reading this wish you had her. You wish your muse showed up all the time and tortured you with ideas. Why am I complaining when I am constantly inundated with ideas? The simple answer is that I can't sleep, and shutting my brain off is nearly impossible. 

 

No matter how your inspiration works, I bet he/she/it is a pain in the ass. You text and they don't respond, or if they do, it's at inappropriate times. You set a meeting with your muse because you need to get work done, and they never show, leaving you hanging when you're on a deadline. You nurture yours like a tiny flower, and just when it's about to blossom, it decides to wither away. 

 

Let's face it, having a muse is like being in a terrible relationship. So why do we try? Why do we put up with this nonsense? If we described this like it was a relationship to a friend, they'd say to leave that person immediately. They aren't healthy to be with. Why do we keep going back?

 

Because we love them. Creatives need their muse, their inspiration. Despite my complaints, I love that angry, sledgehammer-wielding muse of mine. She tells me the best things, even when it's three in the morning. There are some people who never see a version of her ever in their lifetime, and for that I'm grateful to have her.

 

If we didn't have these abusive creatures, the world would never see the beautiful things our minds are capable of. It would never fully know how powerful the human condition can be and what amazing stories we are capable of.

 

To end I'd like to share some lyrics from the audition song from the musical, La La Land. It says it better than I can.

 

"A bit of madness is key
To give us new colors to see
Who knows where it will lead us?
And that's why they need us"

 

 

 

 

 

 

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