Thursday, April 8, 2010

Muse: The Shameless Interloper

Is there no limit to the boundaries a muse will cross in a writer’s life, no restriction on the indecencies it will inflict, especially on female writers. Doesn’t the muse have an inherent sense of decency? Why does it have to be the shameless interloper; peeping, eavesdropping and stalking at the most inopportune times?

The most revered creature loves to play hide and seek. Now you see me, now you don’t. It hides when a writer is staring in frustration at blank sheets, and chases when one is busy elsewhere. One can even compare the ever evading muse to a mistress; demanding, moody, sometimes prone to sulks, and at other times generous to a fault.

My muse is pretty troublesome, it has this amazing ability to pop up at the most unexpected times and places. It shows tantalizing glimpses of its presence in the shower, when my slippery hands are unable to hold onto it, it beckons when I am in the middle of an interesting conversation, drops in uninvited when I am at a party, or, out with friends.

How does one then tackle, or, get the better of the muse?

Many veteran writers advice keeping a notepad and a pen on the bedside, purse, and within easy reach, to trap the thoughts that are constantly invading a writer’s mind space. Every idea should be jotted down for future use. Even random words and phrases. There is no knowing when these tiny seeds will germinate into lush trees, and  stray words into character names and random phrases into chapter titles.

One extremely old writer has the best words of wisdom. After waking up in the morning, spend few minutes lying in bed recollecting the dream/s. Sometimes these dreams are subconscious muses that connect the previously unconnected dots and provide vital clues that can untangle the tricky knots that crop up during drafts.

For many writers their muse has dropped in for prolonged visits during their sleep. Lucky people! Jorge Amado, the famous South American writer regarded himself as a ‘professional dreamer.’ He had often said that the greater part of his work was conceived in dreams and he wrote down the images and visions he remembered on waking up. These images were incorporated in his books. “All I am,” said Amado “ is a hard working recorder of dreams. If I didn’t have dreams, I wouldn’t know what to write about.”

One of the most famous writers to draw inspiration from his dreams was Gustave Flaubert. He normally slept five hours a night, but he said, “ the sixth hour of my sleep is given over to dreaming.” He would reach for his notebook on waking up and record his dreams, referring to his notes when he wrote his novels and stories.

In his ‘Temptation of Saint Anthony,’ Flaubert recounted some of the events that had happened in his dreams. Odilon Redon, the famous painter and engraver who illustrated the book with a series of beautiful lithographs had written: “if you had not known that Flaubert conceived this book in his dream, you would have feared his wild imagination.”

Dream Diaries are extremely useful. Unfortunately for me my muse drops by for a visit only during my waking hours. No snooze time visits for me.

When does the muse visit you? Has the subconscious muse dropped by for a tete-a-tete with you? I would love to know.


  1. I think my muse must be male because he always visits when I'm naked. In the shower.

  2. My muse visits at precisely the time when I have NO pencil in which to jot down what that stinker says. I do love this post, Rachna. And it will be interesting to read everyone's thoughts on their muse.

    I just wish my muse would show up on time, when I need it too. SHEESH!

  3. Uh, I meant when I need it to. My spelling muse must've left now. Shiver. =)

  4. Lia, I think my muse must be male too, as he is pretty inconsiderate and moody,with little respect for my time.
    Robyn, though my spelling muse is constantly with me, my idea muse tends to take long vacations!

  5. Dorothea Brandt, in her book On Becoming a Writer, advised that you should make an appointment with your muse. And then, when the muse shows up, excuse yourself from whatever you are doing (party conversation, washing the dishes, whatever)and go write down what the muse showed up for. Brandt advices that if your writing isn't important enough to drop other activities for, your muse realizes you don't value it and, accordingly, doesn't bother to meet up with you. I think there's something to it, myself.

  6. You know, it's rare that inspiration comes from a dream for me, but when it does it can open up a whole new novel. I love those times!

  7. Hi Anne, pleased to meet you. I look forward to connecting with you. Though I dream a lot, inspiration has never come via a dream.