From an online dictionary:
- (in Greek and Roman mythology) each of nine goddesses, the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, who preside over the arts and sciences.
- a person or personified force who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist.
As writers and artistic creators, we know what it’s like to be inspired by a muse. For me personally, it amounts to daemonic possession. I sometimes become driven to write something that insists upon being expressed: a snippet of dialogue, a scene, a story, subplot…the list goes on. Sleep beckons, but the muse is unrelenting. And when sleep manages to intercede, I am prone to wake with new inspiration driving me to make a note, record a message to myself, or even return to my office and proceed with fingers to keyboard, in the zone, channeling the muse-deamon that refuses to allow me to rest, infected as it were with the only remedy being to write, write, write, write. Disregard the eye strain, sleep deprivation, aching neck muscles and celebrate the moment because it may be fleeting, or it may continue unabated. You just never know because there is a fickle character to this whole muse thing. Surf the big wave while the surfing is great and celebrate the moment while it lasts.
Okay…I could go on, but you get the idea. I don’t know what other writers experience. I have spoken with some who completely understand this possession, but we are a varied lot, so perhaps it isn’t universal. I for one am an undisciplined writer. I do not write every day, a practice so many successful and accomplished authors recommend (which could explain my limited success). Like a streaky baseball hitter, I can go from slump to hot streak—from no muse at all to complete immersion and full throttle. While I relish the muse taking over and writing while in the zone, of late I’ve been contemplating something I now refer to as the anti-muse.
I don’t have a hard and fast definition of the anti-muse, but the bite of this daemon is every bit as potent. I envision it as a many-headed Hydra with poisonous venom. Once bitten, I am overcome with a certain paralysis. Alternatively, the anti-muse is a Medusa whose eye-catching glance turns me into stone. In either case, the result is the same—don’t care to write at all. Wild horses can’t drag me to or away from writing because I’m not inclined at the moment. For me, this is not writer’s block (I don’t believe in that) so much as non-interest in writing.
I’ve come across a number of different articles, posts, YouTube videos and the like that address creativity, what goes into it, and how to release your creative potential. I suppose a form of the anti-muse (one of the Hydra heads) could be somehow wrapped up in creativity.
Motivation and getting motivated is a bit of a tired topic these days, filled with gurus and Tony Robbins wannabes who want to teach you to reach your full potential (blah, blah, blah). I’m willing to put lack of motivation as one of the Hydra heads. Although, somewhere is this paragraph the notion of ambition needs elaboration. Is lack of motivation the same as lack of ambition? If I felt more motivated I might actually look up the difference between motivation and ambition but I’m not that ambitious. Besides, Caesar was ambitious, and things didn’t work out that well for him. I’m going to imagine the original Hydra head was cut and these two other heads sprang forth, one with the venom of anti-motivation, the other with the venom of anti-ambition.
Stress, time pressures, competing priorities—do I need to elaborate on any of these? Other things occupy the mind and time while effectively blocking the muse from entering.
Procrastination? I know an author who made a career writing books and giving workshops and seminars about procrastination. When the procrastination bug bites writing is simply put off until tomorrow. Even better, as the saying goes, “Don’t do it today when you can put it off until tomorrow and don’t do it tomorrow if you can put it off all together.” That’s probably not an exact quote but you get the idea. Procrastination is a very effective anti-muse.
Of course, the entire notion of laziness belongs in this conversation. I’ve certainly experienced feeling lazy when it comes to writing. In fact, this feeling can last for days or even weeks. This is by no means being sluggish or depressed as energy and upbeat mood can coexist very nicely with the kind of writing laziness I’ve experienced.
Another anti-writing infection can loosely be categorized under distractions. Heck, there are many other ways to spend my time and many of them are more enjoyable and more attractive than sitting down to write, especially if I’m not quite in a writing mood. Distractions are another head to this anti-muse Hydra.
The same can be said of excuses. There seems to be no limit to the possible excuses I can come up with to rationalize why I should not be writing today or at least at any particular moment. Here I am not talking about basic needs such as eating, sleeping, and personal hygiene. Do I really need to elaborate on a long personal list of rationalizations?
My individual list detailing the anti-muse has thus far included:
- lapse in creativity
- lack of motivation/ambition
- stress from a multitude of sources
- time pressures
- competing priorities
I suspect my own personal list is longer and with more reflection I can uncover some more bullet points representing additional heads to this beastly monster that is the daemon that takes tight hold and refuses to let go, that paralyses me into not writing.
With such a monstrosity representing my anti-muse, it’s amazing that I get any writing done at all.
Just wondering what categories you can add to the list. A fellow writer suggested I author a self-help book directed to writers to address blocks to writing (not writer’s block, more along the lines of what I am calling the anti-muse). In fact, that discussion is what provoked me to think about the topic. This colleague even claimed to know a publisher who was interested in the topic.
As for me, I think I can invoke several different reasons why I certainly am unlikely to get bitten by a muse to write such a book.