The Muse Myth

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Click me for inspiration!

I recently met someone who considered the idea of being able to write creatively on demand, i.e. without being inspired, at set times or in any (reasonable) location, was somehow wrong. Not only that it is impossible to attain the correct “attitude” or “mindset” to writing, but that creativity is something more esoteric that flows into you when you least expect it. And by now I know, that is simply not the case. There is no real secret to writing. Sure, there is research to be done, structure to be built and writing blocks to be destroyed with giant metal hammers infused with the souls of old typewriters; but the act of creating a work of fiction, an article or a proper blog post comes out of the writer’s knowledge, experience and skill. And you can build those.

The truth is, that writing begets writing. Those who need an external source of inspiration or a muse or something equally strange are, at least to me, missing some critical aspect of their skillset. It’s akin to using a totem to represent your writing skill, an external reference point that allows you to think in a certain way or be a certain way. Like a footballer’s lucky socks or wearing a specific color to feel professional.

You invest time and energy into that totem and you risk that it becomes a signifier for your skill. The skill is in you, but access to it requires this totem. Its becomes crutch.

The majority of the time, the inability to words to page is rooted in:

  • Lack of confidence in your skill set (solution = write! write! and write more!)
  • Lack of knowledge on your topic (solution = read relevant stuff also know as “research”)
  • Lack of structure in your writing (solution = make a framework before starting your work)

Now, having said that, there are benefits to having external sources of inspiration, mind altering experiences and comforts like a muse. The only thing I am stating is that relying on one thing, substance, person, place, time, etc. to be able to work is counterproductive. Build your skill, train be able to work at most times, in most places, with the relevant research done. Have a whiskey or two, if that gets you going, but don’t make it something you HAVE to have.

Personally I can sit down and write wherever and whenever I need to and put words to page. I can write myself warm and get going. I can drink a beer or two and get going. I don’t need the beer, but sometimes it’s good to mix things up.

But what do you think? Am I correct in that, or do you also subscribe to the mystical aspect of putting words to page, pen to paper, brush to canvas, or whatever you do? Is inspiration key to working or can you work regardless? Leave a comment!

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