Friday 29 April 2011

Musings on Muses

By Addy Farmer
Guest Blogger

Who does it for YOU?

Muse wise, I mean. Maybe you already have one lolling about somewhere? Maybe you scoff at the very idea of a Muse or perhaps you are already a daughter of Zeus and can do your own musing thank you very much.

The necessity for one of these divine creatures may well depend on the sort of writer you are. There are those who splurge out words until they faint through word excess and then there are those who creak out one sentence at a time. To paraphrase Pam Johnson, the former are 'churners' and the latter are, 'tooth pullers'.

I lean towards the tooth pulling variety.

Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead Gene Fowler

 Just relax, this won't hurt a bit

So, I try to imagine a being whose only desire is to inspire my writing.

Gone would be the walking, the vacuuming, toilet cleaning, useless note taking, hair tearing, blood letting – all those things which take up my thinking time when I should be churning out my story. I'm thinking, a Muse could be jolly efficient, like a literary short cut. Cut out the angst - just feed me the story, sister.

And I'm not the only one who thinks a Muse could be a good idea. Quite a few famous writers wanted them. Like Shakespeare:

O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention

Alright, calm down Shakespeare, It's not like the Muse didn't visit you once or twice, unless the rumours are true and it wasn't you … but no, moving swiftly on!

Jonathan Swift definitely had one:

Then, rising with Aurora's light, The Muse invoked, sit down to write; Blot out, correct, insert, refine, enlarge, diminish, interline

Brilliant. Jonathan clearly had a direct line although I couldn't be doing with Aurora's light because that particular Goddess is just a tad too early for my brain. Come to think of it, I wouldn't be keen on a Muse of fire which sounds a little bit … hot.

Damn you for waking me so early!
But look! Here is the Literary Muse. What poise, what elegance, what's she saying to that bloke? Whispering in his ear, no doubt feeding him juicy bits of inspiration all the time. That's got to be useful. I hope he can remember it all, that he doesn't get distracted by all that poise and elegance.

Psst, have you heard the one about …?
I'm not sure I want a daughter of Zeus lookalike though. I reckon radiant physical beauty in a Muse would cause me problems. However, in the interests of science I would be willing to give the following people a Muse try out:

The bloke from Being Human
Gregory Peck

Chris Pine

Even now I suspect that the loveliness of these lovelies would prove too much for my tiny head. I would come over all unnecessary and zero writing would be done. In time, I'd be forced to reconsider the shape of my Muse.

What to do? Well, maybe get away from the whole Muse in human form and turn to the animal world. I mean, I like the look of hairy guinea pigs with their eighties hair dos. Long feathered chickens have the same effect, certain breeds of sheep and to a lesser degree, Highland cattle. Amusing, for sure, and no doubt many hilarious stories would follow but this Muse lacks a certain gravitas or actually any gravitas at all.

What's not to love?
Okay, so maybe something totally non animal will do the job. Clouds, wandering lonely, ephemeral; chap in a bowler hat one moment, performing flea circus the next. Who cannot watch the sky without seeing story in its shapes? Not me!

Take a summer's day, a velvet green hill, lie back on the picnic blanket and let the fluffy Muse do her work. Lovely. Except for when it's not summer and there are ants and the fluffy Muse starts to rain … No, I need a Muse I can rely on.

Clearly, this picnic is seriously out of control.
Photo from Flickr by Joanne and Matt

Different tack then. Perhaps it's best to let the the Muse find you. I suggest the following:
  • Play hard to get. 'Muse, me? Oh no, I didn't want one of those,' laugh airily and walk away. She'll come running.
  • A blood sacrifice may entice. Use your own blood.
  • Tempt her with chocolate, wine, chicken and chips – whatever you know she fancies. Obviously eat them yourself, it's all part of the plan.
And if none of this works? Just believe you have a muse who's waiting to reveal herself to you, in other words – have faith and look in the mirror. Blimey, she was there all along, arguing and sacrificing and eating the good stuff.

Looking good!

Turns out I will have to be content with amusing myself. Oh look, a cloud shaped like David Beckham! I can see him – can you?

Can you see?

Photo from Flickr by Keo 101

Addy will be running story making sessions at the Lincoln Book Festival. Together with children's illustrator, Carol Daniel, she will attempt to inspire children with fun ideas for writing and drawing.


  1. To lose one's muse does not amuse
    and drives an author to the booze!

  2. That literary muse looks awfully distracting.

  3. My goodness, Maureen - clearly the Muse never deserts you!

  4. I hope you found my musings amusing :)


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