In my quest to find out how other writers, published or not, relate to their muse, here is the second in my ongoing guest-blogging series on the muse. I’ve known Erin for probably five years or more at Forward Motion where we are both moderators. We co-authored Hare Today, Plot Tomorrow. Please welcome Erin Hartshorn:
My muse is sitting in a window seat, her face in shadow. I can’t tell what she’s wearing today, but it seems to involve a hat. Her clothes are a good clue to her mood. Hats are good. I’ve always loved hats, and when I was in grad school, I had a couple dozen of various colors and styles that, yes, I actually wore. I had the courage to be different, to stand out, to say, “Hey, look at me.” It’s a good set of traits to have passed along to my muse.
It used to be, I didn’t talk about having a muse. I came up with ideas; I wrote them. No need for a mediating influence. Occasionally, I would say, “My muse gave me this idea today” as a shortcut for “I was thinking about x, y, and z, and my brain made a random connection with p, so I think that would make a great story.”
Here’s the thing, though — I have a LOT of random stuff in my brain, and I add more all the time. Thus, I always had random connections being made, and some of them were odd. As I paid more attention to the ideas and attributed more of them to my muse, she started to become a personality.
My muse has been imbued with my love of the shiny. For me, it’s a literal shiny — I adore gold lamÃ© clothes and sparkly earrings and sequined tops and titanium MacBooks. With her, it’s more of the shiny ideas — whatever’s new and pretty and unsullied by hard work.
She’s also become the dark side of my personality, the one who has the ideas I could never admit to, never talk about. She’s the one who plots murders, destroys civilizations, and contemplates the downfalls of individuals. My muse is the one who reads about blood being used to seal earthen floors and says, “Oh, but it doesn’t have to be ox blood. It could be human blood. . . . it could be the blood of a relative!”
The other word that characterizes my muse? Prolific. I don’t write down every idea she gives me, or even every other one. Of those I write down, some are kept more to jog other ideas than because I think I’ll actually use them as they stand. My muse used to pout because I didn’t grab at every shiny new idea she offered, but we’ve come to a working understanding that I will try to choose the best (for specified meanings of “best”) to work on so that we can both feel accomplished when I finish things.
It doesn’t always feel like an equal partnership. I’ve spoken of working for my muse, and there are times — many — that I speak of stuffing her into a box or letting her play with other writers’ invisible friends to keep her out of my hair while I’m trying to get things done. If I’ve got a deadline for the day job, the last thing I need is a brainstorm about how to mix Der Rosenkavalier and Cyrano de Bergerac in an undersea city. (My muse wants me to add that to my list of possibilities for NaNoWriMo for this year, by the way.)
Now she’s moving out of the shadows, wearing a top hat and a domino mask. In her left hand is a manacle, forged from copper and silver annealed together. I’m not sure what intrigue she has in mind, but I know it will be fun to find out.
Erin M. Hartshorn is a desert rat transplanted to a humid climate. Her ideal home has bookcases in every room. She is a moderator at Forward Motion for Writers, an online writers community. Each year, she also indulges in NaNoWriMo, acting as regional Municipal Liaison. Her fiction has appeared in anthologies from Carnifex Press and Hadley Rille Books, online at Spacesuits and Sixguns, and has placed in the PARSEC short story contest.