Yesterday I talked a bit about why I became interested in the concept of a muse. Today I’d like to share what my background has to do with it all!
My Mennonite upbringing wasn’t big on frivolity. My mom has never worn jewelry, for example, not even a wedding ring. A simple watch was okay, because it had a practical use. Makeup? No. Cute haircuts or stylish clothes? No. Art/music/dance lessons? What, are you crazy? NO! My parents left the Mennonite church when I was 7, but the cultural background stayed with them always. My mom is 87 and in a nursing home, and still hasn’t worn pants a day in her life, or had a TV in her home. The cultural roots are deep.
So this artistic side of me isn’t something I grew up nurturing. In the Me, My Muse, and I workshop I’ve been conducting at Forward Motion, one of the writing prompt questions was how one’s creativity was nurtured as a child, and by whom. The answer for me is that it wasn’t. Not really. We also lived in a remote rural community that didn’t include the luxuries most kids today are used to. Certainly no after school lessons or clubs in anything at all.
This isn’t a pity party. It’s who I am and how I grew up. I’ve had to take a long hard look into my history to understand why some of these things come harder to me than to some others. But one of the things I remembered was the tale my mother told me about my name. I was the youngest of five daughters, and my parents (with a lot of urging from my sisters, who were horrified by some of the names being bandied about for the baby) decided to name me Valerie Rose. If you know the old-time Mennonites, this isn’t a typical name. One old biddy wondered what my mother thought she was doing, giving me such a frivolous name. People would think my parents were so uppity! (If you ever met my folks, that’s quite a joke.)
Rosie, then, is my muse. She is all the things I’m not, but yearn to be. She lives (where else?) in a rose garden. I bet someone else weeds it! The garden also contains birds and a fountain. Rosie dances in there, playing her flute. She’s much happier now, and rarely contemplates her toenails.
How do I relate with her? This may seem odd to some of you, but the answer is prayer. Not TO her! But asking God to help me tap my creativity in seeing the beauty around me, in reveling in imagination, in solving story problems. In consciously noticing when I’m trying too hard to solve something by beating my head against it rather than letting it bubble away on the back burner so the good stuff can float to the top.
It’s back to that control thing I mentioned earlier. If I’m faced with an issue in a novel I’m working on, I want to fix it. Now, preferably. It’s how I tend to tackle life. But I’m finding that getting to the *good stuff* in story-telling isn’t so much digging it out as it is waiting for it to bubble up. Sure I can stir the pot a time or two, but if I force an answer, it’s rarely the best one.
The moral of the story? Hurry up and relax. Allow God to shape me (and Rosie!) into the writer he wants, to tell the stories only we can think up.
This is such a lovely post it brought tears to my eyes. Thank you.
Dona Watson says
I’ve recently found your posts about muses and am intrigued by the whole process–it’s new to me and something that I think might help me. i look forward to anything else along these lines you mention. Did you find the Holly Lisle coursework helpful?
Bonne Friesen says
I’m a Mennonite by marriage, and I can relate to the issues you must have had. Once the Matriarch of the family had the following conversation with me.
Setting: Grandma has been ranting in rapturous tones about the handiwork skills of various relatives, even paying them the ultimate compliment – ‘They’re so BUSY!’
Grandma: So, what do YOU do?
Me(arms full of baby, with a 2 year old hollering in the next room): ….um. I take care of my kids.
Grandma (impatiently): I know, but what do you DO?
Me (grasping at straws): I WRITE, Grandma!
I was then instructed to bring some of my alleged writing to her. And I did. Of course, she had written and self-published a book of memories years prior and was still my infinite superior. I just was never good with handiwork, it was hard for people to teach me being left-handed. Of course, Grandma never got over that I’m left-handed, either.
I eventually became the ‘good’ grand daughter-in-law by virtue of being NOT pregnant when we got married, but that was only realised in retrospect.
Sigh. Looks like I have some more forgiving to do…I don’t sound at all bitter in this post.