Where is Your Muse?

Most people who wait for the muse wait forever. The harder you look for the muse, the further it receeds from you. Ask me how I know. And I have been struck by the muse, when I was least expecting it, which came to me and gave me The Planet Masters.

I remember, many years ago, walking almost literally in circles, for nearly two weeks, looking for an idea for a new book. At last I decided to go to my list of over fifty book ideas, which I had taped to the wall of my office, and just choose one. I didn’t use it, whichever one it was, because the next morning I had three new ideas which I liked better. (I forget which one I used.) When I stopped looking for my muse, there it was.

According to Greek mythology, the nine muses were all women. We haven’t been Greek for some time, and most of us don’t share their sexism. Do women see their muse as a man? Hmmm.

I know where my muse lives. Yours may live in some different place. My muse lives deep in the back of my head, and it is always there. It comes to me most frequently in the morning, in those moments between sleeping and waking, when I am half dreaming. If I have gone to sleep thinking about my story — the direction of the plot, aspects of my character, details about my setting, how to solve a problem for my hero, creating a challenging obstacle, whatever — I almost always come up with a solution.

If I’m editing a story (novels are just long stories) and find something wrong, and don’t see clearly (or at all) how to fix it, the best thing is for me to do, is to just walk away for a while, do something that takes little thought (washing some dishes, cooking the meal, reading the comics in the paper, taling a walk — walking is a great way to stimulate the muse, that’s how The Planet Masters came to me) and very soon after I start, the muse will present the solution to me, all at once, and I can get back to work.

It has taken me a while to learn this, but I know now where my muse is, and how to let it come forth. It frequently comes when I shut off critical thinking and just let my imagination run loose. And I can depend on it in need, if I don’t pursue it or frighten it away.

It makes no sense to wait for the muse to strike, you have to let it sneak up on you when you’re not looking.