A few months ago, Matt left a link to a talk given by author Elizabeth Gilbert on the subject of creative genius, and I find it has stuck with me. Thanks Matt! I've always liked the idea of treating my muse as a real being, but as that's also a bit daft I usually talk myself out of it. But now it feels like Elizabeth Gilbert has given me permission, and after all, what better explanation is there for the source of creativity?
My muse is a woman. Most of the time. Let's say she's called Natasha and today she looks a bit like Rachel Weisz. I'd like to say she stands behind me in her underwear and whispers the secrets of creation in my ear as I type, but sadly it rarely works like that. Mostly she wears a sensible trouser suit and pins her hair back, and she taps her watch as she administers inspiration: 'chop, chop, Taylor – I'll be back in an hour to see how you're getting on.' And sometimes she doesn't turn up at all. But I'm not complaining. After all, if she sat on my lap I wouldn't be able to concentrate, and like many writers I struggle to work with someone else in the room anyway.
But much as I long for Natasha's visits, she can be infuriating. Her favourite trick – and I think this is standard behaviour with Muses – is turning up when I have an armful of family life and telling me something wonderful that just has to be acted on straight away. Most writers are breezy about how they keep notebooks about the place for just such moments, but we all know that's easier said than done. So inevitably some of those flashes of brilliance get accidentally folded into a dirty nappy and lost. Well, that's my excuse anyway.
Probably the worst thing about Natasha's absences is her locum. I'm going to call him Boris, and he looks like Jean Reno, only without the humour. Boris wears a grubby raincoat and smokes Gauloises. When Natasha's not there, it's Boris who keeps me hard at it, muttering about word count and plot holes while he helps himself to my whisky. I'm not sure Boris really believes in me. He's the one who reminds me of the credibility gap that exists between published novelists and 'pretenders' like me. He also delights in pointing out that not one of my ideas is original and that Natasha is probably seeing someone else. I don't like Boris, but I think I need him, partly to make Natasha's company all the more desirable, but also to keep me from vanishing up my own ego.
Natasha's here as I write this, though sadly she's not wearing her pearls today. Boris is here too, telling me that blogging is a waste of time, but for once he's changed his shirt. And look – I wrote something!
So how about you? Is there anything you'd like to share about your muse? Or do you get your ideas from a box under the bed?