Inspiration Abyss: How To Assassinate Your Muse And Still Make Art
Well, yesterday did not go as planned. Story of my life most days. My Muse abandoned me to the Abyss of No Inspiration somewhere around the second run to the county offices, after a mad hunt for a missing Social Security Card. You know that piece of paper the government somehow expects you to keep track of your whole life when they can’t even keep track of which of their officials are actually corrupt anymore?
Politics aside, I mentioned yesterday that it’s NaNoWriMo once again, and if I was counting this blog in addition to my project toward my word counts, I’d be well on track to winning already. Yay for me! Except I’m not, because I may be a rebel, but I’ve got my own goals to accomplish, and this blog is only one of them. The other two, at least this month, are get my artist the first scripts for our new webcomic venture, and start organizing all the random info in my brain about Vermillion into a handy Encyclopedia so I don’t confuse myself when writing books and comics about this world in the future.
And yet, that elusive creature, the Muse seems to elude my grasp.
Inspiration: Holy Grail of Artists
For those Inidiana Jones fans who remember this scene, you know what happened to the guy who chose the jewel-encrusted golden cup? He got a fast-forward track to old age, sudden death, and rotted away in all of thirty seconds of screen time.
There are so many times that’s what it’s been like waiting on the mystery of Inspiration for my writing, it’s not even funny. I remember so many times in college telling my friends that I was going to finish my book “when the inspiration hit.”
Wait long enough, and the Fount of Inspiration will dry up entirely as the imagination wanders on to other projects, side shafts in the mine that may (or may not) lead to any ore vein at all. And then you wind up, five years late, staring at scenes from the original idea that you don’t remember writing, wondering what idiot in their right mind wrote that piece of chicken scratch.
Oh, wait. I did.
Assassinate Your Muse
Okay, before you creative types reading this digitally lynch-mob me, hear me out. The Muse is a wonderful creature made of Inspiration…and a few other things. In fact, this creature is entirely comprised of a few major ingredients, some of which make them the most fickle creature in the realm of the Arts. And also the will o’wisp responsible for dragging so many promising artists into the abyss of obscurity.
Ingredients of the Muse
Inspiration – This is the mental stimulation to do something. It’s actually a fancy word for a pretty common state of being. You can be inspired to do just about anything, from creating spectacular art to clipping your cat’s claws so she doesn’t rip your jeans (again). Oh yeah, it’s also the process of drawing a breath. So artists, don’t forget to breathe!
Passion – This is what we artsy people often mean when we claim we have to wait for “inspiration.” We’re actually looking for Passion. That strong, burning feeling or belief, specifically in our work. Kinda like this!
But there’s more!
Emotion – You know, that instinctive state of mind that creates our moods and usually has something to do with whatever happens to be going on at the time. You know, FEELINGS. In fact, science has, so far, been able to measure biochemical alterations in the body based on seven specific states they term emotions, and these last mere seconds at the longest. That’s why they’re fickle little [REDACTED] at best. And because they’re a key ingredient in your Muse…well, shoot them.
Unreliable Narrators & The Habit Factor
Remember that Abyss of No Inspiration I mentioned in the beginning? Yeah, I know the GIF above is trippy. I did it for a reason. See, what happens when an artist of any kind decides that the Muse is the thing that gives creativity its spark is that we spend all our time chasing that fickle little will o’wisp down the mine shafts of our imaginations (and those places are endless maze-dungeons of crazy, believe me), and waiting for just the right sparkle of ore to catch our eye.
That one idea.
That one paragraph.
That one drawing.
We slide down one of those crazy looking, never-ending tentacles into a bottomless pit of nothing, because once again, the Muse is AT LEAST 1/3 emotion. That 1/3 is completely independent of your habits, your will to live, your desire to succeed, or your commitments to your art as a creation independent of that crappy day you had at work yesterday, or the fact that the DMV can’t get their act together, ever, or worse, your hard drive crashed, or your basement flooded and your whole manuscript was on the floor, and now all those hand-penned edits you spent hours making are ruined.
Those have all happened to me.
That last one happened several years ago, and I actually spent a few YEARS moping about it while my Muse was off in Tahiti or somewhere, knocking back cocktails I would never drink and laughing about the fact that I was feeling sorry for myself.
That Muse came back like some sort of needy ex-lover and I started pantsing scenes here and there again. I also started actually studying writing craft, and realized I many of the “techniques” I’d adopted were the result of a Muse who was just as much of an amateur as I was. So I did what I suggest above. I rid myself of the Muse, and as much as I enjoy the feeling of artistic Inspiration when it comes, I’ve learned that I can’t count on it. What I can count on is, once again, getting down into the mine, every day. So, back to it.