I once spent a whole afternoon shopping for the perfect pair of shoes to wear to a fancy dress party. Exhausted, I got on the metro to ride home. I was sitting in a daze and was surprised when my stop came. I jumped up, got off the train and left my shoes behind. Sadly, I had to wear a pair of shoes I already owned to the ball that evening.
I think that is how many people feel about the muse. They get access to their muse for brief unscheduled moments before it vanishes again. It’s luck, it’s ephemeral, and they have no control over it. They are forced to watch it sail away in a subway car never to be seen again and they are full of despair.
But I’ve come to have a different attitude to the muse since I became a professional writer. I have different creative waves or bursts of inspiration. Sometimes this seems to be brought miraculously by a muse. It’s a germ of an idea that comes to me in a dream, or pops into my head. It usually comes during times of quiet contemplation (unfortunately rare with a child in the house). The idea becomes the foundation of a new story or project, or offers me some sort of interesting twist on something that I’m already working on.
But the most important part of a writer’s job does not come from the flashes of insight, but from the hard work. You do not need the muse to sit down and write everyday. It’s a job, and, like any other job, and you have to do it when you’re sick, when you’re distracted, when you would rather be picnicking or shopping or dancing. You have to get those pages done, and if you’re lucky they’ll go fast and you’ll feel inspired. If you’re not, they’ll fee like they’re taking forever.
So do not wait for your muse. Create moments of quiet calm, write in your journal, take a walk and it will return. After all, I called the Washington Metro’s lost and found and was reunited with my shoes several days later. It was too late for the original party, but perfect for my next ball.