Why you shouldn't let your muse get drunk on champagne/how to braintrain your muse

Muses and alcohol… when you need control, that’s not a healthy mix.

So this came about because someone I know who requests writing advice on a regular basis, said she had a muse problem. The person she had based her muse on was going through a change of circumstances and that meant that she felt uninspired to continue writing – the change didn’t fit the story.

So I thought I’d clear up some things about muses.

1) Muses will not give you the ideas unless they are one of the characters in your story and even then very rarely. The ideas come from somewhere else entirely.

2) Muses mostly work as a focusing tool. You think of your muse randomly or because you want to write and thinking of your muse and how they act etc puts you into the frame of mind to free associate ideas and to write. At which point if you have any sense you write.

3) Muses never have full control – don’t give it to them. They disappear.

What you can do, if your muse is a character for instance, is say “Here is the situation, how would you react or what would you do next?” and sit back and watch it unfold as if it were a movie. Then when you write, you describe the movie’s action – starting with key dialogue and action, and then adding in the background description later. Seeing a visual movie in your head will also help you remember it, because it will require you to concentrate for more than eight seconds on one thing which apparently is the amount of time you do need.

At all times, you give them full rein to do whatever they please that is a logical extension of who they are but you retain control as if you are the director (which you are). So, if they don’t show up for work when you are ready because they are playing poker and losing badly, then fire them or haul them out from the table. Take yourself out of the process entirely and sit around waiting for them to not just show up but to give you ideas all the time and you won’t be writing anything.

The other reason you don’t relinquish full control is because this is your brain and you are the writer. Don’t get caught up in something you created to the extent that you lose yourself.

4) Muses were never invented to give works of art the spark to get them started. The original nine muses were considered to be where artists got their inspiration from – not for the work of art itself but for their occupation. In other words, if you had a burning desire to dance and to do so in order to bring pleasure to others as your career, then that desire came from Terpischore and you might have thanked her at the start of each performance but you didn’t expect her to provide you with the starting steps or routine – it was more of a “paying your respects to the person who provides you with the motivation to keep doing this as a job” kind of thing.

You all know what a pain in the neck it is to figure out what it is you want to do in life, work wise – the artists were probably very grateful for being able to tell irate parents that no they could not be merchants since a deity had practically called them to their craft.

5) Your muse can be anything you want it to be. You are in control remember. So base it off a real person if you must. But remember you are in control. Even if said real person changes something somewhere so that they no longer “fit” in your story, it doesn’t matter. They were never intended to fit in, you were only supposed to use them as either a focus or a base to build a similar character on. And that focus can remain the same as it was when it first started, it’s an entity separate from the real person it was based on. And you created it.

The real person cannot change to suit your story, the muse can. The real person can change in the real world but the muse can remain the same. So if it suddenly depresses you that the real person doesn’t match up anymore, don’t worry about it. Your muse doesn’t have to change. Keep writing and power through the feeling of depression and don’t get derailed. It’s hard to catch that train to get back on it afterwards.

6) If you can stand it, build a relationship with your muse. Sounds strange advice but look, chances are that you’re talking to it already anyway. The writing process is often a lonely one – you may need the company. It’s often a lazy one – you may need the nagging. It’s also often a panicky one – you may need the mental equivalent of a Valium.

At the very least, it will improve your writing because it will teach you about characterisation and plotting out how relationships work and can be written.

The worst that can happen is that people will think you are strange. Hey, you’re a writer, that’s pretty much a given anyway.

Marisa Wikramanayake

Freelance writer, editor and journalist
Australia
Marisa is a globetrotting freelance writer, journalist and editor with cat for hire (her, not the cat). She is usually based in Perth but is currently flouncing around in Sri Lanka for a month.

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