The guest post today was provided by the talented author, J. Lloyd Morgan. He shares his thoughts on a great creative topic–the muse–which I’ve often found must be treated gently. Mine at times requires chocolate.
The Mystery of the Muse by J. Lloyd Morgan
I was confused by the term “muse” when I first heard it—especially when people claimed to have one. Was it like a pet? Or a best friend? Perhaps it was more like a boss. From how I see it, none of these are good analogies.
So what is a muse? I think you’ll get a different answer from each person you ask. To that end, I can only give my opinion, but in doing so, I hope that will help others recognize their muse.
To me, a muse is a little voice inside my head that whispers “what if?” questions. It’s imagination, but more than that. It’s inspiration. My muse is also shy. He (yes, my muse is a man. I have a wife and four daughters, so I guess by default he’s a guy.) won’t come out and whisper the “what if?” questions if my mind is busy with other thoughts.
When I tell people I write books, a common response is, “How do you come up with the ideas to fill a whole book?” My answer? “I don’t. I come up with ideas for stories and then as I write, the ideas come.” You see, I’ve found that my muse is more willing to come out and play when I’m in the frame of mind to write.
I’ve been told that there are two types of writers: Pantsers and Plotters. A Pantser writes by the seat of their pants, hence the term. Meaning, they just sit down and write without an elaborate outline, pre-written character descriptions and such. A Plotter does the opposite. They have to plan out the book in advance before they can start writing. Which is the best way? Again, you’ll get as many answers to that as writers you ask.
Where does the muse fit in with these two types of writers? I would argue that both types of writers use a muse, just in different ways.
A Pantser relies on their muse to help them as they go. The possible upside? Once the creativity starts to flow, it can be an almost magical experience. It’s as if the book is writing itself. The possible downside? The story can sometimes lack direction, and possibly, theme. (Granted, the writer can also go back and adjust things.)
A Plotter may say they don’t use their muse as much—but something inspired them to come up with the basic idea in the first place. And in order to fill in the rest of the outline, even more ideas are needed. Hello muse! The possible upside of plotting? The work can have a cohesive feel—like everything belongs. The theme is present. The possible downside? A writer can ignore when their muse whispers a “what if?” question because it doesn’t fit with the outline.
So, how do I write? I’ll admit I’m a little of both Plotter and Pantser, leaning more to the Pantser side. I have a general idea of the story, the main characters and which direction they are going. However, when I write, I find my muse is doing a jig inside my head. He’s in his comfort zone. He’s more apt to whisper “what if?” to me, and I’m more willing to listen.
A perfect example of how this can work is in my second book, The Waxing Moon. Roughly two-thirds of the way into the book, one of the characters summarizes the mess they are in. She asks the other main character, “What are we going to do?” His response? “I have no idea.” The funny thing about this? At that moment in time, I, the writer, had no idea as well. I did have an idea how the book was going to end—however, I wasn’t sure how I was going to untangle the mess my muse and I had made.
I kept writing with the thought, “Okay muse, you got me into this mess. It’s time to get me out of it.” And it worked. Granted, I was a bit anxious for a while, but we made it happen.
Since this is a blog on a Mormon website, people might question how all this ties to our beliefs. I’m sure that there are those that scoff at the idea of a muse—that it’s contrary to what we know to be true. (I would argue that these people have locked their muse in a dungeon with thick chains—but, I digress…)
I believe that our Heavenly Father has given all of us different gifts. Some people are athletic. Some are amazing singers. And some of us have active imaginations with the talent to put them into words.
Just as when man first looked up into the sky and gave names to star formations in a way to relate and understand them, I think the same is true with the concept of a muse. People recognized that imaginative part of their brain, and in a way to understand it, gave it a name: a muse.
At least that is how I see it. And because I see it that way, I believe my muse is a gift—one I need to share with others.
Biography: J. Lloyd Morgan is the author of two published novels by Walnut Springs, The Hidden Sun and The Waxing Moon. The third book in the series, The Zealous Star is scheduled for release in early 2013. Morgan has written a book in conjunction with international recording artist Chris de Burgh called The Mirror of the Soul which is slated for a fall release 2012. Morgan’s short story, The Doughnut was one of the top five winners in the Parables for Today contest. It will be released fall of 2012. Morgan is an award winning television director and author. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and four daughters.