Saturday, April 11, 2009


When one of my stories is published, one of the first questions I get, often from people who know me well, is, "What inspired you to write that?" My first response is to wonder if they really mean, "What possessed you to write that?" but it's a good question, and I don't always have a good answer.

The Muse is all about inspiration--what it means, where it comes from, how it gets lost and found again, and whether it's always a positive thing. The story plays with a lot of my ponderings about inspiration over the past few years.

It started out very simply. I'd been writing a bunch of short stories and wanted to write something longer and more complex. The challenge of doing that was inspiration enough, at the beginning. I had the seed of a story--writers are always talking about "finding their muse," or "listening to their muse." What if muses were more than a metaphor for inspiration, and a struggling writer actually found a muse, but it wasn't benevolent?

That question opened the door for a horde of other questions--who was this writer, why was he struggling, what sort of friends and family did he have, who or what is this evil muse, why is it evil, and what does it want? I had to come up with answers, preferably creative answers, for all these questions and dozens more. Every answer led to more questions. I discovered that the act of asking and answering questions was very inspiring and motivating. It took me to a lot of unexpected places.

As I began filling in details, I found myself drawing from life experiences. The story is in no way autobiographical, but bits and pieces of people, places, and situations from my life from childhood through the present day found their way into the story and provided inspiration, in a broad sense, for characters and settings and conversations.

There was also an aspect of inspiration that was less about ideas and more about simple raw energy--the drive to create. Some of it came from within, but there were many times my batteries were spent and needed recharging. Encouragement and support from friends and family were very important. Sometimes I just needed a change of pace or scenery. Sometimes I had to set the writing aside and do something completely unrelated to writing.

The common element in this constant search for inspiration is that I never had to go far to find it. It was always nearby, whether just around the corner or right in front of my face, and it was often both surprising and embarrassing to find a needed insight in a familiar place that I'd failed to recognize because its familiarity made it seem commonplace and unimportant.

There are muses all around us, if we take the time to look, and listen, and feel, and remember.

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