In case you haven’t seen it yet, my gift of inspiration to all my fellow writers out there is this video clip of a talk given by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, on inspiration, writing, and her version of what I call the Muse.  Elizabeth brings up the classical concept of the Daemon, or Genius: a spirit whose job it is to provide creative inspiration.  I owe a debt of thanks to my friend Trudy for repeatedly pushing me to watch this video when I thought I was too busy writing.

Of the many wonderful thoughts presented in this talk, one is the concept that sometimes SOMETHING – call it what you will – speaks, or dances, or sings through the artist,  and a level of creative genius is reached that didn’t seem possible.  Our job, Elizabeth says, is to just keep on showing up and doing our part, whether or not we feel inspired, and the muse’s part is to step up to the plate and inspire.

I’ve seen several wonderful posts about muses lately.   Silver James  , for example works with a delightfully capricious muse, and Tasha did a wonderful post on Writing Totems at Gypsy Scarlett’s Weblog.  I loved this idea, but couldn’t think of an animal totem for myself, and Tasha suggested I consult my dreams.

Now, I did not deliberately plan to dream an animal writing totem for myself.  In fact, I’m not entirely sure I did, but what I do know is that I dreamed about a Lynx.  (We’ll forget about the rest of the dream for now, as it involved the Lynx morphing into some sort of shapeless golden bear creature, and ended with Jim Carey plastered against my screen door like some rabid squirrel, and I’m very worried about the Freudian implications of this.)

Just for fun, I considered the Lynx.  As I happen to have a deck of Animal Totem cards, I looked the creature up.  My handy dandy guide book informed me that the Lynx magic is essentially all about knowing deep secrets and not telling them.  It also said that if you want somebody who carries Lynx Magic to tell you something, you must give them something in exchange.

This is my Totem all right, or my Muse, my Genius, my Daemon. Whatever.   This is precisely the relationship we have.  She appears at inopportune moments, looking smug and self satisfied and smiling like the Mona Lisa.  “What’s up?” I ask her.  She smiles.  She can keep this up for days if I try to ignore her.  The thing is, what she wants me to do often seems to make no sense:  I’m working on one project, and she drags me off into another one.  I think something is done, and she smiles that infuriating smile until I realize that the second paragraph on page 65 is missing a small but important detail that is going to change the entire plot and cause a rewrite that will domino through page 185.   Sometimes, when I sit down at the keyboard she will just sit there, silently, smiling.

Unless writing is her idea and on her terms, usually meaning that she shows up at a time when I can’t write because I’m at work, or driving home from work, or in the shower, or engaged in some other piece of necessity, she doesn’t like to be asked.  What she wants is for me to beg, and to possibly offer up small sacrifices.  I’m expected to put in a lot of slave labor, but if I’m lucky, sometime after I sit down to write, when I’ve been forcing my fingers to type letters, word after awkward word, she will begin to whisper in my ear.  What she tells me is always good.

After listening to Elizabeth’s inspirational talk, I think my Muse and I need to have a little business meeting.  I’m doing my part – I show up nearly every day to put down words.  If she’s got things to tell me, then that’s her responsibility.  I’m putting my foot down, taking a stand, throwing down the gauntlet..

Oh.  No.  There she is now, looking at me, and the message is clear.  Who am I, a mere mortal, to dare speak to her this way?  She will do what she will do, and my puny human brain is just going to have to accept that reality. Even if I have angered her,  I don’t imagine she’ll abandon me, not for good and all, since she’s been assigned to my case and I’m all she’s got to work with.  

And maybe, I’ll admit, I can learn to listen just a little better.