The Magic That Happens When We Chase That Fickle, Unpredictable Muse

The words have always been inside you.
The words inside of you have been prodded and poked, jostled awake. They were dreaming of the melodies of a hundred poems. But now they are awake, raised their sleepy heads to hear the call of a muse.

Follow me! (1)

The muse is back and she has something to show you. You must have your words or you will miss it.
You and your words now leap out of your slumber to stumble along, tripping and trapping, catching glimpses here and there of that voice that beckons you to follow.
And follow you do. The muse leads you, sometimes along easy paths, worn down by writers before you. You know this! This is easy. And you march your words together in an orderly cadence. They are rhythmic and harmonized and beautiful.
And then, just when your confidence is at it’s strongest, you let the grasp of the muse slip from your hands. You thought you were forever tethered to her, but you are not.

Follow me! (2)

You are lost once. You spin and turn, calling out her name, but in the silence of this isolated wilderness you are aimless and dark. Your voice is silent.
Yet you try again. You hold on to the optimism that today will accomplish more than yesterday. You follow a path and step by step, create word by word, you make progress. A sentence is formed, then another, then a paragraph. Then the you find the path clearing and start to run, forward, passionately toward idea after idea.
Then, at a cliff, you find you are lost again. The words around you seem weak and useless.
And yet you start again.
This is exhausting. You find comfort in a bit of rest.
You  jump start your brain with a little coffee or tea and get those fingers moving on that keyboard. You are going to read, but not just read, you are going to immerse yourself into a hot bath of words and let them swirl around you. You are going to take deep breaths, a syllable here, a sentence there, and absorb their beauty. You are going to relax and remind yourself  that you can only get better, that we all started somewhere and whatever setbacks and discouragements you had yesterday are only opportunities to get better today. You are going to open your mind up to new ideas and new inspirations, new ways of telling stories, new points of few, new structures, new plots.
And then that fickle, merciless, enchanting muse returns, just as mysteriously and magically as she did before.
Muse looks at you with a confused tilt of her head. Where were you?  She asks. You sigh, despising her impudence. The question is, where was she? You were in place all along. You were the one who was faithful.
She gathers up your words together. They are slippery and fall out of her arms, wanting to escape. YOu take them from her. They are rightfully your words, not hers. You crack your whip and they shriek in fear. You corner your characters and listen to them with tenderness and then poke them into submission. You aren’t afraid of their teeth and claws. You cut, you add, you subtract, you rewrite, pushing, pulling, stretching and folding until they are unrecognizable. This takes hours. Days. Weeks. Years.
Muse claps her hands in delight.

Follow me! (5)

The words will submit to you. They will. You will line them up according to their meaning, according to their rhythm, according to their power and then they finally sing for you in a sweet chorus. The music swells in your ears and as you sing along, you choke a bit. This was hard work. But you’ve mastered it.
You are the creator of this song. And the whole world sings it with you.
And the muse? She’s slipped away. Perhaps she’ll come back tomorrow and whisper something new to you. Perhaps she’ll forget you for days or weeks (she’s like that, you know, visiting your friends frequently and your enemies far too often.) And when she returns, you’ll remember the battle and the journey.
You won’t be afraid.
The words have always been inside of you. You are their master.
And you will, most certainly, create again.

Katharine Grubb is an author, poet, homeschooling mother, camping enthusiast, bread-baker, and believer in working in small increments of time. She leads 10 Minute Novelists, an international Facebook group of time-crunched writers. She lives with her family in Massachusetts.