There’s been a fascinating conversation going on about muses. I think it started with Carrie Ryan. So far I’ve read posts by Jackson Pearce, Saundra Mitchell, Lisa Schroeder, and Tessa Gratton, all fabulous. It made me stop and think.
I don’t think of it as a muse.
When I think of it all, I suppose it’s as "the flash."
I read Emily of New Moon at a very impressionable age.
Emily (or L.M. Montgomery–I often wonder how autobiographical this was for her?) writes of "the flash": She never knew when it might come, and the possibility of it kept her a-thrill and expectant…[she] called it that, although she felt that the name didn’t exactly describe it. It couldn’t be described…It had always seemed to Emily…that she was very, very near to a world of wonderful beauty. Between it and herself hung only a thin curtain; she could never draw the curtain aside–but sometimes, just for a moment, a wind fluttered it and then it was as if she caught a glimpse of the enchanting realm beyond–only a glimpse…This moment came rarely–went swiftly, leaving her breathless with the inexpressible delight of it. She could never recall it–never summon it–never pretend it…It never came twice with the same thing…And always when the flash came to her Emily felt that life was a wonderful, mysterious thing of persistent beauty.
Emily lists off a few things that have inspired the flash for her. For me, sometimes it’s as simple as a red building against a searingly blue sky. It’s Wentworth’s letter to Anne or Rhett flirting with Scarlett. It’s the way rain-dark autumn trees bow their gold heads to the sky. It’s that full-up brimming-over feeling after I read a book I can’t wait to talk about or see an amazing play, something that feels devastatingly right.
When I go for too long without the flash, I feel soul-sick.
A few years ago, in the crazy time at the end of grad school, I struggled with Anxiety. It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure this out, but I think not-writing was a huge part of it. I’d forgotten writing and the flash and I was so unhappy and I didn’t know why. Something in me finally rebelled.
When I write, the flash happens more often. When the flash happens, I write more. I like to think they’re connected.
Of course I still have to do the work. It’s a choice to open the document and write instead of napping or watching Castle or whatever. There are days, many of them, when the flash does not come at all, and it feels more like "work" than anything transcendent. But, oh, the moments when words pour from my fingertips and I lose time and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be–
You might call it God or magic or inspiration or the muse. For me it’s the flash.