~O Muse sing in me and through me, tell the story.~
What is the Muse? The dictionary definition is that in ancient Greek mythology, she is one of 9 daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne; a protector of an art or science. The Muse is also the source of an artist's inspiration, the idea, germ, the creative seed. But where does it come from? Ah, there's the question. Nobody knows. Without sounding too terribly cosmic, it is at best, I think, an illusive connection to spirit. It cannot be called at will, doesn't always listen to you, has no respect for timing, can be triggered by the strangest things, will sometimes take you to places you least expect and is not always clear. It will follow you around for days repeating a line over and over in your head enough to drive you mad. And then it will disappear for months at a time.
There is no point in arguing with the Muse. It does not care. If you are a writer of pretty love songs in the key of G, the Muse may show you a hard-edge pop song in the key of A flat. You have to listen. It will lead you down strange pathways often with interesting results.
I can't stress enough paying attention. Many times I've had the perfect line show up in the middle of the night and have not gotten up to write it down. Morning comes, and you guessed it ~I can't remember it. It happens a lot. You have to listen. Keep a notebook beside your bed. Carry one with you at all times. You never know what will set it off. Or what will invite it in.
What happens if the Muse disappears? We can't always expect her to hang around waiting for us to listen. How do we get her back? Brainstorming is one of the best ways of talking to the Muse. Here's a great trick I use when I need a kick-start. Set a timer for 10 minutes. Open a book. Any book, doesn't matter what. You could even use the phone book. Pick a line, a word, a sentence. Anything. Don't judge, don't second guess, don't preplan…just pick. Now write it down. Use your computer, a notebook, anything. Now start writing.
Don't edit, don't judge, don't be perfect. Just write. Write in rhyme. Write in prose. But keep writing until the timer goes off. Even if you start wandering off on a tangent that has nothing to do with the original word, don't stop. We want to get the flow going. If it's bad, that's okay. There is no good or bad here. Try this first thing in the morning, every morning for a week. See what happens. One of my favourite songs was written from a sentence I took from a library book.
Stimulate the Muse. Take her dancing. Take her to hear music you don't play. Read books to her. Read writers you've never heard of. Borrow CDs from the library and listen to musical genres you've never heard. Pay attention and listen. The Muse will reward you.
Until next month, KEEP WRITING!!
Jane Eamon is a prolific performing songwriter in the Okanagan Valley. Veteran of many songwriting workshops, she's currently one of the hosts of the popular Songwriters in the Round series in Kelowna. Email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit her website: www.janeandgord.com