Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Restraining Your Muse

Artistic inspiration must be tempered with reasoned judgment. Just because your muse came up with a great idea doesn't mean your publisher or agent will like it. Your muse rarely thinks about the sellability of your work; it's much more concerned with indulging itself with a great new twist in your tale, some new tangent. Often these developments bear fruit. But often they don't. Thus, the metal ingots of raw ore your muse digs out of your creative mine must be tempered in the furnace of your reason, and hammered out on the anvil of your judgment.

Some ingots will prove to be worthy additions, needing only a few puffs of the bellows or a few strokes of the hammer. Some ingots will need to be cast out. Can this be done? Should it be done? Should one dare put shackles on one's muse? Absolutely. You do it all the time. How many times in the course of a conversation do you think of a funny comment to make (your comedic muse whispering in your ear), but you know darn well that you better not say it, not in this company, not at this time. You've just screened your muse and shut it down, though you may laugh inwardly. How about Lady Wisdom? You sometimes gag her, don't you? You can be in that same conversation and suddenly get keen insight into the vanity or pride of your companion, but you wouldn't tell him that, would you? Your muse needs a handler.

True, sometimes you need to give your muse free rein, knowing all the while that you'll have to ply your delete button to his work later when your muse isn't looking. Muses can be petulant creatures, and sometimes will refuse to perform at all unless given center stage. But at other times they can be reasonable, if you talk to them nicely and don't wound their pride when you strike down one of their ideas. Inspiration, when tempered with judgment, gets good results.

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