“There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer. He lives in the ground. He’s a basement kind of guy. You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in. You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you. Do you think it’s fair? I think it’s fair. He may not be much to look at, that muse-guy, and he may not be much of a conversationalist, but he’s got inspiration. It’s right that you should do all the work and burn all the mid-night oil, because the guy with the cigar and the little wings has got a bag of magic. There’s stuff in there that can change your life. Believe me, I know.”
― Stephen King
I can’t tell you where to find your muse-guy. It might be a corner-booth in a crowded bar. It might be in your own house, in your own bed, as you struggle to fall asleep.
You might even find your muse in the subway, as you ride home after work.
Stranger things have happened.
I can tell you only that when you find this muse, every civilized instinct in your soul will disappear. You’ll suddenly feel this itch, impulsive as hell, a complete disregard for rules or consequences.
You will want to create something of your own. You will want to do what you can, with whatever’s at your disposal at that moment. Right there, right then. If you have to write your story on a piece of napkin, so be it. If you have to sketch on your phone, fine.
When you find your muse, you will feel yourself becoming addicted to the promise of doing work you hope could last forever.
The goal isn’t to live forever. We all die. We all know that. The goal, however, is to create something so beautiful, almost as beautiful as the things we can imagine, and then hope it’s going to last forever in the hearts and minds of everyone else.
However, it is of utmost importance that you go home. Seriously. Go home and get to work.
When you find your muse, listen to the voice of inspiration. You won’t be able to sleep anyways. You might feel the need to pick up smoking, or some other bad habit. The side-effects of inspiration are often teeth grinding, a loss in appetite, and taking longer than usual showers, so you can brainstorm until the skin on your fingers gets all wrinkled.
You’ll soon realize that you are capable of exerting more energy than ever. You’ll pace around your room like a madman, chain-smoke yourself to an early grave. Finally, you’ll sit down and work.
The sound of punching those keys, or the smell of fresh paint on a canvas. The desire to forget yourself in the work. The desire to use all the colors, all the brushes, all the words in the dictionary.
You can only write your story into existence one word at a time, and this pisses you off.
There’s this melancholic beauty we experience when we look back at the times we spent creating. It’s as if time became irrelevant.
When you fall in love with the muse, you forget your name. You stare in the mirror and a stranger’s staring back at you.
You’ll lose friends and alienate people without giving it a second’s thought.
They call it love because there’s no greater agony than not being close to the object of your desire.
What you want, right now, is to create. That’s all. Nothing else matters.
When you fall in love with your muse, work like a maniac. Seriously. If you don’t, you will forever regret it. We always miss the most the story we almost wrote, the painting we almost painted.
Work with such passion that you leave claw marks on your canvas, punch those damn keys until your fingerprints are the only thing left on your keyboard.
Write until your hands hurt, and then write some more.
Work without mercy. Forget to eat. Forget to sleep. Forget to take a shower. Those things don’t matter.
What matters is that you will fall out of love with your muse. Someday. It happens to all of us.
Someday, as you sit at your desk to work, you will notice that the muse-guy’s gone. No longer whispering into your ears, no longer cheering you on.
The first night after you lose your muse, as you struggle to fall asleep, you’re going to experience loneliness like never before.
You’re empty now. You have time, but you’re not free.
Your muse left you in a cage of broken dreams and unfinished drafts and threw away the key. Bastard!
You’ll call your parents, all the friends you didn’t alienate forever. They will try to comfort you, but isn’t the most disturbing fact about being an artist that nothing ever comforts us? Isn’t that why we’re artists in the first place?
You will tell yourself that it doesn’t matter, that it’s time to work, that you have to pay the bills, that all you have to do is sit down and do the work.
Good luck with that.
A few hours of sitting at your desk, staring at the white nothingness of just a hint of an idea and no words whatsoever, you will feel like a gambler who has lost. A sinner with not chance of redemption. A penitent denied access to heaven.
Now, it’s extremely important that you calm down. I mean it. Don’t practice self-destruction until it becomes a daily habit.
Don’t set your life on fire because the muse has left you.
The muse leaves us all, from time to time. It is how it is. There’s just one muse, and there’s so many of us.
Now it’s someone else’s turn to fall in love with the muse. Don’t hate them. Don’t hate yourself. Don’t hate the muse.
Be patient. Be brave. The muse will return to you.
Look, I don’t want to tap dance around the truth. It’s going to be exhausting. An artist without a muse is like an imploding star. You will collapse under the weight of your own dreams and ideas.
You might have to teach yourself, again, how to walk, how to talk, how to fall asleep. Might want to ask someone to help you with that.
You will feel most alone when among people, and you will feel most selfish when there’s someone sleeping besides you.
And then, suddenly, you will meet your muse again. You’ll tell yourself that it can’t be, that it’s a mirage in the desert, that it’s the broken dream of a feeble mind.
You might feel the need to argue. You might want to walk away. Either way, the muse is just going to tell you what you already know.
“You never called.”
You never forced yourself to punch the damn keys until your muse got the message. You never forced yourself to do the work long enough for the muse to hear your desperate cries for help.
If you never ask, the answer is no. Such a terrible cliche. But so, so true. If you never try, you will always fail.
You never tried. The muse left you, and you just sat there and waited.
You broke your own heart, because you didn’t go after your muse with all you’ve got.
If you never try, you never succeed.
The muse shrugs. It’s time to work.
You protest. You are angry.
The muse tells you that if you never went after him, then why should he always come to you.
It kind of makes sense, doesn’t it?