Early on in my writing career, like EARLY on, back in 2008, I would always get SO irritated when people talked about “The Muse” or their characters telling them what to write or any other woo woo magical explanation for what I felt was THEIR hard work and talent.
It just felt like an excuse to not work. Or like they were being “fake humble” about their talent. But now, 14 years later, I understand what they were talking about.
I don’t want to be an asshole here, because I’m sure there are exceptions. I’m sure there are published authors with long and storied careers making tons of money and connecting to readers hearts who think “the muse” is nonsense or “the characters made me write it” is stupid, etc. And that is fine. I’m not going to tell someone they have to believe or think a certain way to make art.
What I will say is… the vast vast majority of writers who think this is “stupid”, are very new. They’ve been writing either a very short time, or sporadically. Again, this is not about anybody’s “talent or ability.”
This is about surrender and the things you learn and the wisdom you gain with a lot of time and experience.
I can be REALLY bad at “surrender” when it comes to a lot of things, but the one area I’m a fucking pro at surrender is the writing process.
Because I’m here to tell you it is NOT all me. It is a co-creation with something spiritual. You can touch this magic casually, or on and off, or in the early years you can lie to yourself about it… but at a certain point you come to understand that art is a spiritual act and that you are in contact with something greater than yourself and that something helps you form your art.
You learn the skills. You develop your voice. You bring your own talent to the page. The “other side/writing gods/muse/whatever you want to call it” would not create the same book with another person, but it’s like making a baby, you can’t do it by yourself.
I mean you can do it with a turkey baster, but you still aren’t doing it by yourself.
All creation requires polarity, the masculine and feminine divine. Writers who surrender to the process and allow story to channel through them and get out of the way to create something great, are functioning in the magical feminine energy.
Again, I’m sure there is some exception or maybe you’re working with the magic but your writing process obscures it, but… after writing for decades and publishing for fourteen years, I no longer have the luxury of pretending it’s “all me”.
Now “what” it is, is a question as old as time, and it’s why we have so many different religions, because people have a spiritual experience, attach a story to it, then start “believing” the story as though the story itself (the myth or text) must exist in THAT form or the magic won’t. To me, this is a lack of trust in the higher thing–in the mystery that makes human life even worth the journey in the first place.
As humans, though, we really like labels. We like to understand things and put them in neat little boxes and drawers. And even if we don’t understand things, as long as we have a story where we THINK we understand how it all works, we’re good to go.
So you can call it the muse. You can say your characters are alive. You can think it’s an egregore/thought form. Maybe it’s a manifestation of archetypes. Maybe it’s your higher self. Maybe it’s your spirit guides. Who the fuck knows? We all have a different way to describe it but big magic and great art all come from a higher source than just our little human ego.
It doesn’t live in the land of the $5 word, or “look how brilliant I am.” It lives in surrender to the magic and creating in a partnered way instead of all by yourself.
Also this is not a rant against “plotters”. You can plot, but STILL follow the story when it takes you. You can plot but still listen to inner wisdom, intuition, and those nudges from the universe. So this isn’t about method or how you organize your thoughts or process. It’s about ego.
Writers have a lot of ego. We have to. There are definitely areas I have a giant boat load of it, but where I don’t have it is in pretending that I’m not guided and helped in my story by something magic I don’t fully have the ability to label.
Thank you for coming to my TED talk.