The Muse (On Writing & Editing)

The 9 Muses dance with Apollo.

We take certain things for granted I think. Art especially, I guess. One reason I think Art is criticized is because children seem to be so good at it, predisposed to it in fact. The force of shame is a remnant of the Industrial Age, where men were supposed to do man’s work and woman were supposed to stay home. Thinking about it, this may only apply to the rich folks, poor people have to work all the time. Maybe it is this confused historical paradigm which has lead to Art being seen as such a base, sophomoric pursuit. All that is probably subject for another blog, what I want to writer about is the figure of the Muse.

In Homer and other ancient works the muse is invoked at the begging of the poem. This idea had carried into the present if you look close enough. Read a bit of the writers talking about their process and the Muse will come up.

What is the Muse? It is this strange sense one gets when doing Art, where you sort of turnover to this purely creative force, which can speak and act on its own. The writer can become possessed as it were, by the Muse, and stuff can sort of just bubble out?

Now as you play with this you begin to realize the Muse is a lot like you! Whouda thunk it? So this means, it likes what you like, chocolate, coffee, music, good smelling incense and candles. So you realize quickly that if you share some of your goodies with the Muse that the gift can kick it into high gear, in your own work.

Be cautious though. Don’t see the Muse as some hedonist that if you overdose on chocolate it’ll give you a Masterpiece. The Muse does not like to be fucked with. That means it appreciates a tight, closely followed schedule. If you really want it to show up for you, you’re best to show up everyday.

I also believe it is the Muse that requires as the extracurricular reading as well. For two points, one the pleasure principle we first discussed. Second though and more importantly it wants you to beware of certain works, so that you don’t go wasting its time trying to rehash the same old thing. The Music is a critic and rational. Sloppy business will begin to agitate it. This is connected to writer’s block I imagine, and it is the Muse which is doing the blocking.

The Muse is a free agent, and the business is good. It is best to recognize this and be very considerate of your Muse. When proper order is maintained a healthy relationship can occur. If its not found, things can be dangerous. A runaway Muse can be deadly, no more evidence of that is needed than the deadly history of Rock and Roll. Breaking up with the Muse, or worse fighting the Muse, all can have disastrous ends. Therefore it is helpful to recognize what you’re dealing with, and don’t be demanding. Offer the gifts to the gods and then write it as it comes!

Source for Nine Muses:

Snippets #38,_London_-_April_2009.jpg

The Strange History of Buckingham Palace-Patricia Wright

George Goring made his name as a fool. In the Court of James I extravagant slapstick became a sure way to fortune, and Goring’s fame was established when he marshalled into a banquet ‘four large brawny pigs, piping hot, bitted and harnessed with ropes of sausages, all tied to a monstrous bag of pudding’. Thereafter, if a master of festivities was required, King James sent for Goring. He could make people drunk on their own animal spirits, and if his humor was of the crudest kind, so was the king’s, who particularly enjoyed the kind of debauches where everyone ended up by vomiting over each other’s boots and the ladies sang nude in a fishpond filled with wine. (92)

Snippets #35

Tom Robbins-Another Roadside Attraction

Smokestack Lightning also executed an expurgated version of the Hopi rain dance, using live rattlesnakes when he could get away with it: the deputy sheriffs in some town forced him to substitute nonpoisonous serpents in the interest of public safety. Incidentally, it was a couple of those garter-snake substitutes that the newlywed Zillers purchased to stock their roadside zoo, although the reader doesn’t have to be burdened with all these details, now does he? (21)

Is this a sentence? #2 (On Writing & Editing)

So this is a new thing I want to try, where I submit something new I have written that day for critique, but I think instead of just a sentence I will offer up a whole paragraph for critique and rewrite. Now, only the awesome Keanan stepped up last time to fix my awkward mess, but I hope you dear reader, yes you!, will pick apart this paragraph and put it back together, how you see fit. So tell me, is this a sentence…er paragraph?

(I understand there is sort of an ontological issue of what is and is not a sentence/paragraph, so I guess what I am asking is just how would you improve this sentence/paragraph. You really could just just write whatever you want in the comments, in relation to or not in relation to the snippet, or whatever else you might want to write about really. Oh, and I should tell you this is from my work in progress, tentatively titled “Confessions of the Werewolf”. Most likely just another layer on the slush it goes.)

The Submission:

This triggered a panic in the men and one of them began to fire. A number of rounds riddled my back. The subsequent burst of blood, now freed from the effects of the ring, created a bloody silhouette, which became the perfect target for the now hysteric men.

Snippets #34

James Wood-How Fiction Works


Nietzsche laments, in Beyond Good and Evil: “What a torment books written in German are for him who has a third ear.” If prose is to be as well written as poetry–the old modernist hope–novelists and readers must develop their own third ears. We have to read musically, testing the precision and rhythm of a sentence, listening for the almost inaudible rustle of historical association clinging to the hems of modern words, attending to patterns, repetitions, echoes, deciding why one metaphor is successful and another is not, judging how the perfect placement of the right verb or adjective seals a sentence with mathematical finality. We must proceed on the assumption that almost all prose popularly acclaimed as beautiful (“she writes like an angel”) is nothing of the sort, that almost every novelist will at some point be baselessly acclaimed for writing “beautifully” as almost all flowers are at some point acclaimed for smelling nice. (182)

Snippets #33


James Wood-How Fiction Works


If Macbeth’s story is one of publicized privacy, Raskolnikov’s story is one of scrutinized privacy. God still exists, but he is not watching Raskolnikov–at least, not until the end of the novel when Raskolnikov accepts Christ. Until that moment, Raskolnikov is being watched by us, the readers. The crucial difference between this and the theater is that we are invisible. In David’s story the audience is in some important way irrelevant; in Macbeth’s the audience is visible and silent, and soliloquy does indeed have the feeling not only of an address to an audience but of a conversation with an interlocutor–us–who will not respond, a blocked dialogue. In Raskolnikov’s story the audience–the reader–is invisible but all-seeing; so the reader has replaced David’s God and Macbeth’s audience. (146)

Snippets #32

James Wood-How Fiction Works

By thisness, I mean the moment when Emma Bovary fondles the satin slippers she danced in weeks before at the great ball at La Vaubyessard, “the soles of which were yellowed with wax from the dance floor.” By thisness, I mean the cow manure that Ajax slips in while racing at the grand funeral games, in Book 23 of the Illiad (thisness is often used to puncture ceremonies like funerals and dinners that are designed precisely to euphemize thisness; what Tolstoy calls making a bad smell in the drawing room).* (69)

Snippets #31

Mercia Eliade-The Sacred and the Profane

But we shall see that if every inhabited territory is a cosmos, this is precisely because it was first consecrated, because, in one way or another, it is the work of the gods or is in communication with the world of the gods. The world (that is, our world) is a universe within which the sacred has already manifested itself, in which, consequently, the break-through from plane to plane has become possible and repeatable. It is not difficult to see why the religious moment implies the cosmogonic moment. The sacred reveals absolute reality and at the same time makes orientation possible; hence it founds the world in the the sense that it fixes the limits and established the order of the world. (30)