Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Writer's Wednesday - Do You Believe in the Muse?

A big Pink Heart Welcome back to Kimberly Lang, asking us on this Writer's Wednesday, "Do you believe in the Muse?"

Maybe I’m in the minority, but I don’t believe in the Muse. Inspiration and creativity are such slippery ideas, I understand why some people want to believe there’s an external and uncontrollable something that can be blamed when this writing gig isn’t as easy as we thought it would be.

At the same time, I don’t like to think that creativity and ability is at the whim of some elusive, temperamental, fairy-like creature. I’m too much of a control freak for that. I also don’t have the luxury of time – time spent waiting for my Muse to come back from her trip to Jamaica just so I can finish this book, that is.

In grad school, I did some research on where creativity comes from and how it’s understood. (Okay, so I read the conclusions of people who are a lot smarter than I am and were willing to actually do the research and draw the models. It still counts.)

There is a certain irony in the literature – all these researchers are trying to create models of how creativity emerges, to find a logical pattern to how creative types think. Isn’t logic antithetical to creativity? And yet, no matter how many conclusions they draw, no matter how nifty the models look on paper, or how nicely they lay out the creative steps, none of the researchers were able to define why one person’s thinking would be “creative” while someone else’s would be “analytical.” Why is it that when presented with the same problem and background, some get creative and others don’t? They call it “Birth of an idea, “ “Ideation,” “Conception,” or even “Vision.” At some point, there’s a leap – and creative types make that leap when analytical types don’t. And they can’t explain why.

It’s almost like having scientific papers existing solely to prove the woo-woo exists. With no other explanation emerging, I can understand why it’s easier to invoke the Muse. It makes as much sense as anything else.

(Should you be interested in reading a synopsis of the research, you can find one here:

Several of the models argued creativity was part of the subconscious, and I liked that idea. Instead of a Muse, the ideas were coming from inside me – even if I didn’t fully understand where or how. While several researchers claimed that the subconscious nature of creativity meant it was outside of the thinker’s control, I like D.N. Perkins’ argument instead. He agrees that subconscious mental processes are behind all thinking, but argues that just because we cannot fully describe those thought processes, it does not mean we’re not in control of them. His example: we cannot begin to describe all of the subconscious mental processes engaged in the simple act of picking up a coffee cup, but we are certainly in control of the overall act.

I kinda like that. I may not know how or why it works, but I’m in charge of it. It all comes from me. Even if there is a Muse involved in there somehow, I’m not totally subject to her whims. I’m ultimately in control. If I’m stuck, I don’t have to wait for the Muse to save me – everything I need is in my subconscious; I just need to get those ideas to the forefront.

Of course, the down-side is there’s nothing to blame when the writing isn’t happening. That’s still me, too.

Sigh. We creative types are a little nutty sometimes. But that’s a whole different topic…

So, do you believe in the Muse?

Help from the Muse or not, Kimberly is celebrating the release of two books this month! Her first US release The Secret Mistress Arrangement from Harlequin Presents and her second UK release, The Millionaire’s Misbehaving Mistress from Mills and Boon Modern Heat! Squee! You can keep up with Kim at her website at!


  1. oooh - great topic Kimberly!! Very interesting. I like to think its more 'inside of me' too... to be honest I don't believe in the muse so much as I believe in hard work - which isn't to say I think we should all be staring at the screen forcing stuff out at all... I think creativity begets creativity - its a matter of figuring out your own methods that 'spark' those ideas - yes that can mean sitting down with pen and paper, or it can be going for a walk along a beach or drinking a divine hot chocolate or something... but the more ideas you have...well, the more ideas you have!
    I teach my kids all day that you only get better at something with practice... and I really hope I'm right!
    And congrats on your debut hitting the Waldies this week!!!!

  2. I have to agree with you too! I have a brain that thrives on logic and to me it's easier to just sit down and write according to a schedule rather than wait for my muse to arrive! She might decide to arrive when I'm in the middle of doing something else entirely! Nah, that just wouldn't suit me at all!

    I liked the article - very thought provoking! At least now I don't feel so bad having to admit I'm not one of those bohemian creative people driven by something otherworldly!

  3. I used to believe in the muse until I figured out that it gave me an excuse to not write. I write everyday now and sometimes it's good and sometimes it's bad, but it is written and it can be fixed later.


  4. Oh heck yes I believe in the muse. Why else would I not write? The blasted wench spends half her year in Fiji and the other half peering over my shoulder like a nosy neighbor. ;-)

    Congrats on hitting the Walden list! That's just beyond awesome.

  5. Hi everyone!

    "creativity begets creativity" -- I like that Natalie. May have to post that over my computer to remind me when the words don't come.

    mandy and LindaC-- that's the thing about Muses -- either they show up when I'm busy or they give me the excuse to watch reruns of Law and Order. Neither is really ideal :-)

    PM-- I don't believe you for an instant. You completed NaNoWriMo. You can't tell me your Muse was on point every day...

    And thanks for the congrats, y'all. Making the Waldies has made my day. (And inspired me a bit as well!)

  6. I really like the idea that creativity comes from within ourselves. That's what it has always felt like to me. The ideas, dialogue, characters, are in there somewhere. It might take me a bit to uncover come of it, but if I cultivate it enough (thinking on it, refilling my creative well, writing, etc) it will come to the surface when I most need it.

    Or at least I can hope so. :)


  7. Congrats on the Waldies, Kim!

    As for creativity... it's when I'm on a screaming deadline, real life is getting in the way and I'm stressed out of all proportion that suddenly this new, wonderful idea pops into my head and begs to be written...