The Muse, the Posse and Keeping it Hot
Updated: Mar 15, 2019
When you make music or write or create,
it’s really your job to have mind-blowing, irresponsible,
condomless sex with whatever idea it is
you’re writing about at the time.
When the Muse speaks, don’t tussle with her by imposing “discipline” or assigning “homework.” The Muse doesn’t write, doesn’t work. She is gossamer, an easily ruffled high-maintenance diva who likes to stretch out on sparkly brocade chaises plucking ripe cherries from stems between her teeth. If you get in her face, she will flee and shut the door. Don’t hover. Only when you give her space will she return.
That’s okay if, before her drama exit into the theatre wings, you wrote down the ideas she delivered. You don’t need her at this moment. What you need is the Posse. While the Muse has been up to her diva routine, the Posse’s been chillin’ in the green room waiting for your cue. Which is: Hey, how come this great idea you gave me stinks on the page? Answer: The Muse pipelines ideas; she doesn’t execute them.
That’s your job.
If your latest writing project bores, confuses, frustrates or overwhelms you – concepts not gelling, thesis ill-defined – you might be tempted to stuff it in a drawer and run. This is especially true if you are new to writing process. You allow yourself to get blown away. The veteran among us know these distractions by their true name: Monkey Mind, a Zen term for rumination: monkeys having fun, playing tricks.
That the early stages of writing resemble nothing of the pristine, glowing gem of an idea the Muse first handed you, does not mean it’s your cue to abandon the project. You’ve got to work to close that gap. It needn’t be painful but neither will it be effortless. Good news: You’ve got help.
Who is the Posse? Facets of your psyche that you’ve developed through practice to help you:
Stay with the writing.
Go deeper once you’re there.
Search for those exciting clues the Muse first dangled.
Read without judgment.
Stay with the Writing. This is the Posse’s first job, especially when Monkey Mind tries to mess with you: “This sucks; you don’t even want to read it, why should anyone else?”
Go Deeper. The Posse’s next job is to help you go beyond merely staying, to drill deeper into the writing that’s frustrating you. Monkey Mind says: “Walk away, don’t waste your time; you’ve got better things to do like rent a movie! Even better, drive to the mall to see an in-theatre film; on the way, swing through that ice cream place for a vanilla wafer cone with chocolate sprinkles…” In response, the Posse says, “Read the next word, the next sentence and then the one after that, and after that until…you stumble across the first clue.”
Search for Clues. Posses are great at conducting searches. Yes, the Muse left the room (and her cherry stems for you to clean), and said “talk to the hand” on her way out. In addition, she left a trail leading to the idea that first twinkled your eye. Where’s the trail? It’s your own handwriting (or typewriting). That’s why when the Muse speaks, you take dictation. Right then, in the moment. You are leaving yourself a trail.
Read without Judgment. Say you’re on a traditional treasure hunt and every time you discover a new clue you gripe about its worthiness instead of following where it leads. You’ll never find the treasure, silly!
On our writing treasure hunt, sentences are clues left from the Muse’s spark. While Monkey Mind gets irked because the sentences are a little off – they don’t quite capture the Muse’s first glittering facets – the Posse keeps you reading. It tells Monkey Mind to shut up while it continues the search. Your Posse is not easily distracted by Monkey Mind who whispers, “Drop all this work, Dawg; let’s chill.” (Ice cream, mall, telephone, movies, Internet surfing, conversations about nothing, forwarding viral emails and Internet links about nothing, another episode of Law and Order SVU.)
The Posse is focused and will keep you on track through the thick brush of sentences, imagery, circuitous rants and half-baked ideas. And, after only a few minutes of searching for clues, the Posse presents its first: “I wouldn’t enter a story this way,” it says. “If you were telling this around a dinner table or at a pub, I’d start…here.” Once the Posse unearths that first clue, all the others begin to rearrange themselves in an order that looks more like that first pearl of an idea the Muse tossed you at the start.
Read Don’t Freak
Once you’ve accumulated all of your ideas, just start reading. You won’t get past the third paragraph before you notice, “Oh, this needs…” Or, “not relevant” or “flesh out…”
Keep reading. It’s likely that in the middle of the second or third page, you will notice related ideas. You’ll start to link them. If you write on a computer or a mobile digital device, you’ll start moving these ideas around. A narrative will begin to form, one that organically shapes itself with you as collaborator not conductor.
Once that happens you’re in. You’ll read something you forgot you wrote and think, wow, this is spot on. Then in the middle of page 30 (a different writing session, not all in one go), you’ll read a note to yourself: “This is where the story starts.” It may not end up that way but what a yummy breadcrumb to follow.
Ideas accumulated in trance (meditative) states are markers on the larger journey. When looking at them with distance and new perspective you might say, “Yeah, this still feels like it could be the start but now I’m not sure.” Or, “No, that’s not feeling like the start anymore, but it’s close: I still may bring this point in early on.” And off you go! You’re inside your narrative. And once you’re in, you simply allow the organic threads to guide you.
You’ve rekindled that spark, that first enchantment with the Muse. Through the Posse’s stringing together of clues, you’ve fallen in love all over again. It’s time to be alone with your writing. Now you remember why you put up with the Muse’s diva doings.
This is it: the moment you’ve fantasized about since the Muse’s first introduction to the idea. The writing is hot. You barely want to sleep it feels so good. You and it are one, throbbing with potential and productivity, swimming in procreation on the page. You bow to the Muse’s genius and recognize yet again, it is well worth her high maintenance ways. Love you Muse. Bye-bye Posse. Thanks for getting me here.
Now, get lost.