On Personifying the Muse

If we must personify the muse (that sometimes lazy wretch, that sometimes delicate whispering, a touch of hair at the writer’s ear), we should know how to rouse her. She, for me, can at times just curl up on the sofa, or where I left her. She, for you, may be a ‘he’ or ‘them’ or just ‘something other’. When she sleeps she may need personifying.

I know a writer who described an ugly muse. She was effective, I’ll give her that. She pushed and bullied and was brash and loud. She practically frogmarched a writer out onto the street. I don’t subscribe to boot camp methods. I won’t be shouted at or given the sergeant-major treatment, over and over until I forget everything else and just get down and write. I need to be whispered at.

If I must personify her (she sighs because she knows she’s just a writerly device when described this way), she manifests the way that sunlight in a small corner of an over-packed room might. Just for a second, there’s a little light on the wooden table. To the untrained eye it might seem as if she’s the absinthe fairy come here, but she’s paler than this, more amaretto lemon-eyed; she’s more apricot than wormwood, more citrus rinsed.

If I must personify her, I never do see her at all. She’s sleeping elsewhere and I can only imagine how she looks. When there’s sunlight draining in, when she’s ready, she whispers how this is right, or how this works, or that this is the whole of it and write it, write it, it’s fine. It is fine: it’s light and barely felt, but known. This is why she’s just a whisper at this writer’s ear.

We should know how to rouse this personification we each have: we should know. I know how not to rouse her. I don’t demand because she won’t come. I don’t push and cajole because she won’t lift an eyelash. I don’t sulk because she would just turn over. I imagine her because I never see her.

Perhaps she’s roused enough, stirred enough, when I lift the pen or lift the lid of this box I type into without her. Perhaps that annoys her. She may be curious. Writing, without her, results in a great spew of nothing even ordinary, let alone exceptional. She sits behind me, I imagine, with a mischievous light malevolence. She lets me be to wade in farther of my own accord. Now and then her grace will rise in her though. She’ll see potential, come and whisper.

Perhaps she’s roused by the simple act of my breathing. It is odd to think that we should concentrate on breathing when breathing is something we do without thinking of it. Sometimes, if I can, I let the day just stop around me. In and out, in and out. She may hear me breathing and be intrigued.

Perhaps she’s roused simply, sometimes, by the very length of time she’s slept. There is, after all, only so long someone can stay inactive for. We all have to stretch our bodies every once in a while, and even personifications need to do this too.

If we must personify the muse, we must pay her some attention. We must think of her so that she can think of us.

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