Don’t Forget to Talk to the Animals!

Dear Writer,

Don’t let people tell you that the MUSE is a tiny creature with wings and a golden wand who will come land on your shoulder and whisper sweet-plottings into your ear.

The muse is inside you. You are the muse you seek. Millions of thoughts race by within the human mind every minute. The writer has the unique ability to reach inside that chaotic slipstream and pull out the not-quite-shiny diamond among the cosmic dust. They cuddle that diamond, mold it, smash it, crush it, stretch it and eat it. That diamond may be a snatch of dialogue, an odd little character glimpsed out of the corner of their eye, a random thought that makes them shiver with delight…or anything else that travels through their brain shouting for attention. The muse is you. It’s those thoughts and your special ability to pluck the right ones and haul them off to the drafting table of your imagination.

If you wait for a scantily clad Roman Goddess to come walking into your life and deliver unto you the wild wanderings of a poem-spark or novel-idea…you’ll wait forever, my friend. There ain’t no muse. Sit with yourself and think. Or, better yet, DON’T THINK. Become a being sitting, not thinking. Yes…I know. It’s very Zen and crazy to consider this. But the milk of an idea comes not when we’re concentrating…grasping and begging for it to come. The diamonds that must be rubbed to a shine are the ideas that come to us when we are busy doing other things. Our muse (remember…we are the muse!) picks the oddest moments in our workaday lives to drop brilliance into that aforementioned slipstream of human thought. Your job isn’t to CONCENTRATE on the flow and grab at the diamond…your job is to be the sitter. Your job is to jump up and scream, “OOH! SHINY!” As your own muse, you are only gifted in the silence. You only ‘listen’ when you are the quiet amidst the chaos.

When do I find the muse inside myself?

I ALWAYS talk with the animals. And they always lead me to that place where we become the flow…where we can see the sparkle of ideas and know instinctively which ones will take us places. When you allow yourself to talk to animals, anything is possible. Again…it may sound crazy. But I gave up worrying what other people think a long time ago. When I found myself returning to writing in 2003, after an extremely lengthy absence from it, I decided I would not THINK about writing. I would just DO writing. And I would take my dog for walks and discuss my writing with her. She listens. Or, rather, she allows me to listen. Talking to her is a bit like escaping reality. And when one escapes reality, their senses are more preternatural. They ‘see’ more. They ‘hear’ more. When I talk to the animals, I’m not THINKING. I’m not struggling, “What should I write about???!!!” I’m just being the me that can watch the chaos of ideas slip through my mind. I can ignore them and laugh at them and push the bad ones away. Some sort of net (we’ll call the net THE MUSE) seems to strap itself down and stretch itself across the shores of this slipstream when I’m not looking. It catches all the glittery diamonds that would otherwise sneak past. When I’m walking through the woods discussing things with my dog–not thinking about things–this net does the work for me.

What is this rambling post about? I knew you would ask me this. It’s about unplugging. Writers too often try desperately to find topics to write about. They struggle with not knowing their true desires, their true sparks, their true muse. All you have to do is shut up and listen. You have to completely unplug. My form of unplugging is talking to the animals. Yes…I do talk to more than just my dog. When you’re talking to your dog, other dogs listen. Pretty soon, you’re the pied piper of the dog park. And this makes my muse extremely happy. My muse reaps what I sow. He puts himself into action the moment I unplug.

Find the thing that makes you silent. Find the thing that makes the chaotic mix of ideas swirling around in your head take a pause. You are your muse. You are the only person who can stop that chaos long enough to pull away the shiny diamonds. The pleasure is in the polishing of those diamonds–the process of writing your story after you find that diamond. But you can’t wait for an outside source to bring you your kernels. You need to do it yourself. You need to accept that you–and you alone–are your muse.

Franny – Who is NOT my Muse

Don’t forget to talk to the animals! They always send me in the right direction.

By Kevin Craig

Author, Poet, Playwright. Author of The Camino Club, Billions of Beautiful Hearts, and Book of Dreams, all from Duet Books, the LGBTQ Young Adult imprint of Chicago Review Press. Other books: Pride Must Be A Place, Half Dead & Fully Broken, Burn Baby Burn Baby, The Reasons, Sebastian's Poet, and Summer on Fire.

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