Simple Example

Jean-Léon Gérôme - Diogenes - Walters 37131
Better get the lamp going, Alexander’s coming by.

When it comes to seeking simplicity in life, where do you find inspiration? Whose example influences you? A person, a group, a movement, an aesthetic? Spread the inspiration below!

How to Beat Procrastination II

Yes, I know I said that habit was the secret to beating procrastination, and it is. But you’ve got to get that habit started.

As Jim Ryun put it, “motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” You need motivation just to get you out of bed in the morning.

Jambalaya 1916 Giant Roach

Motivation is something I struggle with, especially when it comes to getting out of bed in the morning. It’s an issue I had been mulling over for some time when I read Revision and Self-Editing for Publication by James Scott Bell, in which he suggests that writers should have a mission statement which they keep someplace visible in order to inspire them.

What exactly this mission statement should contain, however, was left a little vague: “hopes and dreams” were mentioned. So I looked into what others have said about mission statements. The common strands seemed to be about who you are, what you do, who for, why, and where you’re going with it.

Richard Branson says “If you are in a situation where you must write a mission statement, I think you should try for something closer to a heraldic motto than a speech. They were often simple because they had to fit across the bottom of a coat of arms, and they were long-lasting because they reflected a group’s deeper values.”

Coat of Arms of George Mountbatten, 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven

That seemed like a good definition: a simple motto which reflects your deeper values.

So I started by answering all the questions-starting-with-W that I could. I freely admit I struggled with the ones asking me what the future held, because I am not psychic and I really have no idea. My life to date has not accustomed me to assume that next year will be in any way like this year. (It often is, but it always comes as a surprise.)

In the end, it boiled down to these words: truth. hope. take heart.

There are some writers who hold that happy endings are lies, and that it is morally irresponsible to suggest otherwise. I disagree. I believe that good will ultimately overcome evil. That truth gives me hope; and to withhold that hope from others would be both morally irresponsible and utterly selfish.

A cup that cheers

If all this seems a bit too metaphysical to you, consider it this way: my aim is to write works (novels, plays, what have you) that are like a cup of tea. Sitting down for a cup of tea is both a rest, and a restoration; it eases your weariness and it prepares you to face the world again.

I want to write works which people will read and re-read; not necessarily because of what the story says, but because it gives them the courage to keep going, and change things.

Truth → hope → take heart.

I will of course put this somewhere I’ll see it often – but there’s no harm in having a cup of tea on my desk to remind me as well.

O For a Muse of Fire – or Not

The last thing I need is a chamber-pot of burning coals dumped on my head every time I get a bright idea.

Jean Raoux - Vestal Carrying the Sacred Fire

There are two broad schools of thought when it comes to muses, which one might call the Pooh and Rabbit Schools. (See this quote post for the difference.) Which do you belong to? Do you wait for the muse to descend, or do you go out and hunt the fickle wench down?

Some creatives swear by the former (“I’m not in control of my muse. My muse does all the work” – Ray Bradbury) and some by the latter (“I don’t wait on the muse, I summon it at need” – Piers Anthony). Some just don’t believe in muses at all (the Eeyore School of Thought?).

Earlier this year I went to see Plum at the Court Theatre in Christchurch. P.G. Wodehouse’s muse appears as a dapper if dissolute young lady in waistcoat and trousers, and she is, as one would expect, as much fun as a barrelful of monkeys.

Bundesarchiv Bild 102-14627, Marlene Dietrich

Naturally, being a writer myself, I started to wonder whether I had a muse, and if so what she/he/it looked like. Of course, writing isn’t the only muse-related area. The Greeks had Muses for everything from history to dance to astronomy. Perhaps one could have a Muse of Housework, who frolics about the house with a frilly cap and feather duster, singing forbidden songs.

But what exactly are we talking about when we say “muse”? Someone who inspires us? An anthropomorphic representation of inspiration? Our own self or variant thereof when the creative juices start to flow? Well, judging by classical depictions, the only qualification for being a muse is an ability to look classy while leaning on something, wearing nothing but a sheet.

25.Euterpe auf Brunnenwand(1857)-Friedrich Ochs-Sanssouci-Mittlerer Lustgarten Steffen Heilfort
22.Brunnenwand mit Polyhymnia(1857)-Friedrich Ochs-Sanssouci-Mittlerer Lustgarten Steffen Heilfort
Palais Erzherzog Albrecht - Musensaal Muse
Plaque of Calliope, Muse of Heroic Poetry, Josiah Wedgwood and Sons and Thomas Bentley, 1768-1780, blue jasperware - Chazen Museum of Art - DSC01993

See what I mean? Anyone could do it! Sheet, piece of furniture – voila.

Not all muses are the lady-in-a-sheet sort, though. Kerry Greenwood (author of the Phryne Fisher mysteries, among others) says “If I ever saw my muse she would be an old woman with a tight bun and spectacles poking me in the middle of the back and growling, ‘Wake up and write the book!’” Like this, perhaps:

Senator Rebecca Felton 150010v

Stephen King seems to have a male muse, judging by this description: “There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer station. He lives in the ground. He’s a basement guy. You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in. You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you.”

Man smoking a cigar

Definitely not as cute as Jubilare’s fuzzy little muse, despite the pointy teeth.

I like the idea of a chic waistcoated muse, or a savage little fluffy one, or even a plain old draped version. But having thought about it, I’m afraid my muse is kind of a cross between Hamlet and Cookie Monster.
“Words, words, words – om nom nom nom!”

Difficult to illustrate, particularly without running into copyright or trademark issues. Something googly-eyed and berserk with a mouthful of sentences and the occasional stray crumb of a letter dropping to its furry tum? With inky paws, I suspect.

What’s your muse? I’d love to hear!