I read an article a few months ago that said using someone as a muse can be extremely harmful. “You use them and throw them away when you’re done,” it said. The article worried me. I have always been deeply inspired by the beautiful places I travel to and individual people I’ve come across. I would never want any of my “muses” to feel used and discarded.
Places have always been a huge source of inspiration for me. The book I completed during my time as an Emerging Artist was inspired by a trip I took to Maine with a friend. We stayed on a blueberry farm – the book revolves around a character who lives on a blueberry farm as well. Some of the characters in the book are also inspired by real people, like celebrities, famous movie or television characters, and sometimes even my friends. So much of what I write is rooted in my day-to-day experience. It’s like that with many artists.
So how do we use our inspiration thoughtfully? I’m not the best to give advice on this. Sometimes, I am so enthralled by my muses – be they places or people – that I go to the page with a fury that doesn’t leave time or space to be thoughtful.
Maybe the trick is timing. I feel strongly that the first drafts of stories should be as raw and genuine as possible. What goes on the page during a first draft should be all those things a writer wishes to hide. The first draft is for no one but yourself. This is the best way to capture real, raw emotion and to get to the heart of your theme with the most honesty. During these first drafts, we may not be entirely thoughtful about how we describe things. Are we reducing a town to a stereotype? Are we creating villains that are purely evil with no redeeming qualities at all?
The second and third drafts are where I feel it is important to pay close attention to our muses. How have we rendered them? Have we given them the love and respect they deserve? It’s important to think about why we are inspired by them, and what their presence brings to light for us. It’s also important to give thanks to them in whatever way we are able. If you are inspired by a place, visit it again and say thank you. Plant a tree in your favorite park. Do something kind for a friend who spawned a supporting character in a book. So much of what we read comes from the world around us. It is good to be cognizant of how we are using the natural world and how we appreciate what beauty comes of it.