Muse Hymn Box
and webmaster, Kay Marie Porterfield, finds that her Muses are very persistent
My muses prefer to work the night shift. I have never seen them, only heard their voices giving me book titles or running movies in my mind that seem more like a set of instructions than dreams. In the beginning I ignored these experiences, telling myself my troubled sleep resulted from the bedtime snack Iíd eaten or the fact that I had too much going on in my life.
In time I began to occasionally experiment with their advice. Why not? The worst-case scenario would be that Iíd add a few more rejection slips to the pile I had begun to accumulate. After a nightly ďvisitation,Ē Iíd sit down first thing in the morning to begin writing. The work I produced at those times always seemed to have a more luminous quality than what I usually turned out. I had no trouble selling it.
In the summer of 1987, my muses began pestering me to write a book about emotional abuse. I didnít want to do it, but they kept at me night after night until they wore away my sharp-edged resistance like moving water shaping a rock. I started writing what they told me and kept at it every day for the next six weeks. As I wrote, I didnít have to think about what I was going to say next; whole pages and chapters flowed effortlessly. The result was Violent Voices: 12 Steps to Freedom from Verbal and Emotional Abuse, my second book.
Muses like teamwork. Even though mine have repeatedly demonstrated their wisdom to me, I still sometimes want to do it my way rather than collaborate with them. When I refuse a project, they stay away from me for months at a stretch. I imagine that they team up with someone else who is more cooperative, or they are on an extended vacation in Tahiti or, perhaps, taking in the sights at Stonehenge. I know for certain that I miss them when they leave.
During my life as a writer, Iíve also received strong direction on revisions from ancestral spirits, first my grandfather and now my father. Like the muses, they approach me while I sleep. Unlike the muses, they reveal their faces. Logically, it would seem that my mother, who was a writer, would be the one to help me in this department.
My grandfather and my father were farmers, who neither wrote for pay nor pleasure, but their advice is always clear, sensible and effective. Over the years Iíve learned to accept both forms of help as gifts even though I donít understand them and canít explain them. Willingness, humility and gratitude attract the muses. Manipulation and attempts to control them drive them away, as do laziness and refusing to acknowledge them. They have better things to do than put up with my egoís stubbornness.