How I got a Muse

Art and the Muses by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (Wikimedia)

Art and the Muses by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (Wikimedia)

Years and years ago, Dreamwood started with the image of a young girl looking through her father’s microscope. I knew the setting was another time. And I knew ghosts were hovering just outside the frame. Yay, a story.

My ideas usually start like this: from images, or I hear a voice speaking a line. A scene or picture will arrive in my head, like a mysterious postcard sent from story world.

I’ve had these story visions happen on public transportation, when I’m just waking up, during acupuncture naps. They’re pure gifts when they bring a new story. But I would sometimes have them when I was trying to push through a stuck point in Dreamwood.

It got me thinking. Could I order my subconscious around? Or at least make it more productive. I don’t have all the unbroken daydreamy time I had when I was younger. I’ve got to make creativity as efficient as possible. Especially now I’m trying to write something new.

So I began to imagine a person, a personal creativity assistant (I guess you could call her a muse) who could go into my subconscious and bring me back the story stuff I needed. I was riding BART one morning into San Francisco to work and I asked for her and she appeared. She’s a glowing slyph, a punk Tinkerbell with jagged, anime hair, unlaced engineers’ boots, cut-off shorts, and a tank top. She’s a little bit like a cartoon character. Only she’s not Tinkerbell, but “Bell.”

“Bell,” I say, picturing her, “go into my subconscious and find the things I need for this story.”

So then I see her giving me a kind of aye-aye captain salute and getting ready to go spelunking in my subconscious, which is sometimes like a sunken treasure ship, sometimes like an old gothic library, sometimes like a stuffed full attic or treasure vault. I picture candlesticks and piles of books, maps, old coins, stuffed dodos, ladies’ boots and mouldering velvet dresses.

I’ve been sending Bell to work before I go to sleep and in the mornings as I walk to work. Sometimes I’ll ask her for something specific. But other times I’ll simply check in with her, and drop into whatever she’s found for me like I’m gazing on a scene through a crystal ball.

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