How Reliable Are They?

Helen Hanson said:

“Inspiration is the windfall from hard work and focus. Muses are too unreliable to keep on the payroll.” 

Have you seen the movie ‘The Muse’ directed by Albert Brooks, and starring Albert Brooks and Sharon Stone? It is a 1999 comedy about a neurotic screenwriter suffering from writer’s block, and his modern-day muse.

I used to believe that muse, i.e. inspiration, comes to us writers like a bolt of lightning, and at once with a feverish excitement and a twinkle in our eyes we begin to write. Well I never experienced anything like that. As a beginning writer I struggle with self doubt for days on end. That painstaking urge to believe that everything I have ever written or will ever write is a total mess haunts me like a ghost.

Writers differ in their views on almost anything related to the art and craft of writing. From the aspects of the trade to being a writer, and then of course the writer’s life as a storyteller. They all agree though that it is discipline, not muse, that makes a writer productive and eventually successful. If you write only when she beckons, it’s as if you are not writing at all.


Over the years I have put together my own devices of dealing with doubt. When the writing demons knock on my door I turn to a collection of quotes by my favorite writers, that nourish my desire and make me want to write. I keep a few of their books on my desk and whenever my confidence sags I scan through the pages. I read interviews with other writers, especially Paris Review Interviews, and copy quotes that make me want to write. I re-read whichever book or writer’s biography that inspires me most. To quote Rob Brezsny:

“All of us need to be in touch with a mysterious, tantalizing source of inspiration that teases our sense of wonder and goads us on to life’s next adventure.”

At the end of the day when all is said and done I would like to imagine that 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!”” Kerry Greenwood


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2 Responses to How Reliable Are They?

  1. ptlperrin says:

    Reblogged this on PTL Perrin Writes… and commented:
    I keep telling myself, I’m a READER, not a writer! There are so many great books and talented writers out there. Who needs one more? What do I have to say that hasn’t been said much better by someone else?

    Here’s a writer who struggles much the same way I do. I count her among the ones I love reading, especially now that her own self-doubt has made her dear to me.

    Let her encourage you, too…

  2. ptlperrin says:

    Thank you! I reposted this. There’s good reason I published my first book at the ripe old age of 65. That’s a lot of years of self-doubt! I enjoy your writing. You’re very encouraging.

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