Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Muses and Totems and Other Fun Things

We all have Muses: elusive sources of inspiration. Something I find very helpful is to visualize what my muse looks like. (It's also helpful to visualize inner critics, which we'll do later). My muse is a fairy. She's sweet and fun, and whenever I stop writing, she tickles me until I start again.
I have my fairy hanging over my desk. Many writers call these totems: objects that inspire or help them write, or visual muses.
Do you have a totem or a muse? What does it look like?
A NaNo forum hosted a fun discussion on this. The read it, click here. I pasted some of my favorites below.
“Mine is a gargoyle perched atop my PC. He chases away the inner critic and inspires.”
“I have a little painting of my main character. Having her glare at me should be pretty encouraging to stop goofing off and go write!”

“I have a glow-in-the-dark zombie devil duck.”
“For this year, I designed a book cover from my banner, printed it on photo paper, and posted it on my bulletin board. Just looking at it makes me want to write the book.”
"Mine is a four inch high stone statue of thoth; the Egyptian god of knowledge and writing.”
“The Mean Green Writing Machine. It’s a green plastic construction helmet with NaNo stickers on it. I put it on to show people I’m "working" on my novel.”
“I have a collage of photos I found online that I cut out and put on some posterboard. It really helps me to have a visual representation of the main themes in my story.” (I did this for Sacred Fire.)
“I tried out the totem thing last year, but it didn't work out. That was because it was a stuffed cheetah plush thing. And that is NOT where my inspiration comes from, oh no...”
 “My personal totem would probably be an octopus. I love them, they're really intelligent and no matter how big they are, they can squeeze through any opening as long as their eyeballs and beak fits through it. Talk about there's-always-a-way!”
“I have a toy squid, aptly named 'Mr Squishy.' He sits on the speaker on the sill of our bay window and oversees my efforts with his sagely expression. If I'm ever troubled, he offers me a helpful head to squish. He's a very helpful old soul.”
Click below to read a fantastic poem about muses and how difficult it is to be a writer with children. 

The Muse bumped
Against my window this morning.
No one was at home but me
And the baby. The muse said
there was room on her back for two.
Okay, I said, but first I’ve got to

Pack his favorite toys.
Small ones are the best:
that was he can sit and play quietly
as the earth slides out from under our feet.
Let’s see, somewhere there’s
a wind-up dog with a drum
that sometimes keeps him busy
ten minutes or more.
And we’d better take some books.

Disposable diapers
pre-moistened towlettes,
plastic bags,
and I’ll pack a lunch.
Peanut butter and crackers
Are nutritious,
And the crumbs brush right off.

While I was packing his lunch
the baby got hungry,
so I put him in his high chair,
unpacked the crackers,
and gave him some.
He threw the third one down,
So I took him out,
wiped the high chair,
wiped the floor and around the chair,
wiped the window next to it,
and wiped his fingers and face.

Then I took off his pants,
shook them out,
and wiped the soles of his shoes.

I filled two plastic bottles,
changed his diaper,
and got him dressed.
I washed my hands.
I sat down at my desk.
Okay, I said. Now.
I’m ready for takeoff.

As he cried for a bottle,
I saw my next-door neighbor,
shirtless, in the pants he wears
to work in his garden,
scribbling furiously on the back of a paper bag
as he ascended over the roof of his house
on the Muse’s huge, sun-spangled wings.


  1. Teralyn, this has inspired me. I need to find a muse and a totem for working on my dissertation research. I think it would help me in focusing more completely on research and writing as I work on it. Thanks! :)

  2. You need a scholarly owl! The kind with glasses and a graduation cap.


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