Friday, September 25, 2009

Muse It Or Lose It

I really have no problem with Irene Adler's "A Very Modern Muse" columns on the Bleeding Cool site. It's just that her columns have really made me understand that at my very core, I am not a "muse" but a creator. This is not a knock on Adler, or saying that she cannot create anything herself just because she is a self-described "muse" for other creators. I'm just saying that it's very important for people to understand themselves, what their essential role or attitude towards life is, and that mine is not leaning against Schroeder's piano.

"So the fire is built, and it's crackling along nicely, but a muse's work is never done. A fire needs tending, just like any creative spirit. Sometimes it's as simple as listening to a creator vent over a character that won't seem to behave. Offering a shoulder to cry on when things go poorly. A kick in the pants when they're mired in the doldrums. A good old fashioned pat on the back for a job well done. Sometimes, a well timed delivery of booze is just what they need. Better yet, Girl Scout cookies."

No, not me. I mean, I edit/proofread, give my opinions, my support, my love, etc. But I can't make that my official role, something by which I primarily define myself. I live with another writer. It's a partnership. It's a give and take. I'm given my room to create.

But I think it's telling about the way we are socialized in this world that I write this feeling a sense of primal guilt – as if by rejecting this role of muse/helpmeet/cookie-dispenser I am somehow selfish or less of a woman. I feel a greater need to justify my choice to be a creator than a male might. As if I need to justify that. As if my essential femininity slips away with every ambition, every goal set.

What does Lady Macbeth say? "Unsex me right now?"

"As any Girl Scout will tell you, fire is a responsibility. So is the creative spark that a creator chooses to share with you. Being allowed to share in their creative process is a gift, one deserving of respect and care. Help them tend the fire, and you’ll enjoy basking in the glow of its warmth."

Okay, actually this passage sort of gave me diarrhea.

But you see, if I was in driver's seat in that scenario, and some guy was talking about tending to my fire, and feeding me cookies, and how honored they were to be basking in the glow of my creative awesomeness...I'd probably eat that right up. Because it sounds really ego-boosting, no?

Finally, a much as I bemoan society's tendency to make women feel guilty about having ambition, I don't think that women who choose to be housewives or muses or whatever play any less of an important role. In college, I had professors who basically said that a woman who decided to become a housewife was essentially a loser. That's not a helpful point-of-view. It's not all black-and-white. I like cleaning out the house once a week, but it's not because I bought into the patriarchal Kool-Aid. It just makes me feel good & organized. And sometimes women have different phases/eras in their life: housewife, business-woman, artist, housewife, etc. Or they combine it all into one.

But if you would like me to dedicate several posts to analyzing in detail the awesomeness that is my creative fire, and how I stoke it godlike in the twilight on a hill while roasting marshmallows, I'd be happy to.


  1. I always thought a muse inspired. Adler's definition sounds like a nursemaid.

    You know, I don't mean to take away from the gender questions you raise, because I think they're good ones that need looked at closely, but I tend to believe that all creators need to justify their choice to be a creator, male or female, and that the burden of proof there is the same for both. I think sometimes we put things on that and say "the burden of proof is greater on me because I'm black, or a woman, or lower class, or not classically trained, etc" but I think all the good creators have some aspect to their work where they feel the need to justify their creations, and justify themselves.

  2. Anonymous9:35 PM

    You know, both your BF and you could get an agreement of mutual fire feeding and basking on the other awesomeness ;-) See, a positive feedback situation, just watch out for a firestorm, or you both could be consume on your own fires :P

  3. Anonymous4:02 PM

    Hi Valerie,

    I've asked this a few different places and no one has replied yet. I guess that means I'm so totally wrong or no one cares. I figured you might at least tell me I am wrong so I don't have to keep wondering :)

    Is Irene Adler also Jayme Roxann Wright? Their writing styles seem so close to my untrained eye.


  4. I have no problem as a feminist with Irene being a muse on the surface, but the way she approaches it, she makes it sound like all positive traits she has (intelligence, conversation skills, etc) are for the service of her creator friend.

    To me, that's the difference between a woman who just happens to be a housewife, and a woman who defines herself as "a wife and a mother." It's cool that they want to/have the luxury of staying home with the kids, but for that to be their whole identity?

    Likewise, with Irene, I'm fine with the idea of a woman who happens to be creative and intelligent using those skills to help out a creative friend (even in lieu of choosing to pursue her own career)-- hell, I've been in that exact position with one of my creator friends (and I'm still debating about whether or not to go in it for myself). But to go giggling onto the Internet to brag that she's some guy's ~*~muse~*~ just turns me off so hard.

  5. I figure most muses were given the label by others. You never know; you might be a muse after all. You may not choose to be a muse or live how a muse might live, but as long as you inspire someone you are that person's muse.

    Not really sure where you draw the line between a muse and a creator, or that a line really needs to be drawn. Talented people will inspire others.

  6. Anonymous10:51 AM

    "at my very core, I am not a 'muse' but a creator."

    ---this is the greatest thing you've ever written on this blog!