Current Release

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The Warrior's Viking Bride

Monday, January 07, 2008

Daemons v muses

I have long had a problem with the concept of a muse. Muses are traditionally very pretty young women who inspire. Striking interesting poses in very pretty Grecian robes. Flopping down and sighing a lot. And I have always thought more suited to men.
However, as I have been reading Kipling Sahib, I see that Kipling spoke of his inspiration not as a muse but a private Daemon who came and sat on his shoulder as he wrote.
I thought it interesting as of course Phillip Pullman wrote His Dark Materials long after Kipling.
But I can also understand what he meant. there are times when the words flow -- no reason -- but they flow from my fingers. And I can read them back and think -- yes, this is what I meant to say. Other times, my writing is like day old porridge with lumps in it. It just happens. And I know that if I keep showing up and writing, the inspiration will strike again. It does come from somewhere deep within me, but I do not want to examine it too closely.
Daemon is a variation on demon, but in some ways is more sorted to me as a writer than the languid muse. Demons are mischievous. Daemons tantalize. Daemons can take different shapes depending on their mood. They are not just languid young women -- although could be on occasion. Daemons can come in on cat's paws, or lumbering like a bear. They can be young or old. It depends on the daemon's mood. A muse's form to my mind remains steady and unchanging.
Daemons are not sitting around, waiting, or spouting poetry about God's daisy chains. Daemons are active. Daemons are liable to pounce at odd unexpected moments, whisper a few words and then depart laughing. Daemons like to be put to use. Daemons do not worry about dust balls. Somehow, I always get the impression that a muse wants the room to be tidy so her frock won't get dirty. Daemons don't care.
In short, I think my muse is daemon. Now all I have to do is consider its form.
So do you have a muse or a daemon? And if a daemon, does it have a form it prefers or does it keep changing shape?

6 comments:

Nell said...

I hope you're feeling better, Michelle. Mine would be a daemon too. Sometimes it's one of those big black crows and sometimes it's a little imp that perches on the back of my chair laughing manically.

Carrie Lofty said...

*sighs* for His Dark Materials.

I like the word choice of daemon, because Muse seems so darn helpful. Images of Shakespeare sitting before a skull, quill in hand, pondering his next word choice when he's suddenly struck with happy inspiration, like receiving the gift of a young woman's favor. Not me. Mine's a struggle with a daemon complete with mental tug-of-wars, threats, cajoling, heartbreak, treachery, and unfailing loyalty--because the daemon will always be there, even if (s)he's not very helpful.

And I think I'll borrow Nell's idea that it would probably be birdlike. I hate birds. But there's certaintly pecking involved.

DG said...

Funny, how I was thinking of writer's block today and here you are talking about writing like lumpy, day-old porridge(great imagery, by the way)...I myself do not examine what makes me write too closely, daemon or demon, I leave it alone.

I am scared of what I would see(or not) if I made too much of a scrutiny.

Here's to all of us writers remaining in touch with our "muses" this whole year!

Biddy said...

Oooo definitely a daemon! Sometimes a dog playing tug of war with my words, sometimes a cat batting words and ideas at me. A leopard, a bear, sometimes a teddy bear ;-)

And also them crows as well...

Michelle Styles said...

It is so nice to see that other people have daemons rather than muses.
And that they do change shape.

DG - I wasn't talking about writer's block per se, but you have given me a great idea for a series of posts. Thanks

Kate Hardy said...

There is another school of thought - Jenny Cruisie, I think, talks about 'the girls in the basement'.

Doesn't fit with the crows which we all get, though. (I found a wonderful quote by Amelia Opie from the early 1800s, after she re-read the first printed copy of her book - and she definitely had an attack of the crows! ... and she would definitely have seen 'muses', women striking poses. Emma Hamilton, for starters *g* - and yup, she performed in Norwich, before she was Emma Hamilton.)