Inspiration is elusive. It cannot be caught, captured, or cajoled. Oftentimes, it arrives at random on the tails of a fleeting thought or a passing glance at some innocuous thing, and it leaves just as indiscriminately. Inspiration is its own master, and it's personification is oftentimes referred to as "The Muse".
My relationship to The Muse is complex (as all meaningful relationships are), but we seem to have found an understanding. At one point in my life, The Muse alone dictated my time at the keys; at others I ignored it entirely. There was no give and take, no attempt at cooperation. It arrived at its leisure, and I acknowledged it at mine. But something happened when I wrote my first novel that I find highly encouraging: I finally understood the implicit agreement The Muse and I needed if either us was to benefit from the other.
You see, the night Stronghold first developed was an evening spent with The Muse. For hours, The Muse stayed near me: my imagination was locked into a singular aim, and my creativity flourished within those boundaries in ways it seldom had since childhood.
But The Muse left the very next morning, and I remained alone with collected notes and images. I had vivid memories, themes, and constructs, but The Muse itself disappeared...and I realized something terrifying: The Muse may not return, and one evening of strong, creative output would never be more than a memory unless I accepted that the rest was left to me. I had always known this on some level, but I never forced myself to put it into practice. I never demanded that my best creative results come without The Muse in sight--that they be the result from me, the blank page, and a keyboard to connect us.
So I began to write without The Muse, and I dug deeper than I may have when inspired. I went to places I had to go because the story I was telling demanded it. Sometimes I stayed in those places until I found the story's truths embedded inside them, and I did the heavy lifting of moving those truths from the dark places onto the page. And The Muse was nowhere to be seen.
And it didn't matter. I didn't need it. I was writing, regardless. It was welcome to return, to provide a master stroke or a fresh new concept or a bold new approach; but if it did not, I believed I would find those things anyway. The discoveries may take longer and prove taxing, but I would catch them eventually. If The Muse wanted to be a part of that, it was welcome. If not, then so be it. Either option changed nothing; the story demanded telling, and I was its vehicle.
The Muse never returned for Stronghold. For 12 months, it remained absent. I wanted it to come again, but I knew I didn't need it. I could do what must be done with or without its aid. At this point Stronghold was in those last painful months of editing, that last 800 meters of a brutal 5K.
And that is when The Muse demanded an audience again. But it did not do so in regard to Stronghold. It had said all it needed on that. The Muse took up residence with me for something else--something drastically different. It remained for a bit, maybe about a week. I couldn't stop writing when it was with me in the room; it was revealing things to me I had kept buried, things I could say, and things I should say, emotions I carried and could arouse in others. The Muse stayed near but not necessarily close, appearing thereafter on this day or that and bringing me to the keyboard, aiding me in my next endeavor to engage and entertain through extended prose. 45 Days passed, and a draft for a new novel lay complete. The Muse had been here but once again disappeared.
It has stayed in shadow since that time, but it's not a problem. As I said, our relationship is complex. I recognize that as much as I love The Muse, I don't need The Muse; frankly, it needs me. I know it; it knows it. And though The Muse is welcome to show itself, it only has power if I give it my time and energy. If it stays distant, its message stays hidden, buried or lost to the ages. It can't communicate without a medium; I can. But all that being said, I respect what it brings to the table, so when it shows, I give it my attention because it's an old friend who may not come again for a while and whose visits always yield rewards. Once it leaves, I'll continue to press forward despite its absence. I'll miss it, to be certain; some days I may even long for it. But I won't need it. I know that now.
I am of the opinion that The Muse respects this, that in some ways it stayed quiet to test me, to show me the truths that I've above outlined. It will appear again later, when something dormant needs to erupt, not only for my benefit but for the benefit of many, to show us all truth, goodness, and beauty. The Muse will arrive, and I will be grateful, then it will go on its way, and I will do what I must. I will value our time, but I will not be beholden to it. I will not wait for it; I will not need it. I will write, and I will dig, and I will tell the truth until I can do so no more.
So The Muse can be as elusive as it chooses; I haven't the time to worry about it or chase it. I'm too busy writing.
Here's hoping you are as well,