Stephen King’s description of ‘Muse’

I came across an interesting excerpt in a book I just recently started reading, On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft, written by Stephen King. The title was first introduced to me by a fellow blogger, Willow (and you can check out her interesting write-ups here!)

Stephen King in his home office, 1980’s
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In the book, Stephen King shared about the bits and pieces of his experience with writing while he was growing up (and growing old). Some of them I couldn’t really understand but I have a general idea of what’s told in the book. There were also plenty of tips he provided the readers with, even though he did indirectly imply that there will be some kind of harsh truth. Also, the way he describes… stuff is really entertaining to read. About writing and about the people/things in his life. And I really love this particular description of the term, muse, he spins up with:


“There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer station. He lives in the ground. He’s a basement guy. You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in. You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you. Do you think it’s fair? I think it’s fair. He may not be much to look at, that muse-guy, and he may not be much of a conversationalist (what I get out of mine is mostly surly grunts, unless he’s on duty), but he’s got the inspiration. It’s right that you should do all the work and burn all the midnight oil, because the guy with the cigar and little wings got a bag of magic. There’s stuff in there that can change your life.”

The way King twisted the idea of muse, or maybe his idea of muse – that muse isn’t just all fairy-dust. It gives a new perspective to something that has always been perceived as god/angel-sent and coincidental luck. In fact, it seems to be the contrary, I thought. It turns out to be a man, instead of a goddess or a lady. He isn’t much of a socialite, doesn’t talk much and has a pretty bad attitude. You will have to “descend to his level” and put up with the “grunt labor” he’ll get you to do before you can reach your hand down into his bag of magic dust. It is like, muse is all hard work and tolerance. There seems to be also this assurance and certainty (promised by King) that all the tough work you undertake will eventually pay off, to the extent that it will turn your life around and muse isn’t simply just a chance-thing.


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