Muse Is Not the Boss of Me

Close-up of a young girl (4-6) sticking her tongue out

Below is the post that got me into the semi-finals at Writer Unboxed. I’m grateful Kathleen and Therese didn’t call it an essay at the time; that word and I are not on the best of terms. 


I’m in a coffee house and I’m supposed to be writing a blog post that will both inspire other writers and demonstrate my command of the English language. Aside from the eighties tune assaulting my ears, it’s not a lot to ask. Except for one small problem: When I try to go solemn, my muse will not cooperate. She snorts and slaps her jean-clad knee, shows as much enthusiasm about a serious post as my children exhibit upon meeting the vacuum cleaner. She wants to write a subversive poem instead, insists that is what I should send out as my demonstration piece. 

I have to ask myself, when did things in this relationship shift? There was a time when I would ask her to do something — in a gentle tone, of course — and she’d comply without a fuss. Then came the era where she’d do it with an eye roll, perhaps even flip me the bird behind my back. I’d pretend ignorance, and we’d carry on and produce.


But in the past year or so, she’s changed. She’s got her drivers’ license, a gorgeous wardrobe—because she inherited the “elegant” gene that skipped my generation—and she wants me to follow her lead. Gosh darn it, she’s even got the better compass. 

So guess what I have just done? I wrote the sneaky, rebellious poem she wanted to tackle; I’m tolerating her smirk. I’m coveting her handbag and making plans to buy one on the sly. 

I do it because I know from experience, that having been acknowledged and indulged, she’ll now settle down and help me compose the “real” post—the evidence of which is in your hands. 

Oh, and the poem we wrote together? I really, really like it. I’m not including it here, because I wish to come across as a writer unboxed, not a writer unstrung, but I cannot regret the effort. 

What’s your relationship like with your muse? Are you still engaged in a power struggle? Or have you come to mutually agreeable terms?


I offered to send the poem, should it be of any interest; although you’ll see I’m no Longfellow, there are lines in this that still make me laugh. Happily, although Therese and Kathleen asked to see it, they invited me to submit again!



Three hundred words is not a lot,
To inspire and impress,
But I have been a family doc,
Seen much that brought distress. 

So in the larger scheme of things,
This isn’t such a big decision,
About whether to go conventional,
Or whether to risk derision. 

The latter wins, for though I know the standard way,
To fill out a job application,
Should you truly consider me,
You should understand I like deviation. 

Not always, but enough,
It just might be a concern.
See, I like to have fun while exploring a point.
My bridges — do they already burn? 

If so, I cannot find regret,
For like a marriage built to last,
Each party should know the other’s quirks,
To, in a metaphoric storm, stand fast. 

I also thought to demonstrate,
(Since I’m fond of “show, don’t tell”),
That once you stick your writerly neck out,
You cannot un-ring that bell. 

There will be writing risks you take,
That will be well-received,
And others that feel very safe,
But to readers seem ill-conceived.

So in the end my personal belief,
Is we can only do our best,
To serve the art and serve ourselves,
And to hell with all the rest. 

In summary, if you want predictable,
I’m probably not your girl,
But if an odd writer you seek to unbox,
My wings please help unfurl. 

And now I’m sure you’ll need to confer,
About the suitability of my selection.
Please leave your feedback about the meat of this poem,
Below in the comment section.


Comments or questions, peeps? This is not a complaint, but I’m hungry for a little discussion back in the land of stripes and citrus. If you write, sing, or do anything on the artistic path, what is your relationship like with your muse?

20 thoughts on “Muse Is Not the Boss of Me

  1. Love this post, as I do with all your posts. I retweeted. You always have such a fun way of saying things. ITA with you re: the muse. My muse is not the boss, but like anyone who works for you, if she calls out sick, what can I do but accept it and realize not much is getting done. I do find if I push push push and write ANYTHING, even crap, she usually shows up right away to defend the better writing, the stuff she brings.:)

  2. My muse is very much like my five-year-old: she can be sweet and cooperative, but neglect her ego for even a short period of time, and then I know I’m in trouble. She gets all pouty and starts throwing her power around. Today, I asked her for help and she just smirked and left for the beach. I know she’ll be back–we’ve done this dance before–but she’ll need to watch me struggle from afar for a few days before she floats back in and says, oh so sweetly, “Aren’t you sorry you didn’t pay attention to ME when you should have?”

    My muse is rather sensitive; she doesn’t seem to be quite as sassy as yours. Either way, we’ve got to learn to work with them!

  3. I love this line – She’s got her drivers’ license, a gorgeous wardrobe—because she inherited the “elegant” gene that skipped my generation.

    My muse used to lead because I had all the time in the world. Even with a full-time job, I’d jot down her callings in a notebook throughout the day & indulge her at night.

    But now I’m a mom.

    I chase my 4yo all day, too busy for my muse to reach me as long as he’s awake. Just yesterday, I took a shower thinking I could meditate on a stubborn plot pivot during my five minutes of silence. Guess who waltzed in to turn off the lights and hide my towels?

    My point is, my muse had learned to come when I call – in those wee hours when I’d much rather be sleeping but instead pound away stubbornly on my laptop. It’s her only chance to reach me & she has gotten much better at doing that. She and I seem to have a common goal – to finish this darn novel.

  4. My muse has a serious case of a.d.d..(not me of course) and can’t focus her brain enough to complete a full sentence without running onto another one..then another one..about something completely different. Idk who she thinks she is! She just wants to be done with projects I just start 🙂

  5. I’m loving how the mothers in the crowd instantly know what I’m talking about, though you may be working through a different stage of childhood, or have kids with special needs.

    Jenn, what a nice way of phrasing it: “defend the better writing”.

    Tracy, oy, the sulks. I prefer overt rebellion myself. Maybe we both got the right muse to suit our personalities… Anyway, you’re right about the need for peaceful co-existence. If we can get to the “peaceful.” 😉

    As for nighttime writing… Sigh. I hear you on that one. Still, it’s better than the silent treatment any day.

    *waves a welcome to Adventures*

  6. actually i love both parts…the prose at the begining is honest and brilliant…somephrases just made me smile…and then a wonderful ode.

  7. I tend to bribe my muse with coffee. Although lately I’ve noticed many of my friends have stopped telling me I should get married. I suspect my muse may have leaked it that ‘alone I cannot conquer the world.’ Shame, I was looking forward to that…

    My muse used to demand reams of paper to write on but now she’s happy with a handheld computer. Oddly enough I still catch her writing things on my hand when the PC isn’t available.

    At least she no longer wakes me in the middle of the night to scribble down things that make no sense in the light of day. “Artichoke?”

    I could reign her in but why bother? We have so much fun together. 😉

  8. I love your posts and your snarky outlook. My muse cannot be forced into action, unfortunately. When she is present, the writing is good. When she isn’t, the writing isn’t. I have got to gain some control over her, but I don’t know how. I think sometimes, though, her appearance is tied to a well-rested, happy person (the one I would like to be but am most often not). How do you write *sensibly* when you are tired to think? :o)

    Congrats on the Writers Unboxed!

  9. Very amusing and clever.

    This is my favourite line:

    There will be writing risks you take,
    That will be well-received,
    And others that feel very safe,
    But to readers seem ill-conceived.

  10. I LOVE this post (the entry and the poem) and TOTALLY agree with you–my first ever blog post presented my decision–should I appear serious and professional, or be me? Ultimately being me has helped far more than anything else could, and I’m so glad it’s paid off for you, too! (being you, since obviously being me would be hard for you *snort*)

  11. Professorstacy, I hear you about needing to set our world up to support our muse. Not always so easy; but worth the fight, yes?

    Hart, I’m doing a post for WU about authenticity. You knew exactly what I was trying to say here. Thanks!

    Everyone else, thank you so much for the kind words! Honestly, it’s very helpful to know that I’ve made someone laugh or think, and specifically what resonated for you.

    And to all the people new to Tartitude, welcome!

  12. I recently wrote a blog post called “Amuse Your Muse”, and I confessed that my Muse (never a small “m” for her!) is very much like Endora, on the TV series Bewitched.

    She’s haughty, and temperamental, and very sparing with praise. The best way to get her assistance is to ignore her — she doesn’t think I can do it by myself.

    I’m pretty sure the word “muse” is a synonym for “contrary”. LOL It’s definitely in the job description!

  13. What fun! Prose and poem. My muse, uhmm . . . it’s a rabbit. 😉 She’s young, inquistive, and a bit magical. Her best friend is a fairy. Come and visit to see what she whispers to me.

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