The Question Of Muse Continues (Thoughts From A Fellow Writer)

6:47 AM – Today I serve jury duty. The last time I served jury duty I told the judge the case we were discussing sounded like a waste of time and energy because it sounded like they already had the thing figured out. I said something along the lines of, “We all know these things are based far more in rhetoric and resource than actual guilt or innocence, so I’d prefer to spend my time elsewhere.” In my defense, I often accept an invitation to be totally honest as an invitation to be totally honest. Today I plan to be more patient. Perhaps I can keep good graces with the Brazos County courts.


“I shall see what comes when I am not looking.” – Tanya Marlow

Having been the beneficiary of many such encounters, I believe in divine appointments. For instance, I find it more than consequential that yesterday I posted questions concerning the concept of a “muse” and today I read a post by a fellow online writer describing, what she believes to be, her muse. She comically referred to her muse as “the shower”, but she said something in her description that struck me as solid gold.

Tanya Marlow says “the shower” is her muse. The shower is where she gets her ideas. My good and lovely YA writer friend, Kelly Riad, also gets her best ideas in the shower. I do not get great ideas in the shower. I generally hum and sing a few repetitive bars of whatever Kelly Clarkson or troublesome hip-hop number has lodged itself in loop around my brain, but no solid thinking occurs in the shower. I enter dry. I leave wet. I then apply the patchouli and clothings. Done.

Tanya, in describing her shower-muse, said something I think is essential to the source of “muse”, something that reaches beyond location and activity:

I don’t know what it is about the shower. I suppose other people find it in coffee shops or going on a walk – any activity where you are not using much brain or physical energy, and you go into automatic pilot.

Tanya then said something interesting: although she uses little brain energy at this moment, she’s more able – in this quiet mental place – to sort through the rabble of her mind. She’s able to peel back the socially trending thoughts from the personal thoughts. She’s able to move aside what other people are saying to find the question that is most pertinent to her in that moment. Her process for doing so is worth reading, as it lands her in a place of finding some aspect of life or God that is true solely for her. This idea is what she has to give. Let the mega-bullhorns shout their messages! This kernel of a thought is the one thing Tanya has to say. I love that.

I said yesterday that I have often read Christian writers who write as if with authority but then say very little. Perhaps Tanya has struck on why that is so: perhaps very few of us take that moment to push back the popular notions, the spiritual memes, the hip theology of the moment in order to connect with the authentic place from which we are meeting God and culture and society. In fact, this notion falls in line precisely with the Mark Edmundson essay I wrote about yesterday. The true poet should look at life with unique eyes and lend us a vision worth consideration. More on this later.

My desire to question the concept of muse rises from a deeper desire to write words that, even if not popular, affect the moment – even though I’m not sure exactly what that means. Chadverb and I have written extensively as of late concerning the difference between writing for entertainment and writing for truth. I write a great deal for giggles (ie. The Four Hands), but I hope for more elsewhere, away from this internet and these ethereal pages I hold in such adoring contempt.

Tanya strikes at something I’ll hold before myself and God and, surely, anyone who will suffer the conversation: what vision is unique to this guy? What aspect of the out there or the in here might be delivered essentially through my voice? Perhaps I will not land on the precise name for that thing/those things, but it is worth striving towards after crawling from that quiet place, that sanctum that shuts down the other voices and strips away the rabbling thought that hinders inspiration.

My great thanks to Tanya Marlow for sharing bravely not only in this. Blessings on the words and waters flowing in the days ahead.


About Kiki Malone

Girding till the break of dawn.
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7 Responses to The Question Of Muse Continues (Thoughts From A Fellow Writer)

  1. Tanya Marlow says:

    THIS. This just made my whole day.

    Thank The Lord above for interwebs which make us realise there are kindred spirits.

    I was just catching up on your blog and thinking, ‘oh Malone is writing…’ (are you Malone? Is your first name Kiki or Malone? these things I ponder…) ‘…about muses – I should definitely check that out, and then BAM! It was my name! Woo hoo!

    You said what I meant, but better. It’s all about this idea of voice, and uniqueness – what do I have to offer in this noisy world? Perhaps that is best found in those moments of quiet, where the best kinds of revelations pop up unannounced.

    I hope you continue to add your voice to this noisy world: it’s a wise one.

    P.s. totally laughed at the comment that you believe an invitation to be honest is an invitation to be honest!

    • Kiki Malone says:

      Tanya – My name is neither Kiki nor Malone. Kiki Malone is the Gator in me. The Bullfighter who squashed the Hamster – though the spirit of the Hamster burrows on in the hearts of my kindred. Monikers are my speciality.

      I’m still thinking on this muse thing. Got more thoughts. Would like to give them room to grow overnight. Will probably write more tomorrow morning about showers and muses and possibly my pug-dog. He inspires me greatly.

      Keep up the good works and good words. I am one of your readers, and I appreciate your honesty. High five!

      • Tanya Marlow says:

        High five returned!
        Thanks for explaining re the name! I shall continue to call you Kiki Malone in my head, and Malone for short.
        Looking forward to more musing on muses!

  2. kmriad says:

    I discussed the shower phenomenon with Sharif once. He lighted on the idea of doing a task that is almost involuntary-the act of showering-that it’s corded with our very nerves and doesn’t require real thought. So that leaves our mind free to wander. Coupled with the white noise of the shower, it becomes the perfect place for imaginary dialogues to occur. Aubrey bought me a whiteboard for the shower with waterproof markers for this very thing.

    • Kiki Malone says:

      White noise – yes. I love ceiling fans and air conditioning window units. Refrigerators and snoring pugs work as well. I would like a whiteboard for my shower but only because I write new song lyrics to familiar pop tunes, but I can never remember my new renditions once I’ve completed the drying and grooming and dressing process, which are not kind activities for provoking the creation process.

  3. myleswerntz says:

    1) I would desperately like to do some jury duty.

    2) This question of what it means to have a voice is a great one. And the right one, I think. We’ll talk more this week, but there’s two things to this, I think. The first is: the right voice is constituted by the right occasion. A bullhorn does not work well in a funeral, nor a whisper in a soccer match. Tone, authority, verbage–these are all things of circumstance, such that what it means for a writer to have a voice is to ask what it means for a writer to be wise, I think. The second is this: you’re right about Christian writers, claiming authority and then saying little. Christian Wiman has been teaching me about this–to speak as one speaking about things of God and truth means to speak softly, to bear witness, to gesture. Thus, any claim to authority is one of boldness *that is* weakness. The form of boldness is one of a slant of light, glanced sideways and refracted through our eyes and ears, such that we are aware of the simultaneous distance and presence of that light in and through our words.

    that’s all I’ve got. Loved it.

    • Kiki Malone says:

      1. Cut and paste this comment onto your own site, then expound. Good stuff. And, yes, worth the meditation.

      2. I’ve noticed that one very great hurdle to my students it this understanding (or agreement, rather) that different environments or situations, different audiences, call for a different verbal or attitudinal response. One does not approach their boss the way one approaches his “boys”, and one does not boss his instructor the way he might boss his “bitch.” I’ve often ignored a student because they were talking to me like we were on the schoolyard instead of in the classroom. When they finally say my name, I tell them that I didn’t realize they were talking to me. They sounded like they were talking down or at level rather than up. I’m not trying to be a douche, but it’s a fair lesson. Outside that classroom, they might be able to jive-turkey with me, but inside the class we need a system of protocol. Helping my students understand why this is a necessary mindset to have is one of my greatest hurdles. Rhetoric, man: it’s the heart of every and all communication.

      3. I gotta get back to Wiman soon. On a Wordsworth kick that is all-consuming.

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