Sing of songs, my muse, as if I might yet meet you and you might yet love me and we might make the art I cannot alone. I feel your purpose move through me, but its ends and means are proving to be a problem. My fantasy world is weighing on my shoulders, and I want to reshape it according to my will, but I cannot put it down to do so. So I make plans for the day that I am no longer Atlas. The best of what I do is deliberate. This applies to everything, not just art. To focus in on just that area is to realize how little inspiration has to do with quality. When thinking of what drives me, women and my feelings for them seem to be operative. This is not necessarily the case. While relationships can and do move me, the way I am move often leads to hasty work, so driven by love do I get. Nor do I need passion in my real life to write well. For me, muses are an excuse for the lonely to stay complacent. I have never needed a woman to write. When I do write because of one, whether out of the rapture of infatuation or the contempt of a relationship gone afoul, my writing is no better for its cause. The passions inflamed by romance, in its best or its worst context, do motivate me like little else can. What I produce from this motivation is no more likely to be quality than any other creative output. If anything, I would venture to say that what I write when addled by emotion is typically worse than what I write otherwise. Still more problematic is how using a woman for fuel burns up my relationships in real life. I have destroyed a number of beautiful friendships, and made worse a number of break-ups by writing about them. Some of this has to do with the content of the writing itself, some of it has to do with the feelings that content churns up, and some of it remains a matter of self-consciousness. The fun-house mirror of my reflections often upset through their distortions. It is an unholy bargain that I make when I do drive myself to write because of love. I take on all of my feelings and they overwhelm me. Several times I have done just this and ended up nuts by the time I finish a first draft. Revision then becomes difficult and nothing much comes of the half-done work. So does addled love sabotage writing while it’s being written and after it has been written as well. Yet still I find myself longing for a woman to truly drive me in the way that only such a being can. The myth of the muse is that hard to dispel within myself. When muses do work, they are usually frustrated affairs that have remained friendships out of hesitancy. I get to sit with absurd love and the object of it while that object loves me dearly, but does not love me as I want her to. So if you are looking for muse, you really think you need one, and have no reservation about destroying part or all of your social life in order to create, fall in love with a dear friend. This should produce just the right level of pain and recurrence of that pain to keep you hard at work. You may write no better, but you will write more, which is not to be dismissed. Just don’t kid yourself into thinking that romance will improve what is written. Only being deliberate about your creation can do that. Focusing on a muse means the focus is off art, where should remain. Still I think of her and half-smile, my eyes wistful and barely damp but damp nonetheless, and in those moments of fixation I have the gambler’s sort of madness, thinking this time I will be able to trump the bankrupting truth. It doesn’t matter that I always lose in the end. This time, I tell myself, will be different. It never is. Still I write as if it weren’t the worst of my habits and the best of my talents. Sing again then, my muse, as if your songs weren’t an illness of the heart that spreads through the blood of ink. Reach through these tangled thorns, but don’t expect a rose without some pain.