We’ve all heard about artists and the muse, each with their own. Andy Warhol had Edie Sedgwick. Robert Mapplethorpe had Patti Smith. Jean-Luc Godard had Anna Karina. Dante had Beatrice. I love hearing about this. I really do. You could say I’m a romantic at heart.
However, at brain…
Californication is one of my favorite shows. Love it, hands down. But there was something I noticed the other day that got my head rolling about the idea of the muse. There’s a character in Season 6 named Faith who is many things: groupie, drug addict, muse to rock stars. There’s even a part where Krull (played by Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols) says, “This is Faith. Without her, there’d be no rock ‘n‘ roll.” Really? Rock ‘n’ roll was born in the ’80s? The Beatles? Zeppelin? Even Jones’ very own Sex Pistols? I suppose they were just figments of our imagination.
But I digress. Point is, this idea of the muse as a singular individual is horse-shit. I wish I could say that coming up with an idea was as simple as me going out with my girlfriend, getting into an argument, having make-up sex, and – boom! – there’s an idea, but then that would mean I’m in a relationship, and that’s a whole other barrel full of monkeys.
I’m not alone. Stephen King jokingly described the muse as an overweight fairy with a bag of magic dust and a cigar poking out the side of his mouth. And even then, he just sits on his ass while you do the work. In his book Writing the Novel, Lawrence Block says, “My job, when I want ideas to bubble up, is to make sure the conditions [for inspiration] are right.”
How these conditions are set up varies from person to person, so yes, in theory, being around an individual can be conductive to inspiration. But then again, so can watching movies about writing, getting drunk at the local bar, or smoking pot with Miley Cyrus.
The idea of the muse – this image people have of a person set up on a pedestal – implies that an artist’s creativity is not his own. On another level, it implies that writing isn’t work. If writing is a hobby for you, then by all means, tell me to shut the fuck up. In fact, your muse can tell me that. But if you want to work as a writer, even for those little scrapes of money you do get, you have to force yourself into it at times, and that includes those days when there is no muse. Because I don’t think there really is a muse for a working writer. There’s just the job and the habit.
I like thinking about television writers when my mind wants to confront the fantasy of the muse, because a series isn’t a one-shot deal. The writers have to keep it going. Tom Kapinos wrote almost every episode of Californication. He co-wrote a few with other writers, and only seventeen episodes were penned by others. So that means that 55 episodes had his direct input. J. Michael Straczynski wrote almost all of his groundbreaking series Babylon 5 on his own. I think he co-wrote only one episode with Harlan Ellison.
And to think that any writer could produce that amount of work solely on some sex puppet in a skimpy Tinkerbell outfit is ludicrous.