Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Feed The Muse

As I sit here typing this, friendly faithful Reader, I am struck by a persistent thought.

Damn. I smell good.

No, don't run away screaming. It's perfectly to the point, I assure you. You see, we who live by the whims of the Muse have to learn to feed Her Gracious Highness Who Provides The Stories. Writers are notorious for courting their Muses--I believe Schiller used to whiff rotting apples in his desk drawer to get the creative juices flowing, and he wasn't the first or the last to do something so apparently crazy.

One of the best books on the creative process I've ever come across is Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. Cameron makes a very valid point (one of the many) when she remarks that to get creative output one must have creative input. She calls it "filling the well."

I call it "feeding the HarpyMuse."

My own sources of creative food are wide and varied. I like yarns--the softer and richer to knit with, the better. I also like new kinds of food. (I had a sushi craving not too long ago that spawned a short story.) Running at the track produces its own welter of impressions and plotlines, all sorted out with the Muse's usual thorough sloppiness and thrown into the grinder. Books? You betcha. Throw everything in and stir vigorously.

Bubble, bubble, toil and plot arc.

Then there's perfume. Hence the thought at the beginning of this post.

I love smellies. I adore smellies. Scent may well be the most basic of human senses (though I'd make a good case for touch,) capable of transporting one into memory with the force of a sledgehammer. Scent has an immediacy, a basic force, that can take me out of whatever I'm doing and throw me wholesale into the past.

Wet, burning leaves? My hands begin to tingle with the thought of bloody blisters from a rake in my childhood. Sausage frying? It's Sunday at my Nana's house. Honeysuckle? Nana and Papa's back porch. Jergens hand lotion? My mother coming home tired after a shift at the hospital. Drakkar Noir? My first boyfriend, a suckerpunch to the gut of desire and fear laced with gasoline. Vanilla car freshener? The last time I made out in the front seat of Miek's car in junior high. Cinnamon rolls? Maria saying, "Eat, bambina, eat. Made special for you," in her gravelly Sicilian-laced voice.

The personal geography of scent haunts me. The world can be a minefield of smells--and it can also be a garden.

I'm currently addicted to
Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab scents. (Sadly, Shiseido's Feminitie du Bois went out of production or something, I can't get it anywhere.) It's ridiculous. I'm hooked. They send free "imps"--little samples of fragrances--with each order, and you can make orders of imps for some illegally-low price. I tear into each package as it arrives with trembling fingers and a mouth filling with saliva. Today in my mailbox it was Djinn (it smells good on someone in the house) and a scent called Blood Countess, which I spread on my wrists and throat-pulse as soon as I leapt out of the shower after a hard workout. Now I'm whiffing myself (pardon the expression) at every opportunity.

Hungarian lilac. Opium. A hint of candy and old fustiness, like cameos kept in rotting lace by a very old crone whose hands have begun to fill out again, losing their withered claws, growing plump as she eyes her newest maid.

You see? Pure Muse crack. It's mainlining Muse food.

Take care to feed your Muse. If she gets thin and hungry the stories will grow thin and hungry too. There is no better argument for a sensual life than the creative arts. Buy some velvet. Listen to that music that makes your head spin. Go to the junk store and finger all the old lace, touch all the antique hats.

Or something. Whatever floats your boat. Whatever turns your Muse on.

Trust me, the reward is exquisite.


I smell good.


Richelle said...

OHHH...BPAL is a cruel, cruel mistress. They've given me a lot of inspiration too, and half my characters smell like their scents. Magical Minxes even recently gave away some Sacred Whore of Babylon in a contest.

Currently, I'm in a fit because my latest order from them appears to be lost in Federal Way. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

It's taste for me. I live to eat.