My Muse Strangles Me

I have a confession to make.

My Muse is verbally abusive.

I’m not a victim, though, because I created him that way.  Yes, him.  If creative men throughout the years could become inspired by their vision of a beautiful, ethereal woman hovering over their shoulder as they wrote, painted, composed and otherwise created magnificent things, I don’t see why I can’t have a hot guy hovering over mine.  But I actually didn’t create my hot, verbally abusive Muse for the fantasy eye candy factor, anyway.  At the time I called him up, I was in desperate need of some male energy in my writing life.

This was more than a decade ago, as I floated through a period of writing dreamy, sensual, surreal fictional sequences that went on forever.  I can’t call them stories, because they never ended.  Lots of lengthy sentences.  Gorgeous descriptions bursting with colors and textures and fragrances.  I knew how to write.  I could write until the cows came home.  But I needed structure.  I needed closure.  I needed endings.


At the same time, I worked lengthy hours at an architecture firm, the only job I’ve ever had that had absolutely nothing to do with writing.  Maybe the fact that I spent a lot of time dealing with contractors—a testosterone-filled bunch if ever I’ve seen one—had some influence on my Muse as he appeared to me.

Desperate to make writing a bigger part of my life, I decided to start getting up at 5 AM to sneak in an hour or two of writing before work.

Did I mention I’m not a morning person?!

Waking at 5 AM when I was already exhausted by a full life and an unfulfilling job proved to be quite a challenge.  I needed a cross between a take-no-prisoners drill sergeant and a thoroughly enticing lover to pry me out of bed that early.

That’s when I called on my Muse.

Rays of Light

Make no mistake, I created him.  But he also came alive and participated in his own creation.  I don’t know how anyone else experiences a personal muse, but mine is like a divine artistic guide crossed with an imaginary friend.  At any rate, he came to me as I needed him then: seductive, and yes, verbally abusive.

Every morning when my alarm rang at 5 AM, my Muse began yelling in my ear: “Get the #@*% up, Sandy. Do you think your #@*%ing stories are going to write themselves?!?!!”

He wouldn’t let me roll over for five minutes; he yelled and yelled until I jumped up.  But once I sat in my favorite writing spot in the living room bay window with a cup of tea and a notebook in my lap, my Muse started purring sweetly in my ear, encouraging the words that flowed from my pen.

And thus began a lengthy and fertile creative period in my life, a time when my writing matured and I finally, happily, mastered endings.


It’s been a long time since those days, and my writing technique has continued to grow and evolve, but my Muse still hangs around.  I don’t get up at 5 AM any more, and he doesn’t yell at me any more either.  Instead we’ve settled into a comfortable relationship.  At times, he’s absent for months.  At other times I feel him hovering over my shoulder when I write, and now and then he even shows up in my dreams.

But though he’s still present, my Muse lives primarily above the garage in the back of my mind these days, and I’m realizing now as I consider my desire for sustained creativity in my life that it’s time to allow him a bigger role again.  A reinvented role, because I don’t need the drill sergeant now as much as I need the lover.

Okay, maybe I still need a little drill sergeant for those days when I just don’t feel like being creative and I want to hide behind my work and other responsibilities and whine about how I have no time for my soul-writing.  But I don’t think I need the yelling any more.

I’m almost sure I don’t need the yelling any more…

Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World,


39 Responses to “My Muse Strangles Me”

  1. 1 DQ May 29, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    Mmmm, will you introduce me to his brother??

    Great post, Sandy. I’ve never taken the step of conjuring a Muse. Sounds terrifying and wonderful. Thanks for the insight! Maybe I’ll try to direct some of the mental time I waste on thoughts of Johnny Depp to something more constructive. Johnny Depp as, um, Naked Muse? I likes.

    Keep on writing, lady!

  2. 2 stranglingmymuse May 29, 2009 at 10:29 pm

    If Naked Johnny Depp Muse inspires you, I say go for it! Seriously, a little sexual energy can go a long way to stirring the creative juices…at least that’s my opinion..


  3. 3 Rochelle Ritchie Spencer May 30, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    Hey DQ – Johnny Depp was going to be MY muse – you muse stealer! Sandy, can you do something about her? ;->

    Oh never mind. I choose the actor Alan Rickman to be my muse – with his deep, silky English voice he could make me do…just about anything. I can hear him now, “My love, hasn’t it been nearly a week since your last post?”

    “Yes, but I have to clean out the fridge right now!” I whine.

    “Oh but I am languishing without regular updates from you. Do one, for me, now?”

    Well…that worked…I’m off to stare at my screen for an indefinite period of time. Thanks Sandy.

    • 4 stranglingmymuse May 31, 2009 at 10:36 pm

      Thanks for making me laugh out loud, Rochelle! Glad you and DQ didn’t come to blows over Johnny Depp!

  4. 5 wordnerd45 July 16, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    Hmm, my muse is a female. Does this make me a lesbian? My husband would beg to differ. Or beg to watch us play.

  5. 6 wordnerd45 July 16, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    PS: you should see her work a waxed tablet and stylus. Yowza!

  6. 8 wordnerd45 July 16, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    My muse is ADHD and bipolar. I never know what she’s going to give me. Some days, she’s dressed like a 7th grade cheerleader complete with pom poms and pigtails, other days she’s a trucker with a tattoo and a cigarette hanging out of her mouth, telling the state trooper to “kiss her ass”.

  7. 10 wordnerd45 July 16, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    True, but some days, I’d like to slip her an extra dose of Valium or Ritalin. Just to even things out.

    • 11 stranglingmymuse July 16, 2009 at 7:01 pm

      I know what you mean. I particularly feel that way about my muse when he wakes me in the wee hours to write.

  8. 12 wordnerd45 July 16, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    Apparently, he’s smokin hot and worth it! I got an ancient Greek lady with a harp, waxed tablet and toga. Hell, that’s not worth getting up in the wee hours, unless she’s got Adonis with her. And he better be wearing a sarong.

    • 13 stranglingmymuse July 17, 2009 at 12:44 pm

      Ha! Very funny.

      • 14 gary of nepa August 25, 2009 at 9:26 am

        I hope because a person has a muse of the same sex it doesn’t have to mean anything sexually bi or otherwise, unless they want it to. My muse is wally. Wally is patterned after a cousin of mine from Illinois who had a temperament to match his red hair. My muse must be wild at times to get me past my slothful ways as a writer. Then the wildness must be able to harness itself to channel my creativity where it is needed. Plus a good primal scream doesn’t hurt either.

        • 15 stranglingmymuse August 25, 2009 at 1:43 pm

          Thanks for your comment, Gary — I love hearing about other writers’ muses. I think a muse can be whoever you want him/her to be. My muse has transformed over the years, becoming whatever I need at the moment. Also, he’s sometimes very present and sometimes lurks in the background, encouraging me quietly. Wally sounds like a great muse, and I love your wonderful description of him.

  9. 16 relateableme April 10, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    My male Muse is emotionally abusive – but he gets me to write pages and pages of stuff in the midst of it – so I really don’t want to get rid of him.

  10. 18 Ginette March 25, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    Oh Sandy, I had not read this entry yet. This really touched me deeply. Thank you for sharing this. I know it was writing quite a while ago but it still is very alive. I was just thinking that I might want to start getting up early so that I do my creative work before starting the day instead of borrowing from needed sleep hours late at night. Perhaps I can call in a muse of my own 🙂

    • 19 stranglingmymuse March 25, 2011 at 3:34 pm

      Thanks, Ginette! I’m so glad my story touched you. Even though I wrote it a couple of years ago, it’s still so relevant to my life. I hope you do conjure up your own muse — the wonderful thing is that you can make him/her whoever you need at the moment. And then your muse can grow and change with you — which mine has certainly done over the years! Let me know if the morning creativity works out for you!


  11. 20 herby June 20, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    I loved reading about your muse Sandy. It kinda helps me make sense of mine. No naked Johnny Depp for me thanks. I won’t join the fight for him 🙂

    My muse is still developing. I keep thinking I’ve managed to understand her but then she gets the sh*ts with me and walks away. Actually, that’s probably not quite true – I found my muse out in the wilds of Tasmania but I mistook her for a real person. As the memory of the real person fades (I wrote about her in Photo Prompt #20) I am learning how to recognise that part that is my muse and that part that was the person who just happened to be around at the same time.

    My muse is torn between having me share my work and keeping it private. For now, we have reached a compromise – I save everything and when the time is right it will see the light of day as collections relating to topics rather than as random insertions in the blog I used to write. A collection about gender, a collection about nature, a collection about love etc. 🙂

    • 21 stranglingmymuse June 21, 2011 at 1:08 pm

      Thanks for this, herby — I love hearing about other people’s experiences with their muses! My muse changes over time, becoming whatever I need at the moment. A bit of a chameleon.

      I think it’s a good idea to keep things private when you’re not sure if you’re yet ready to share them. You can always share later. Your compromise sounds like a good one.

      Best of luck with your muse and your writing!


  12. 22 47whitebuffalo July 14, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    You got me thinking hard with the MUSE. I think I’d like one I can smack around a bit–good naturedly of course.

  13. 24 Wolfy December 11, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    I seem to have a completely different muse each time I write, depending on my characters. I write a lot of Fan Fiction so my characters are based largely off other creations, and they inspire me so much that I call them my muse.

    At the moment, my muse is Jack (Legend, 1985) and I’m going to have to keep him around a bit longer. I’ve realised how much easier it is to have only one muse stick with you, and his forest child qualities are just what I need to keep me working.

    • 25 stranglingmymuse December 13, 2012 at 3:15 pm

      Hi Facebook Friend! I love hearing about how other writers experience their personal muses — thanks so much for sharing here. I also have different muses, or perhaps a continually transforming muse. I seem to have a kinder, gentler muse these days than the one I wrote about here more than three years ago — although he still appears occasionally when I need a kick in the butt! Your forest child Jack muse sounds wonderful. I’m glad he’s sticking with you.

      Best of luck with all your creative endeavors — and all your muses!


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Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach and Writer.

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