We writers are narcissistic, almost by definition. We live in our own little worlds, and we expect others to accept them without question. We think we’re fascinating, and that other people should be fascinated by us and the things that we do. We’ve romanticized this notion to such a gross extent that we believe others will be interested in our ramblings about typing words into a computer at 3:00 a.m., and will read these mewlings with bated breath as though we’re saving babies from burning buildings.

Because in our minds, we are.

Every time you write, you’re creating something that never existed before, and in so doing, you’re altering the very fabric of existence, adding a little thread to the fabric of space-time that never existed before. That’s no small feat, and you’re entitled to at least a modicum of arrogance as a result – at least that’s what I tell myself every day.

We are so in love with ourselves, and our craft, we’ve convinced ourselves our ability to imagine, think, and write the way we do comes from some supernatural force. We call this force “inspiration,” embodied since ancient times in the muses. When we find work difficult, we blame them. And we wonder why people find us flaky and difficult. If a surgeon removed your mother’s liver instead of her appendix, causing her death, and his defense was “I’m sorry, Asclepius was not speaking to me today and ignored my offerings,” would you pat him on the shoulder, offer your condolences, and feel bad for him? No. No, you wouldn’t.

And yet we, as writers, fully expect others to do exactly that; and to understand and empathize with us. We’re special in that way. We’re not like doctors, with someone’s life in our hands. We just think we are.

If you knew nothing about electric energy or electrostatic discharges, but you did know that lightning had destroyed your neighbor’s home, perhaps you’d be inclined to conclude that your neighbor had disfavored Zeus in some way, causing the god to lash out in retaliation and destroy something of his. Inspiration, and the muses, work in the same way – as placeholders for something we can’t explain empirically.

What is this motivational flash we call inspiration, then? Athletes call it being in the zone – when everything’s flowing perfectly, every pass is perfect, and every shot connects with its target. It’s as though time is flowing in slow motion; you can see and calculate every detail with precision. They call it that because they don’t know what prompts it or how to call it up on demand – because we provide placeholders for the unknown. We credit them for our victories; we blame them for our falls. The former, because we’re shy or modest; the latter, because we’re cowards.

I know, because I’ve been in the zone, and let me tell you, it’s an amazing feeling. But when I’m not in the zone, I don’t blame the zone for its absence – I play on. You do something that you love because you love it, but you realize that just because you love it, doesn’t mean it will always come easy. With this realization comes an understanding that if something never presents hardship, if it never challenges you, you’re not pushing as hard as you can. And if you don’t push as hard as you can, you’ll never go as far as you can go.

As much as we’d perhaps like it to, inspiration doesn’t come from some fickle, jealous supernatural entity that bestows blessings on a whim. Inspiration comes from open things – open hearts, open eyes, open minds. Lethargy and apathy alike close doors without us even realizing, because we’re too wrapped up in our own mythos and grandiose self-pity.

The English word “inspire” has Latin and French roots; it means, literally, “to breathe.”

If you’re not inspired, you’re not alive. 

© 2013 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

Hell hath no fury like Inspiration scorned

To write, I have to bleed.

(This makes me do stupid things like fall in love with somebody for an hour.)

Inspiration’s sharp fingernails are necessary for this bleed/write equation, and she comes to me only on her terms. Foolishly, I go out hunting her, putting a target on her back and pelting her with ink filled bullets when I catch sight of her around the corners of the curvature of the earth. My perverse Bedford Level experiment.

She will crawl under the table and make love to me when I’m in the middle of a meeting, because that’s the kind of cheeky shit that turns her on. I’m not hearing a word my boss is saying, and agreeing to take on ridiculous tasks because I can’t kick her away, not yet, she’s giving me something and I’m so close, oh my fucking god… I’m going to write a sonnet when this meeting is finally over.

Inspiration will get sulky with me over some imagined slight, and I won’t hear from her for days. Instead of apologising, I get stubborn and go drinking with Procrastination. He’s got a bad rep, but he’s actually a really fun guy, when you get to know him.

She’s thrilled when I’m infatuated, but loses interest very quickly whenever I’m shacked up. She’ll collude in writing to snare the objet d'affection but she soon grows bored of the same subject over and over. She’ll grab her backpack in the middle of the night and sneak off to shag her way around Europe for months.

I don’t mind. As soon as the first wave of heartache hits, she always comes back.

We’ve had a rough road, her and I. The lack of her drives me to despair at times, but her absence can be less painful than the times she kicks in my door, hot and full of fury, using me up in a fit of fire and leaving me a wrecked shell of a writer, and a woman.

Then there are days like today, when she comes to me bare-faced and kind, kneeling at my feet and I’m so moved all I can do is crack open and let her take over me.

Inspiration is smoke tendrils spiraling in a draught, belonging to nobody. When she deigns be drawn into these lungs and breathed out as words, she humbles me.

Burning Muse Prompt: Inspiration

A Melody, Some Imagery, and Time To Think

Tick. Tick. Tick.

“The clock on the wall has been stuck at…”
11:45 for days and days and
days. Spent
the evening in the tub, washing
the sound from my ears
and wondering why
they chose this day, why
they languished.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

“We’re gonna need a bigger boat,”
I considered, as dreams stared back
from rippled surface of
pond. Predators lurking within
the confines of my imagination,
like wildfire gnawing at
trees, only quieted by

Tap. Tap. Tap.

“It only takes one idea … to
change everything forever.” With a stroke
on blank canvas, words
come to life, screaming
every buried secret
every waking nightmare ever
contemplated. Time,
life, written.

*Matchbox 20
***Mike Dooley


Life makes me sick.

Sick with despair, sick with ecstasy, sick with disappointment, sick with desire. All of this infects me like a poison, one which I need to purge on a regular basis, or it will surely kill me.

So, I vomit words. Sometimes they are projectiles, flying every which way, and other times I have to cram my fingers down my throat and pull them out. But each time, ridding myself of them brings at least temporary relief.

What inspires me? I don’t know if I’m so much inspired as I am in search of a remedy.

If I was to write a book about my life
I would put you on the cover.

Blending your image into
a collage of mountains, trees
clouds, and stars.

The pages of the book
flutter as soft wings
golden lined and completely

What words could I find
to tell my story
about you?

Where to begin?
At the end?

Would I describe your beauty?

Pick through the bucket
of single definitions
never to find one
with the substance…

Would I fill the pages
with paintings
slide shows…

which moments would I chose
to capture?

Would I weep tears of
laughter and joy
that the salt should leave a mark?

Or would I press within the pages
my very own flesh and blood?

That the reader may enter into
the knowing of you?

Value Of Words

Where do I find inspiration?
Under the tiny fragments of skin
That shed from our bodies each day
Like a phoenix rising from smoldering ashes

Where do I find inspiration?
In the currents of the ever blowing breeze
That always seem to be change and rearranging
This neat and uniform life we try to present to the world

Where do I find inspiration?
In that tiny tight space that nobody knows about
Where you keep your notebooks hidden from the light of day
Dripping with desire the pages melt in your mouth as you lip the words

Thought, Emotion and Wonder

Somehow. Within the existence of time and the universe; with all the correlating and colliding atoms and matter… There is this planet. The only one that we know of. In which timing and elements synchronized so perfectly that it created life. Upon it came humanity and with it; the beauty to process emotion, concept and ability to question. There’s a magical grace in which the universe instills in certain individuals. The competency to write. It’s a gift to be fluid with words. To convey thought, and emotion and wonder. I like to believe that which ever degree a person’s skill is current… The urge to share derives from the urge to feel a little less lonely in the world.

What inspires me to write or any writer for that matter, is life in its entirety. Among many things, I am a writer. I write.

Inspired To Wonder Why

Anytime I’m ever feeling really blocked, I go down to that rundown old punk bar by the bus-station, and I look for somebody who’s sad and alone, and I put something in their drink, and I take them home to have unprotected sex with them, and then when I’m done with them, I slit their throats and leave them dripping into the toilet, which flushes away all my sins.

I don’t really know about inspiration. I never really feel inspired. I feel like a craven fool, running from reality to hide in my stories. I feel consumed by stories that threaten to grow larger than my head, splitting my mind asunder if I can’t cast them out by putting them into the physical form of the page.

I use drugs, and art, and music, and women. Men and booze, when I must. Young girls, with an innocent, scared look in their eyes that say they’ll do anything to please you. Former church-going types who need to have their minds opened to nihilism and deepthroating. 

When writing, I try to catch the world like a soap-bubble, between my teeth. Treasuring fragile moments and giving voices to silent delusions. Bad dreams and sweat-soaked fantasies that creep around my apartment like murderers in the dark.

When it’s quiet, I watch TV, and look at pictures of cats on the internet. 


barefoot steps over wooden floor
the click which lights the light bulb
crystal gliding from aluminium base
water filling up crystal container 
the match head’s friction, the ignition 
the fire, the spider burner, the heating-water
coffee bean falling into the grinder 
blades fulfilling the sweetest of massacres 
ceramic falling onto marble top
plastic cone on top of the ceramic cup 
paper filter being folded up 
freshly-ground coffee falling free
hot-hot-water bathing particles of coffee
the drops dripping, the vapour being 
the first sip, the first sigh, the second sip
the birth of a smile