IVP - Behind the Books - A Muse Meant

January 24, 2008

A Muse Meant

Please welcome a guest blogger: L. L. Barkat. She is the author of the upcoming InterVarsity Press book Stone Crossings. I asked her to write a blog in response to Dave Zimmerman's "The Sweet Spot." Dave blogged about the long process of editing and then the lovely moment at the end of the road when he was being reminded why he wanted to publish the book in the first place. So here are Barkat's thoughts about what inspires authors. --Cindy Bunch

I remember studying the poets of long ago. For them, a "muse" meant something along the lines of imaginary blonde-haired women who stirred their passions, so they could face impossible tasks like stacking beauty into rhyme and meter. These ethereal blondes seemed to send just the right instructions at just the right time. I’m not sure how they did it. A letter in the poet’s mailbox. Dreams. Or maybe leading their charges, by invisible hand, to the perfect daffodil field on the perfect blue-sky day.

Such muses present challenges to writers who prefer brunettes, who forget to check their mail on a regular basis, and who opt to eat nachos on the couch instead of taking walks. No matter. The Modern Muse Preparatory School is onto this.

At the MMPS (not to be confused with “mumps”), modern writers find exactly who they need to get through the writing process, from soup to nuts. Take me, for instance. Last year, a friend asked if I could tell her about my muse. Up ‘til then, I didn’t even know that the MMPS had assigned me a muse. As it turned out, I was apparently an extra-needy case. Because when I searched through my writing closet, I discovered I had multiple muses—which is sometimes, but not always, as bothersome as having mumps.

Anyway, I told my friend that my muse is the guy who has just now yawned in the middle of a sermon, the young woman who cannot face her abuser, the couple who thinks they should exit their crumbling marriage. I didn’t mention it at the time, but I have other muses too: people who like the clowns that only come out at half-time, anyone who needs an eave to duck under in the rain, maybe even the person who’s forgotten to listen to his dreams.

As it turns out, I also have a blonde-haired muse who sends me mail—of the e-sort—that I check on a regular basis. Being an editor, she has given her life to help writers like me get off the couch and fed me proverbial soup when I was feeling nuts. I’m still trying to decide if this gives her rights to my nachos. But I may just keep them for my personal amusement.

Visit L. L.Barkat's blog Seedlings in Stone.

Posted by Cindy Bunch at January 24, 2008 2:30 PM Bookmark and Share


Your muse is more of a strawberry-blonde--light on the blonde, heavy on the strawberry.

Awesome post, by the way, and the first of two uses of "soup to nuts" I encountered in a twenty-four-hour period. I had to look it up!

Comment by: Dave at January 26, 2008 11:29 AM

Dave, thanks! Strawberries are good. And as for "soup to nuts" I hesitated to use it because I thought it might be too cliche. But you're the third person to tell me you never heard of it (Is this a regional thing?)

Comment by: L.L. Barkat at January 31, 2008 10:24 AM

Well, I'm pretty low-brow, so a good cultural translation might be "from mcnugget to frostie."

Comment by: dave at January 31, 2008 1:04 PM

I know what soup-to-nuts is, the courses of a meal; metaphorically, the whole shebangie ... but, I can't say I get this muse thing.

I like to figure things out. Complex problems. Does that count as a muse? I'm also motivated to debunk some of the lousy arguments that I grew up with in church, the ones that do harm. So who would the muse be? The innocent or those who might do harm? Maybe both.

Comment by: Christine A. Scheller at February 1, 2008 12:46 AM


The Muse as Problem Child. Now there's a picture!

As to your second set of Muses, these are interesting questions... do you write out of a sense of protection and rescue (the innocent) or a sense of justice and/or hopes for rehabilitation (the guilty)?

I always find it helpful to consider why I'm writing. (Why, I think it was Ed G who first encouraged me to have a writer's mission statement. Which in it's way is just now making me think about the writer as missionary. What kind of missionary are you, C?)

Comment by: L.L. Barkat at February 1, 2008 6:18 AM

Oh dear, I would pick problem child for a muse. I guess I am an educator, and never really knew it. Maybe a special ed. teacher : ) I can live with that!

Comment by: Christine A. Scheller at February 1, 2008 9:59 AM

ps-I think Cindy's new post would make a wonderful mission statement. I may adopt it for certain kinds of writing. I hope she doesn't mind.

Comment by: Christine A. Scheller at February 1, 2008 10:05 AM

Hi, I'm just glad someone is reading the blogs! Of course, you can adopt it as a mission statement. (I assume you mean the Merton post.)

Comment by: Cindy Bunch at February 4, 2008 1:44 PM

Not just Merton, Cindy, but your distillation. thanks!

Comment by: Christine A. Scheller at February 4, 2008 4:54 PM

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