A muse is defined by the Google search engine as “a woman, or a force personified as a woman, who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist.” This definition, when broken down and expanded upon from its original Greek etymology, has been used in great detail with little contention as a perfectly acceptable way to draw inspiration for characters or situations for any number of stories in the Western canon. We can use Neil Gaiman’s inspiration for the look of Death from his classic comic book series The Sandman (originally published from 1989 to 1996), where it was a combination of a drawing by comic artist Mike Dringenberg of a Salt Lake City woman named Cinnamon Hadley and a chance encounter, when accompanied by cover artist Dave McKean, by a waitress matching this description by Gaiman in The Sandman Companion, “She was American, had long hair, was dressed entirely in black—black jeans, T-shirt—and wore a big silver ankh on a silver necklace. And she looked exactly like Mike Dringenberg’s drawing of Death.”
As Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, that girl Alice in Wonderland, Death, Daisy in The Great Gatsby, Moby Dick, Deadpool, and many others will prove, inspiration comes in many shapes, sizes, and colors, but the implementation is truly what separates the strongest characters of the literary canon from those we will likely forget about (or already have) years down the line. The following is a list of how to best avoid any despicable pitfalls concerning those squishy creatures known as our friends, loved ones, or the admired when shopping about for a muse when in need of a little realness that the creator is unable to conjure up entirely by themselves. It happens. Enjoy.
1. If you’ve never communicated outside of parasocial relationships, i.e. if they are a celebrity or artist of which there has been no personal relationship outside of a physically and mentally distant obsession, then I would recommend going outside in the sunlight for once, eventually going inside during dark hours. Mingle, why dontcha.
I’m not in control of my muse. My muse does all the work. -Ray Bradbury
2. The moment that your muse reads/views/hears your piece and discovers that they do no like your representation of them, thank you very much, and sabotages the work, they are no longer the artist’s muse … Actually, this one could go either way, might even intensely reinforce said artist’s canvas to better represent (or insult) them.
3. Whenever the artist grows up and comes to the conclusion that people, let alone those within the framework of infatuation, are not alive for one’s amusement. Instead, people are just there, as is everyone else, to live their own life; to inspire, sure, but never to become a pawn in one’s artistry.
So cheat your landlord if you can and must, but do not try to shortchange the muse. – William S. Burroughs
4. Once the living object of fascination discovers that they have become a muse (unless that’s their thing, where the opposite of this rule will be true), everything will become pretentious and movie-like, with only shriveled bits of authenticity scattered about. This rule is extremely likely to occur as the artist cannot ever shut their damn mouth about their admiration of the incandescently statuesque pedestrian frolicking throughout the confines of their mind and occasionally within their bedroom.
I wanted to be the muse, I wanted to be the wife of the artist, but I was really trying to avoid the final issue — that I had to do the job myself. – Anais Nin
5. If the muse, who now becomes a real person, says, “I love you” and oh, how you love them back. This is when the relationship actually branches off and prospers into something more than a page in a book, a verse in a song, or a scene in a movie. This is when the artist no longer desires a muse as their life has become so deliciously flavored with beauty and eccentricity that any other path would seem utterly barbaric and rather antiquated by its very design.
So there you have it. Treat all people as if they have feelings that are their own and not yours to toy with otherwise your work may live on, but you’ll still be remembered as a dick. Weigh those options atop a moralistic scale and see which one fits you best. Make the right choice. It’s only your legacy on the line, no big deal. Good luck!
There is also a third kind of madness, which is possession by the Muses, enters into a delicate and virgin soul, and there inspiring frenzy, awakens lyric….But he, who, not being inspired and having no touch of madness in his soul, comes to the door and thinks he will get into the temple by the help of art–he, I say, and his poetry are not admitted; the sane man is nowhere at all when he enters into rivalry with the madman. – Plato