The Storyteller as Translator or Calliope Mumbles

by MW Cook

       Creative people debate about where creativity comes from. It’s either something born deep within us that we painstaking bring out. Or it’s something on the outside that we reach out and touch. For the most part, whichever view helps you be creative is probably the best.

       I’m in the second group, though I think the first group is on to something. I think the stories come from an outside Source. I believe that muses are spiritual thingies (yes, thingies) that whisper our stories in our ears. And I think that they’re always whispering.

       Have you heard them? You probably have. Whenever a brilliant idea for a story or a painting or a recipe or a dance forms in your mind, that’s the muse poking you. You’re filled with excitement and you rush to your computer or sketch pad to throw that idea into the world. But as you pick up your pen, you stop understanding. Your muse is mumbling. Or she’s speaking a higher tongue. Either way, the story is not as clear as you thought it was.

       Two choices, at this point: (a) Decide you’re not really an artist after all and the story sucks and throw your tool away and walk because it was a stupid idea to begin with. Or (b) write it down anyway. Move forward. Trust that you are not being given a crap story and commit to seeing it through.

       (b) is, of course, better.

       The muses always give good stories. Alas, they speak no English. As creative people we are meant to listen deeply to their sublime tongues and work out the story they want us to tell. It’s a hard, harsh discipline. But if we’re faithful to the story, the muses will be faithful to us. The universe wants her story told, after all. But she needs a translator.

       Stories are from the Outside. But it’s our painstaking translations and revisions that show them to be the glories that they really are.