However...I think there's a very large chance that what I'm going to say may offend a lot of people on my flist-- or, if not offend, I think they'll rather strongly disagree with it. So, here are some caveats. What's below the cut is not absolute truth. It is only my personal opinion, and it could very well be wrong. Nobody is wrong simply for disagreeing with me. What works in writing for me may not work in writing for you, and vice versa.
So, you may be asking, what am I going to write about that might engender such a firestorm of protest and vitriol?
More to the point, why I don't like muses.
As I've said before...er, somewhere (meaning I can't remember when, so I can't provide a link to it), I don't have muses as other writers on my flist do. ("Muses" in the sense of "characters who carry on an active life inside one's head.") Perhaps this is my own failing; perhaps it is a symptom of a stunted and diseased imagination. Whatever the reason, though, I don't have them.
I realize that others do, and that their muses are very loud and insistent. Hence the caveats at the beginning. (There's a risk involved in criticizing the writing processes of others, because writers often get very personally invested in their work, to the point where criticism of the writing becomes criticism of the writer. And there's nothing wrong with this-- indeed, I'd argue that good writing requires that kind of personal investment and personal passion. And again, to avoid any misunderstanding, I'll reiterate: There's nothing wrong with you if you have muses. I'm not passing personal judgement on you; I'm only trying to explain why I, personally, don't like using them as part of my writing process.)
With me, this all comes down to an issue of responsibility for one's writing. Let me explain. I don't mean responsibility in the sense of "accountability" like so many people do these days; I'm not saying "if your piece is bad, it's all your fault, assface." Rather, I'm talking about responsibility in the sense of ownership, of you being the source of your writing.
All fiction is a deliberate construction of the writer. This may seem obvious and trite on the surface, but if you think about it a little, it can become a tool of great power. If you write a piece of fiction, everything--every character, description, action, metaphor, allusion--is in there because you deliberately put it there. At the end of the day, it is the writer's own judgement on the writer's own story that creates it.
And muses... well, it seems to me that they undercut this responsibility. This weekend, I ran across an entry by juleskicks, which references this post by Meg Cabot...and, for lack of a better word, it really struck a chord in me. Probably because it puts into words some things that I find really fundamental in my own writing process, but I didn't have the words for before. Because... yes, you know these characters, you know their backgrounds and motivations, their likes and dislikes, their childhoods and first loves and all that; and yes, your characters may be alive and kicking in your brain, screaming about how they want to do this, not that... But when you get right down to it, nobody else will know about your characters if you don't write their stories. And you are the person who controls that story and how it gets told.
The power to create and control your story is in your hands. What you do with it is your decision, and your decision alone.
If I have offended anyone, I am very sorry. I did not intend to hurt or attack anyone. It is not my place to dictate how you write; I only intended to share my own admittedly biased views on the subject.