For some people, a muse is a more abstract thing. It’s a way of naming the whatever-it-is that brings you inspiration. Druids often use ‘awen’ as a term, expressing the idea of a sacred flow of inspiration. People can be inspired by pretty much anything, but there are implications when the source of the inspiration is another person, or people.
Not everyone wants to be a muse. It’s a big word, and it can feel like weight, or pressure or responsibility. Getting excited about someone and writing them a poem doesn’t always play out smoothly. It can make slightly more sense in a romantic context, but even there, it can make people really uneasy.
People don’t always recognise themselves in the things created because of them. That can be really unsettling for them. If you find you’ve done this it is really important to put in the time and make sure the other person feels comfortable. For the person with low confidence, there can be a sense of unworthiness, or that the person who is inspired doesn’t really understand how they are. Be gentle with your human muse, and don’t put them on a pedestal in a way that feels precarious to them.
If you’re making something because of a person, it is as well to also make it for them. If you can offer the fruits of your inspiration back in a way that makes your muse happy, you get something more sustainable. Casting someone in the muse role tends to work better when they can feed back and be more of an active participant in the process. If your muse has to stand there being passive while you do things, that can be really uncomfortable for them, through to full on objectifying. The traditional idea of the muse as a beautiful woman who does nothing in her own right, but inspires a man to create is really awful on this score and we all need to move away from it as an approach.
However you handle your relationship(s) with your muse(s) it’s really important that they do not feel used or exposed by what you do. How that works is going to be really individual, but if people feel disrespected or taken advantage of, they won’t stick around to inspire you.
I’ve been around this from both sides. It is weird and unsettling to be told you are inspiring someone when you can’t see how that even worked. It’s uncomfortable if you are told you’ve inspired something and you don’t even like it, worse yet if what you’ve inspired is something you’ve told the creator you really don’t like. At the same time, when people have made things because of me in ways I can relate to, that’s been incredibly happy-making for me.
There are a small group of people who are always on my mind when I’m writing, and I think they know what. Having the focus of writing for specific people really helps me, and I try to pick people who are comfortable in that role and who enjoy interacting with me on those terms. This is also a big part of why I like co-creating with people. When I’m working with someone, and we inspire each other and can both be energised by that, while being equally creative and equally invested, that works very well. It takes away all risk of there being the active creator who holds the power in a situation while the passive muse has to accept whatever happens.