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Mogbolahan A Koya-Oyagbola

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Finding the Muse
by Mogbolahan A Koya-Oyagbola   
Rated "PG13" by the Author.
Last edited: Sunday, October 11, 2009
Posted: Sunday, October 11, 2009

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Attempting to explain the general influences that impact an author's writing is somewhat fraught with danger. At the moment of identifying and labelling tho

Attempting to explain the general influences that impact an author's writing is somewhat fraught with danger. At the moment of identifying and labelling those influences they cease to be ethereal and their power over the author evaporates. That is the experience of this writer at any rate. Watching some film which never fails to inspire can lead to periods of prolific output. The moment one starts to watch any given movie solely as a means of inspiration, that very same concrete expectation of inspiration destroys the ethereal muse.

Expectation is strident, bullying and tyrannical. Hope however is a delicate flower; a soft spoken maiden; a wholesome, nourishing, spiritual meal. When the artist's muse visits, just like hope she is delicate, nourishing and soft spoken. She visits halfway through the night, halfway through the day, or even as the artist lies down to sleep. For all her soft spoken ways she is an exacting mistress who demands to be loved however, whenever, wherever she visits. And yes, the artist loves her passionately and unconditionally. When I wrote the short story "Seafood Pasta", my muse came in the form of the impressionist works - particularly of Monet, Seurat and Cezanne. Unsurprisingly "Seafood Pasta" is suffused with references to shapes and colours. If you were to ask me why impressionist art is one of my muses I would be hard pressed to give a precise answer. The hold art in general and impressionism in particular exerts over me is so strong that if I had the money I might well be tempted to buy the Seurat painting, "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte".

For my short story, "Countdown", the pathologically neurotic protagonist of Hitomi Kanehara's novel "Autofiction" was the muse. In wanting to write about a suicidal female character I did lots of research into the causes of depression and at a certain point I felt I needed to read fictional accounts by female authors; works which dealt with emotional longing and neuroses predominantly from the female perspective. I found "Autofiction" and Elina Hirvonen's "When I Forgot" to be treasure troves. So yes, in addition to film, paintings, photography, other works of fiction can also act as a muse.

Anything that comes across as vulnerable, delicate and or unusual is my muse. Being well travelled (I've lived in seven different countries) I've lost the smugness of easy categorisation. I make no easy assumptions about people and places, which means I open myself to the unusual and unexpected in everything I encounter. Further, I try not to judge self-righteously. When successful this is a real boon for my art form. Becoming strident instead of trying to understand people's underlying fears, on the other hand, compromises and abrogates the creative impulse. In watching "Heading South", a film which touchingly deals with the under-explored issue of women as exploiters in the sexual tourism trade, I was inspired to write the short story, "Double Helix". Given that I am a black man and the exploited of the film are black, this called for a relinquishing of the categories of black and white, rich and poor, male and female.

Beyond being black or white, male or female, rich or poor, humankind's true image is potential. That potential to mould oneself into whatever one wills through dark nights of delicate hope is humanity's gift. While watching "Heading South" I managed to let go of the labels that divide humanity so my muse could visit as I started to fall asleep. In the dark hour of her visit, "Double Helix" was born.

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