"Our topic this week on The LadyKillers is creativity," I announce. "Such a vast subject! What the heck do people mean anyway, when they say that word?"
My Muse is sitting in the corner of my office, doodling in a sketchbook. She looks up and says, "Mental sex."
I stare at her. "Say what?"
"Hey, I didn't make that up. Roger von Oech did, in a book he wrote called A Whack on the Side of the Head. He said that creative thinking is the sex of our mental lives, the way new ideas are generated. Just like physical sex is the way new organisms come into being. And might I point out that both types of sex give us pleasure?"
"I hadn't thought of it that way before," I confess. "I've been looking up definitions of creativity, and all kinds of words come up: originality, novelty, problem-solving, ideation, innovation, imagination. Lots of -ation words."
Her turn to look puzzled. "Asian words?"
"No, no, -ation words. Fat, fancy nouns that end in -a-t-i-o-n. For instance, in his seminal 1926 tome The Art of Thought, social psychologist Graham Wallas described the creative process as having five stages: preparation, incubation, intimation, illumination, and verification—"
"Nonsense. That kind of stuffy analysis is the opposite of creativity. If you're a writer, all you need is a blank page and a happy Muse."
"And what makes a Muse happy?" I wonder aloud.
"Tea." She holds out her mug. "By the way, this is empty."
I get up from my desk chair and take the mug. "You know, it wasn't until the Enlightment that the notion of creativity took hold. In ancient times it wasn't even a concept. Only the gods could create. All that mortals could do was make or discover things. The role of the Muses was simply to help the gods point the way."
"We Muses have always been misunderstood." She sighs, and then repeats: "Tea."
"Is that all it takes?" I stand up from my desk, mug in hand.
She smiles as she flips open the sketchbook. The page is fresh, white, empty. "Chocolate helps too."
"So tea and chocolate lead to mental sex?"
My Muse nods. "Trust me on this."
I'm both chuckling and shaking my head as I go to the kitchen. When I return a few minutes later with a steaming mug and a chocolate chip cookie, my Muse is scribbling furiously on the formerly blank page.
"Here you go," I say, setting the tea and cookie beside her.
"Thanks. And this is for you," she replies, acting surprisingly shy as she hands me the sketchbook.
I read what's written there, my excitement building with every word. "Wow, this is brilliant! How did you ever come up with it?"
She gives a who-knows shrug. "It will get you started for today."
"Thank you!" I rush to my computer and begin typing. I know there will be rough patches along the way, but the story is off to a fine start. Whatever mystical origin the words came from, they are now flowing through my mind, out from my fingertips and onto the page.
My Muse chomps on her cookie. Wiping crumbs from her chin, she says, "Isn't creativity fun?"