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What does your Muse look like?

I’ve known for a while what my writing muse looks like.

I’ve always been fascinated with Betta fish, and this is my latest, Sukhwant Singh.

Male Betta fish are lonely creatures (yes, my muse is male, so sue me!), they are fiercely protective of their territory, and they are so goddamn flashy, temperamental, voracious, and beautiful– all the qualities I like in my Muse.

My Bettas die, once a year more or less, sometimes eleven months, sometimes fourteen. I have had Lalwant Singh, who was preceded by Kartar Singh, who had un-named predecessors.

Heartlessly enough, I go and buy a new one–is it heartless to replace your Muse with another? I suppose so. But most writers are heartless, I’ve found, at least some of the time when they’re writing!

If you check the links to their names, you’ll see I spend quite a lot of time thinking about my Bettas. My Betta fish tank sits atop a bookshelf, right beside another large aquarium, and I spend several happy hours a week on the bean bag right beside the tank–reading, dreaming. I write there, sometimes.
Whenever I’m writing, no matter where I am, the image of my jewel-like Betta fish is never far away–irrespective of my story.

So what does your Muse look like?

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her next literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and was published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • Jo says:

    Have you tried placing a mirror where Sukhwant Singh can see it? He just might last a tad longer.

    Why Singh? That's Indian surely, bettas are supposed to be Siamese.

  • DJ says:

    hi Damyanti, this is the second time I am reading over post. There was something inexplicable that brought me back and now I realized that I do have a muse, its the Gulmohar tree, with or without the flowers and/or leaves.

    Thanks for the interesting post which made me discover something about myself I was not aware of till now 🙂

  • Elizabeth says:

    We're not a pet family but have enjoyed some betas over the years. My favorite was a peacock blue one. I love to tap the glass and see them puff of. I don't have a writing muse, but I think it's great you're able to replace yours when the need arises.

  • John Evans says:

    A faerie queen in a kimono and bob cut.

    Don't ask me why, because I can't explain it…

  • Damyanti says:

    Joe, Thanks for the three pictures you let me use. I loved them all. I'll be back to visit often.

    Elaine, that's a great tradition. I was conflicted about getting bettas for the longest time– because they're kept so badly in the trade because of their aggression—in the tiniest of cubby holes. But I know I'm weak now, and so just get them when I can't resist.

    PT, my Muse can be fish because I believe in rebirths– a dying fish is just changing its clothes to get newer, better ones :).

    Lynn, as do mine. But I like to pretend my Bettas sparked them!

    Michael, yes, they're naturally aggressive, so they need to be kept in a tank all their own. They behave beautifully then, eating out of your finger, and curling up against it.

    Nutschell, a whole lot of authors have cat muses 🙂

    Summer, I knew your Muse would be a fairy!

    Martha—'personality' was the word I'm looking for. An unlikely thing in a fish, but Bettas have it.

    Louise–a cat fascinated by a fish in a tank can be a fascinating yet frightening thing.

    Annalisa, that's the most beautiful Muse I've ever heard of.

    Michelle, thanks for the shout-out, and your fascination with music showed in your A-Z posts!

    Libby, tragic was another word I was looking for. Yes, Bettas are tragic, cos only the male of the species is prized for its beautiful looks, and is often sequestered in small packets and cubby holes cos it is aggressive towards other males. I debated for a long time about keeping Bettas, because it encourages abuse, and I'm still not very proud that I own a Betta.

    Jocelyn, I try never to name my fish, for the very same reason, but the Bettas seem to name themselves 🙂

  • Jocelyn Rish says:

    I love the image of a Betta fish as your muse!

    I had one for a while that I oh so originally called Mr. Fishy. I was a lot more sad than I thought I'd be when he passed on to that fish bowl in the sky, so I never replaced him.

    Wishing you a very productive #writemotivation month,

  • Libby says:

    I've had bettas, they're beautiful and feisty and somehow tragic. Nice choice for a muse. 🙂

  • michelle says:

    Most of the time, my muse appears via the medium of music… I hear her in a melody, in song lyrics, a drumbeat, and other different musical forms/instruments.

    Check out my A to Z Reflections post. I've given you a shout out!

  • What a great question. My Muse is actually me aged about 3. She flits into the room, runs around like crazy, throws an awful lot of ideas at me and then runs out again giggling while I try and make sense of the mess she's left behind!

    Those fish are beautiful.

  • Beautiful! I love betas. Had to give them up when one particularly persistent cat became obsessed with mine. I've read that artists are especially attracted to beauty, like betas.

  • Martha says:

    I love Bettas, always have. The males have so much more personality than the females or any other fish!

  • Summer Ross says:

    Great picture. i think beta's are gorgeous.
    My muse is a fairy, who changes her appearance consistently.

  • nutschell says:

    a betta reader! how clever!
    My muse is a lot of things and takes on different form:) mostly they come in the form of my two kitties:)
    Happy weekend!

  • I don't like bettas. They are very aggressive and kill other fish.

  • Lynn Proctor says:

    hmmm hard question–my inspirations, just come–mostly from my own life experiences or dreams–beautiful fish!

  • I wouldn't want my muse to be a fish. Fish die really easily. I mean goldfish die like every other day unless you take perfect care of them. I'd want my muse to be something that's tough and awesome like a wolverine.

  • Hey, I'm a betta lover, too! Mine don't have nearly the beautiful names yours do. My current one is Billy Betta, and somehow that seems a little bland, as does his solud blue color compared to the magnificence in name and hue of your muse! I buy one a year on Memorial Day weekend – a tradition I started a long time ago now. (Hey, I just realized it's May, so only a couple of weeks till a new betta friend is headed my way!) Enjoyed your post!

  • Damyanti,

    You're the first person I've met whose beta reader is actually a Betta reader.

    I completely understand having an aquatic muse. I'm usually inspired by places that are rusty dusty and weighty with the past.

    By the way, you were a highlight of this year's A/Z for me. I look forward to following your posts through the remainder of 2012.


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