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Monday, April 19, 2010

The Muse...Do You Believe?

I've come to realize recently that the topic of the muse seems to be a controversial one in the world of writing. When I first started writing, I thought the muse was something all artists believed in. You would always hear someone say "Oh, the muse just wasn't on my side today," or "My muse is speaking to me today - I better get to work!" But after being in the business for several years now, I find that not everyone puts their faith in the muse. I personally am still on the fence when it comes to the muse.

There are some who believe strongly in the muses and call on them depending on the muse's area of expertise. These muses come from Greek Mythology and they were the deities who gave inspiration to artists and philosophers. They were the nine daughters born of Zeus after he bewildered Mnemosyne. They were all artistically inclined and trained in the arts by Apollo. Their specialties are as follows...

Calliope - Epic Poetry
Clio - History
Erato - Lyric Poetry
Euterpe - Music
Melpomene - Tragedy
Polyhymnia - Choral Poetry
Terpischore - Dance
Thalia - Comedy
Urania - Astrology

**To learn more about the muses individually, this is a great site! The 9 Muses

Pictured: The Muses Clio, Euterpe, and Thalia, byEustache Le Sueur

So there are your Nine Muses. I've never called on any of them specifically, and I wonder how many actually do. The muse in modern day culture refers, in general, to a person or being that inspires a writer, musician or artist. But perhaps calling on the goddess of history or comedy wouldn't be such a bad thing in my case!

On the flip side, you have those who don't believe at all in the muse. On the last page of every edition of Woman’s Day magazine is a page of inspirational quotes by any number of notable figures. In the September 1, 2009 edition, they included a quote by Pablo Picasso that got me thinking. He says, “Inspiration does exist, but it must find you working.”

On my journey as a writer, I’ve gone through many phases, trying to figure out how I work best. One of those phases was “waiting for the muse”, and I have to admit, she never came. No visions, no dreams, no lighting bolts of inspired scenes. There was just a whole lot of waiting, a whole lot of whining that my muse had left me or that I had writer’s block, and a whole lot of blank pages.

But as soon as I had the courage to sit down and start righting, BOOM! There were the lighting bolts, the ideas, the inspired scenes! The only times I am truly struck with inspiration are the times when I’m working – in some capacity – on my craft. In other words, “inspiration…must find me working.”

But I'm always left wondering if it's the muse that has found me once I've started writing? Or if it's just my willingness to finally apply myself to the task of writing. Does the "muse" really find any of us? Or are we all just too modest to take credit for our own work? What do you think? Are you a believer? Does your muse have to be present in order for you to work? Or does she find you once you're behind the keyboard?


  1. I happen to believe in the muse. My muse knows when I'm tired, and especially knows when I'm at work because it refuses to inspire while I'm at my day job. I suppose that's a good thing. lol

    The first time I heard the word 'muse' was when I saw that movie with Olivia Newton-John all those years ago called Xanadu. (this dates me doesn't it?)

    But my muse is real and helps my creativity...unless I have too much going on in my life. Then my muse takes a short vacation. lol


  2. 1 point for the muse! LOL!

    Thanks for your comment, Marie! Xanadu made a comeback on Broadway last year, so we'll just pretend that was the version you saw, so you won't date yourself. LOL! I should rent that movie...I hear it's a lot of fun!

    Knowing how much and how fast you can write, I'd say you got the pick of the litter when it comes to muses!! :)

  3. I'm not a big fan of the muse. I write every day. Some days it's easy, other days it's not.

    When it's hard, I usually take that as a sign that I'm missing something. I go back and re-examine GMC's, look at character arcs, trace the hero's journey. Most of the time, that's enough to jump start me.

    I often throw out entire chapters of misguided, bad writing. But I never wait for the muse to find me.

  4. 1 for the muse, 1 against! :)

    Sounds like you're more in the Picasso camp, Gail! Good for you for writing every day. I really need to get on a schedule so that I'm doing that again!

  5. I do have a muse, he is a man and his name is Patrick. I made this discovery not too long ago. This came as a complete surprise to me since I always invisioned a beautiful woman, long flowing hair . . . I think that image stuck in my head from the one Charmed episode when a demon was out to kill muses

  6. I love Charmed! That was a great show!

    So that's 2 for the muse, and 1 against :)

    I think it's hilarious that your muse is a guy named Patrick...hopefully he's a hottie!

  7. Count me as one who doesn't believe that waiting for inspiration to strike is the productive way to go. I won't say there isn't such thing as a muse - we all have inspiration somewhere. But waiting around for it to show up is wasted time. Write whether you're inspired or not. As Nora Roberts is famous for saying, you can fix a bad page, but you can't fix a blank page.

    I will go on record saying I don't believe in writer's block. I do, however, believe in fear, which some writers believe manifests itself as writer's block. Essentially, if I find the words aren't flowing from me, I take a look at what I'm afraid of - imperfection, heading in the wrong direction, failure, etc. Once I know what my fear is, then I can confront the fear and move forward with my writing.

  8. Love that quote by Picasso! I bit more poetic than Edison's perspiration/inspiration quote, but they both do the trick.

    Put me down for no muse, though I highly envy those artists who get visits from such a creature. I don't believe in a muse the same way I don't believe in characters telling me to do anything as in, "but my hero didn't want to do that". Again, very jealous of writers whose characters talk to each other because then, I could simply transcribe the dialogue instead of sweating over it. Maybe I'm too much of a control freak to let the muse in? :)

  9. Okay, 2 for muse, 1 against, and 1 who sort of believes. LOL!

    Catherine, my belief in writer's block was challenged by Janet Evanovich at Nationals last summer. She doesn't believe in it, either. And I have to agree wholeheartedly with your assessment of the condition.

    Thanks for your comments!

  10. Great post Jerrica,
    I'm like you, on the fence about the muse. I make myself write at least an hour or two everyday or at least I try to. But I've had days where something hit me and I had to write it down. I can see the scene in my head and picture it like a movie. Was it the muse? I don't know. Perhaps. So I guess I kind of do a little of both.
    As far as writer's block and fear, I see them as one and the same. It's whatever you choose to call it but it does the same thing, prevents the words from coming to you. I personally don't call it anything because to give it a name gives it importance. I simply keep trying to write and when I can't, I put it away and go do something else. Then I come back tomorrow to try agian. The successful authors are the ones who didn't give up. =)

  11. I should clarify that Patrick doesn't work if I don't. He is mum until I am in the chair and fingers at the keyboard. If I waited on him, nothing would get written.

  12. Jeannie, so funny! I totally understand about the control freak...I fall into that category at times as well.

    Well said, Melissa. I like your comment about giving it a name gives it importance. I think of other things in those kinds of terms, but I've never thought of that as far as writers block goes.

    So, the tally so far for the muse is:

    2 for
    2 against
    2 sort of


  13. I don't HAVE to have my muse in order to write. Deadlines have to be met, after all. But life sure is easier when my muse is whispering in my ear. ;)

  14. My muse comes from the chatter in my head. When I am doing a good job on my story, the characters talk constantly, but when I am not taking their story in the right direction, they take a hike. I hate that empty void where my creativity is supposed to be. Luckily for me, the music from Phantom of the Opera usually tempts them to return. That, and once I realize where I am going wrong, my muse rocks again.

  15. I find that ideas come to me when I'm engaged in writing. I never sit around and wait to be inspired. I either write daily, edit or critique. Sometimes I do all three. Now I'm flooded with ideas, too many to write.

    There are days when I feel I'm simply the conduit for the story. I'm watching it unfold as it is written. Is that a muse? I don't know, but I love that feeling.

  16. An enthusiastic muse could explain why I hear voices. LOL. I could place the blame for my long list of story ideas squarely on the shoulders of a muse who really should learn to take a holiday!

    I have a ton of them, and nowhere near enough time to write. And she interrupts family time, visiting me when I really should not be thinking about writing at all. But, since I like to plan ahead I dutifully jot them down in preparation for when the muse gets bored with messing with my head. Maybe a gag would work?? :oD

  17. Lydia, you write like the wind, and what you write is awesome, so I have to think your muse is on your side most of the time :)

    Paisley - love your name, by the way - I hate the void that takes the place of my creativity! I've been there more often than I'd like to admit. It's frustrating. But at least you have Phantom to get you going again!

    Samantha and Heather - I'm totally jealous that you both have more ideas than you have time to write! LOL! But that's wonderful! Samantha, I do know that feeling of feeling like a conduit for the story - that's my favorite thing ever!

  18. I don't beleive in the muse, but I have been struck with a great scene, a great story, or a great line. IMO, anyway. What would I call this? My imagination. I would never have finished a book though if I did not take that great story, line or scene and sent down and apply hours and hours of hard work.