Updated: May 1, 2021
Inspiration is the windfall from hard work and focus. Muses are too unreliable to keep on the payroll. Helen Hanson
There are two definition according to the Oxford Dictionary. My favourite go-to vessel of words and meanings:
A muse is a Greek or Roman goddess.
A person or personified essence or force that that is, or brings, a source of inspiration to the artist. In my case, the writer.
A little mythology lesson…
There were nine muses, and they were under the control of the Greek god Zeus. Zeus was the god of all gods and goddesses. Each muse was responsible for one element of life and Mnemosyne (pronounced: nem-mo-see-nee) presided over the Arts and Sciences.
Arts and Sciences. Together.
As an arts (English and Drama) teacher, I’m exposed to the never-ending academic tussle surrounding the funding and significance between the arts and science subjects. Competition between the arts and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects, which I do agree is important for students, especially girls, to study, does at times, shunt and reduce the importance of art subjects such as drama, visual arts, dance and music. Fortunately, English is safe, being the only compulsory subject all the way to Year 12, a ruling set down by the state education authorities here in Australia.
But I digress.
Mnemosyne’s name comes from the Greek word mnēmē meaning remembrance and memory. She was a Titan and one of nine sisters who had the ability to reason and to remember. She was believed to invent writing and speech. This is why orators, kings and poets praised and trusted her for inspiration. After the Titans were defeated by the Greek god Zeus—bringing the Golden Age of Titan rule to an end—Mnemosyne and her sisters were allowed to live free but they had to rule the cosmos as Greek goddesses.
Most writers I know or have listened to in interviews, have a muse or refer to one.
I have a muse.
Like my inner critique, my muse is personified. She has stepped out of a pre-Raphaelite painting. She has white skin, long, thick, wavy red hair, deep blue eyes and full pink lips. She enters my space quietly and wraps her essence around me. Whispering her encouragement and praise.
That is... when she comes.
But she is fickle. Independent and stubborn. She cannot be told what to do or when to be present. She is a woman to herself. She chooses when to come. She is in control of herself.
What my muse has taught me are resilience and independence. To be strong as a writer and to show up every day. To not wait for her.
This is what I have learnt to do.
When there are moments in my drafting that are difficult, I push through. I keep writing. On average, these writing days seem to only last for one to three days. Then I am rewarded and the ideas flow. My muse has come to visit. Sometimes she stays for a while but never staying for more than a week before she is gone again.
I have learnt to respect her and in doing so I have come to respect myself as a writer.
Writing is hard. It's never easy. It never was.
I once heard a writer say that if it was, everyone would be doing it. But it does give me joy.
I was listening to an interview with author Monica McInerney, on the So You Want to be a Writer Podcast (Episode 363), and she said writing has to be joyful. I agree.
Joy comes from within you. You can control this not your muse. Whenever, I feel dejected, or exhausted from wrestling with my inner critique or taming that relentless imposter syndrome, I stop. I make a cup of peppermint tea with lavender flowers infused in it (and a sneaky little bit of organic honey) and remind myself why I write.
The answer is always the same. It's always simple.
It brings me joy.
So, when I am alone without my muse, I pull on my big girl pants and just get on with it. When she visits, I cherish her. Either way, I always thank her. Thank her for giving me the gift of imagination and to be creative. Thank her for giving me the gift of language and words so I can write.
Well … I also thank all my English teachers and literature professors for helping me with those gifts too.
Do you have a muse? Who is your muse?
Image courtesy of Bogdan Lazar @ Dreamstime.com