My Muse: Inspiring or Vexing? Both…

Sarcophagus known as the "Muses Sarcophag...
Sarcophagus known as the “Muses Sarcophagus”, representing the nine Muses and their attributes. Marble, first half of the 2nd century AD, found by the Via Ostiense. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That vexing, frustrating, intangible personage that appears intermittently to give me inspiration at the best and worst possible times and leave me hanging in a similar position.  Her origin is generally attributed to Ancient Greece where she and her siblings were known as the 9 daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (memory personified).  She has several different variations ranging from one to nine in total depending on whom you ask, but in almost every search, you can find that the Muses were the known for giving inspiration.  In later times, they were actually divided into more specific fields such as tragedy or history but the sake of this article, I will lump them together as the goddesses who preside over artistic creativity, and one in particular who visits me.

We’ve all been there really; whether it was sitting in front of an easel with a brush ready to make that first stroke or sitting in front of a type writer like Chevy Chase in Funny Farm, fingers hovering above the keys in eager anticipation…waiting.  And waiting…  And waiting…  Wait a minute.  Where’s my Muse?  Bloody hell.  She was just here a minute ago…

Cover of "Funny Farm"
Cover of Funny Farm

For some undefinable reason, there are times when the moment I sit down to put my thoughts to paper or make them physical, that beautiful damnable inspiration just *poof*- disappears.  Well what do I do then?  Seriously.  I know there are all sorts of techniques to getting back on track but the train of thought I was hoping to follow is even then, irreparably changed or lost because my thought process from the time I sat down to whenever I might or might not recover it has also been altered.  Whatever I had at the brief moment of blinding clarity has since changed to something else; maybe something better and maybe another dead end waiting for something else to come of it.

In such instances, is it better to simply follow the new path to see where it takes me or try to bludgeon it back into place and hope to power through whatever sludge has clogged the gears?  I’ve tried both methods and occasionally they work but there are times when my Muse deserts me entirely and leaves me with nothing but a blank page and a void where the idea had been.  Boy are those aggravating instances.  You know that moment when you just want to beat your head against a wall because you know it was a great plan of action or something that should have been followed?  Yeah.  That’s when my fickle Muse just leaves me hanging to go do whatever.

I like to think she has important things to go to as well, outside of ‘work’ (i.e. providing bouts of creative energy for writers/artists/photographers/etc.) that would at least give a valid reason as to why she comes and goes with such irritating irregularity.  Though it better be damn important if she’s going to leave my protagonist in the middle of a fight with a dragon and said hero hasn’t even managed to score a single blow or form a plan of attack to counter such a massive creature.  Surely my Muse doesn’t actually want my hero to die a rather ordinary, albeit gruesome death by dragon and end what could have been an epic tale of adventure and sorcery?  All I can think here is Nim’s Island where Alexandra Rover (played by Jodie Foster) keeps writing her protagonist Alex Rover (played by Gerard Butler) into dead ends that would otherwise prove fatal for him if she continued down that line of thought…  I don’t know.  Maybe she does have that perverse sense of humor because I apparently expect so much out of her sometimes.

Now, in older times, it was common practice to invoke the Muses to give inspiration in the work that was being presented or performed.  Would it help the creative process if I started doing such a thing.  “Oh Muses, those governesses of creativity and inspiration, sing to me of…”  Of what?  The adventure I want to create?  Would it then not be their idea as opposed to mine?  Really, I would much prefer to imagine that they give me the creative energy to bring to life whatever project I’m working on instead of the actual words themselves.

In my head, I’ve always personified the ‘muse’ as one of several goddesses, largely because I do favor Greek mythology, but mostly I nod my head to the thought as something that aids in my time of need when I am either running low on ideas or inspires me to greatness.  Not that I would claim my work as such but greatness in the sense of accomplishment in those times when I finished a chapter in one sitting or felt my heart race after the completion of a particularly dangerous fight or escape scene.  Those wonderful, fleeting moments of beautiful creation where everything just comes together and you take a breath in satisfaction or simply smile for the knowledge that you did something worthwhile, even if no one else thinks it.

The beauty of the Muses is that I don’t see them caring about what anybody else might think of my ‘creative genius’ (laughs at self here).  They inspire and help to drive us to be better and do better if only for the sheer joy of what we want to create.  While it’s completely possible and quite probable that said work could use some touching up, the idea and the story behind it is what we make it.  Of course, I could be entirely off track and completely out of my mind but even that would be fun.  Not everything has to make sense all the time and the adventure could still be a success at the end of the journey.  It just depends on how you look at it and what sort of filter you have in place at the time.

I feel as if this was a bit of a rambling mess but I am curious as to what you think in regards to Muses.  Do you have one?  Several?  Something else entirely that you attribute internally to your success as opposed to an outside creative influence.  In those moments of writer’s block or just a lack of where to go, what do you do to get back on track?


Go for a walk?

Free write?

Watch a movie or read a book?

Something else…?

Thank you for reading and have an awesome and creative day!

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