Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Amused Muse visited the Museum of Music

"They are all of one mind, their hearts are set upon song, and their spirit is free from care.
He (she) is happy whom the Muses love. For though man (woman) has sorrow and 
grief in his soul, when the Muses sing, at once he forgets his dark thoughts 
and remembers not his troubles. Such is the holy gift of the Muses." Hesiod

Once upon a time it was a universal belief that creativity in the areas of art, poetry, philosophy, music, dancing, writing, science, and history was inspired by the goddesses known as the Muses. Greek mythology originally referred to three goddesses born to Zeus and Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory, but very early on the number was increased to nine. Legends vary, as legends always do, but the existence of the Muses was part of oral history for centuries before the Greeks indelibly immortalized them in poetry and written myths. According to the prevailing legends, the muses were brought to life to make the world disremember the evil, relieve the sorrows, and to praise the gods. Apollo was the main teacher of the Muses and they accompanied him, along with the Graces, strolling through the gardens of Olympus singing and dancing while Apollo played the harp. Among the great poets of the day, most notably Homer, Hesiod, Plutarch, and others that I have never heard of, the Muses were the source of all knowledge. As you can see by my title, “muse” forms the etymological root of many words related to knowledge and art. The nine Muses were the embodiment of art, the creators of music (literally "the art of the Muse"), the inspiration of grace in song and dance.

Yet they were mystical and mysterious. Artists attempted to depict them and eventually gave them names - Calliope, Clio, Erato, Euterpe, Melpomene, Polymnia, Terpsichore, Thalia, and Urania - and even singled out their particular artistic gifting. Yet for the most part it was enough to believe they were, as Solon said, "the key to the good life" and as such they were worshipped as the divine bestowers of all that is beautiful.

Over time the belief in actual goddesses was replaced with flesh and blood women as inspiration. Think Picasso! For other artists it was the idea that creativity sprang from within or was miraculously birthed by something seen around us or perhaps from a different divine origin. Some don't like to give credit to anything or anyone and laugh at the idea of a muse. But most of us who feel the strange urgings of creativity can't deny that there is something magical about it.

I know that magical is how I feel about it. Frequently I am asked where my ideas come from. Sometimes I can point definitively to an essay I read or a tidbit I stumbled across in my research that sparked an idea. Yet even in those instances I have to write the sentences and paragraphs in such a way that it is entertaining and drives the story. I still am not sure how I do that half the time! And all too frequently I suspect I could commiserate with the schizophrenic who hears voices or carries on conversations with invisible people!

Nevertheless, in my particular case, if I had to point to one muse who has inspired my stories, it would be the divinity who bestowed his/her pleasure upon Jane Austen. Her incredible gift, inspired by a muse she never revealed, is apparently alive and well, stirring up the creativity of numerous authors who keep her memory alive by writing fan-fiction. Personally I envision this muse as a tall man, dark and handsome, dressed in snug breeches and a flawlessly tailored jacket with waistcoat and cravat. He whispers in my ear in cultured, resonant tones with an English accent. Yum. Yep, that is enough to keep me inspired and for some bizarre reason giving credence to a manly muse is far preferred than to a voluptuous female!


  1. Good morning everyone! Today I am at the RWA conference in Orlando, beginning my fun and education with the Beau Monde chapter's separate conference. Needless to say, I will be tied up a good portion of the day so unable to pop in until much later, if at all. But I hope you have enjoyed my history lesson and personal thoughts on MUSE.

    Now I am off to be further inspired in whatever way my handsome muse chooses. Ta-Ta! Sharon

  2. I blame everything I write on Thalia, the muse of comedy.

    It's a great way to free myself up by taking no responsibility for what spills out onto the page. LOL

    Have a great time at nationals, Sharon!


  3. Sharon,
    Loved your blog this morning. Hope you are having a blast at RWA.
    The educational lesson on Muses was great but does anyone remember the movie from the late 70's early 80's,Xanadu? It starred Olivia Newton John and I think recently made it's way onto Broadway.

    Well, everytime I think of Muses, I think of that movie. (Am I dating myself or what?) As much as I would like to think of my Muse as a handome man (there is this one that has bedroom eyes, sandy brown hair that I keep thinking of but I don't think it's him).

    But I don't see Olivia Newton John as my Muse either. No this one is more of a fickle, sometimes sarcastic female who looks at life with a bit of a jaundice eye-making me fight back with a bit of romance and turning her on her ear. Maybe that is the challenge she offers me in my writing.

    We all know what relationships in the real world are like. People argue with me at times because I read/write romances and don't live in the real world. I live in the real world with real situations--my Muse is possibly that antagonist to my creativity for the ultimate HEA.

    She's a pickle at times. I'm just not sure if she's a sweet gerkin or a dill. All I know is she's an interesting challenge and yes, I argue with her vocally at times. Does that mean I am crazy or an artist? LOL

  4. Sharon, you have the plan! Why didn't I think of it? Duh! I'm trading my female muse for a male--a tall, dark, handsome and dangerous male!


  5. Hi Sharon! I have to say, I love the image of your personal muse. :} I hope you have a wonderful time at RWA!