The idea of having a ‘muse’ fascinates me. I often hear other writers referring to their muse, praising them or calling on them for help, and I wonder: are they using it as a gimmick or do they really believe in the presence and power of a mystical muse? Is someone or something really there, sitting on our shoulder and whispering prose in our ears? Or are we alone in our writing endeavours, creating stories through nothing but our own laborious thoughts?
To answer this, maybe we should start by looking at what exactly ‘muse’ means. According to the Free Dictionary, the noun ‘muse’ refers to:
- any of the nine daughters of [Greek Goddess] Mnemosyne and [Greek God] Zeus, each of whom presided over a different art or science
- a guiding spirit
- a source of inspiration
- a poet.
When writers speak of their muse, I believe they’re usually referring to a combination of (2) and (3) –a guiding spirit who provides them with creative inspiration.
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love, has an interesting perspective on the ‘muse’, which is worth hearing regardless of whether you cherished, despised or didn’t even read Eat Pray Love.
Elizabeth has returned to the ancient belief that creative inspiration (i.e. the muse) is an entity independent from us, which speaks through us. She uses this belief as a sort of coping mechanism for those days when the words just aren’t coming – you don’t have to feel so bad, because at least you turned up to do your job; the muse just hasn’t upheld her side of bargain.
You can hear Elizabeth speak about her perspective in the video below. (It’s 20 minutes long but worth the time – I found it inspirational and refreshing).
So that’s one opinion. But I’m interested to hear yours. What do you think about muses? Are they real? Do you have one? Or do you think they’re as fictitious as fairies? Please share. 🙂