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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Musing about the Muse

"Those who work only when the Muse strikes them make little progress." (William V. Dunning)


Thank you William, your words are so true! Any writer, poet or artist will tell you that if they waited for the muse to appear at their shoulder then there would be little in this world of great literature, poetry or art. The creative life is, I am afraid to say, 10% inspiration and 90% hard graft!


Since becoming "differently employed" in November last year, I have learned that my previous excuses of work pressures no longer excused me from writing. I have spent many mornings sitting at a blank computer screen (well not completely blank, generally it was occupied by Facebook or some other distraction). In order to write I have had to chain my muse by the ankle to the desk and she has howled and sulked and occasionally come up with the goods, but writing, like my previous employment is hard work. Some days the words flow and other days they have to be drawn out like fingernails.


So, who are these muses that so torment us?  According to Greek mythology there were nine of the lovely ladies:



  • Calliope:  Epic Poetry (symbolised by a writing tablet)
  • Clio:  History (a scroll)
  • Erato: Love poetry (a cythara - harp)
  • Euterpe: Song and Elegaic Poetry (an aulos - flute)
  • Melpomene:  Tragedy (tragic mask)
  • Polyhymnia: Hymns (veil)
  • Terpsichore:  Dance (lyre)
  • Thalia:  Comedy (comic mask)
  • Urania: Astronomy (globe and compass)
The word "muse" comes from the Greek "mousa" meaning to excel in arts and in the ancient Greek culture, this covered all learning. Modern words such as "music" owe their derivation to the mousa.


I have decided my own personal muse thrives on stress.  With an imminent overseas trip, a bathroom renovation and general domestic upheaval, I signed off on a draft of one of my WIPs last week with the decision that I would take a break from writing to get everything sorted out. 

That is when my muse came out to play. Without warning I felt compelled to shake the dust off my novella. I have decided this particular story is born of stressful occasions, as I started writing it during my father's last illness.  Suddenly I found I could pass the computer and out would come another few hundred words, without conscious thought and recourse to Facebook or Spider Solitaire. 

Perhaps I am not meant to be a "full time writer", maybe I need some added dimension to my life to kick start my muse into life, or maybe it is just about self discipline and taming my muse into submission?

What kick starts your muse? 



PS You may notice that my blog has changed "look" - that's just me procrastinating again. Then again I am still in spring cleaning mode so a fresh new look for the spring?

2 comments:

  1. Alison, maybe you're a grazing writing and work best in short bursts and need the time doing other stuff to let the muse do her 'stuff'? I'm the kind of writer who must be locked in her office and not allowed out until word count is reached. I can bribe myself with things to attain my goals, which is all very well and good, but if I don't do the lockdown thing those bribes stay unopened, unread, unwatched or uneaten (or, horrors, undrunk!) :-)

    Have fun with your novella!

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  2. You're absolutely right, Yvonne. I am not good at sitting still!

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