On the Muses

Lesley Smith’s post today prompted me to revisit my own experiences with the Muses.  It caused me to ask myself this question:  What does my Muse look like?

In classical (Greek) mythology, there are nine named Muses – Calliope, Clio, Euterpe,Thalia, Melpomene, Terpsichore, Erato, Polyhymnia, and Urania.  Though originally only three – Melete, Mneme, and Aoide, it was apparently not sufficient to have generic muses.  Each of the major branches of the arts and sciences (of the time) wanted to have their own and we thus end up with the classical nine.  Who are frequently portrayed thusly –


(Interesting that all are depicted as women; probably has something to do with the connection between creativity [creation] and the ability to bring forth life.  Though I find this particular depiction to be completely unrealistic:  ALL of them have the same hairdo. Either the stylist on Olympus was out the day they stood for this depiction or the style is some kind of guild requirement….)

Interesting too is the fact that there is no Muse who is dedicated specifically to “literature”; we’ve got one for lyric poetry, one for epic poetry, one for sacred poetry, one for pastoral poetry, one for drama, one for comedy.  Unfortunately ‘fiction’ per se wasn’t yet on the scene, unless one counts the Muse for history (which back then was a fine mixture of the real and the imagined).  (And note that the count is off as a single Muse usually inspired more than one genre.)

I’m sure that most, if not all, genre writers are familiar with the, or A, Muse, no matter how tied to the real and the scientific they may be: all writers have experienced that moment of inspiration that comes seemingly from nowhere and everywhere at once; most have also experienced those moments when their fingertips seem to be connected to something outside of themselves, the feeling of being a conduit, of writing outside of conscious control.  No doubt it is something inherent, a transcendent mental state that just seems to come from outside.  No doubt that the Muses are the personification of those unconscious mental abilities.

Which leaves me troubled because MY Muse doesn’t look anything like the nine depicted above.  It looks more like a Harpy crossed with a Flying Monkey – glowing blood red eyes, talons, fangs and leathery wings, yet oddly comedic in overall affect.

my muse

It’s also an unreliable Muse with little to no staying power, much more like the Norse god Loki than a Greek Goddess; it likes to tease me with great ideas and then tries to turn everything into a joke.

But that’s my Muse.  Nasty, vicious, flighty and silly.  I wonder what yours looks like?


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  1. Since the first novel was published in 1485 AD and the Muses were created almost two thousand years before, it’s not surprising that there’s no fiction Muse. Also, every woman wore the same hairstyle during that period so no surprise there either.

    I don’t have a Muse, I have an idea demon — a tiny little devil with the face and body of a romance hero who sits on my shoulder and whispers ideas, mainly in my dreams. His favorite thing is to give me new ideas while I’m trying to finish a project, but I’m wise to him. I take notes then do that project after I finish the one I’m on.

  2. I’ve never actually gotten a *look* at my muse. But I know it carries a hammer. Once of those nice, big cartoony wooden mallets. I tend to work on multiple projects simultaneously, so I am not entirely sure if there is just a single muse with a bad case of ADD or a swarm of the little suckers, each with their own mini-hammer…

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