Musings on Muses

So over at Romance University yesterday, D. D. Scott provided a guest post called Name That Muse.  Go read it, it’s funny.


Well I was amused, so I sent it to Pot, who was intrigued but kind of confused.  See, Pot doesn’t really get the idea of muses.  When we were discussing the post this morning, she said, “I don’t get the concept of one entity that inspires.  Like I would more think that it’s each individual character making itself known.  Would you say it’s like naming the part of your brain that does that?  Is that what people are calling a muse?”

I thought this was a really interesting question.  What IS a muse, really?

Well let’s go back to myth.  According to Encylopedia Mythica,

The Greek goddesses who presided over the arts and sciences. They were believed to inspire all artists, especially poets, philosophers, and musicians. The Muses were the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory.

So historically speaking, we have this idea of these goddesses who were supposed to go around waving their divine hands and providing inspriation to us creative types.  This puts the onus for inspiration squarely outside ourselves.  I think this is what Pot really doesn’t get.  She has the gift of being able to write something (usually a good something) every time she sits down with the intent to write.  She just does it.  She doesn’t wait for inspiration to strike or look to some outside source.

Or does she?

When I pointed out how she so frequently finds ideas in song lyrics and music, it seemed reasonable that her muses are really Ben (as in Breaking Benjamin) and Amy (as in Lee of Evanescence).  I can’t tell you how many stories she’s spun out from their songs.

But I digress.

Since I really don’t think most of us are TRULY under the illusion that there are goddesses roaming the earth whom we have to placate in order to receive the blessings of the divine and a few drops of inspiration juice in our blood-shot, computer-strained eyes, I think it really is a relevant question to ask: What is a muse?

Is a muse anything that inspires us?  Music (like me), lyrics (like Pot), photographs, art, articles, research, random snippets of conversation?  Is anything up for grabs in terms of what we consider a muse?

I’m going to say no.  These are all things that can inspire, yes.  But really, they feed the muse.  They aren’t the muse itself.

Which comes back to the question of what a muse is.  I really think Pot actually hit the nail on the head with the idea that people are really referring to that part of their brain that deals in and processes inspiration.  :pauses to consider how that might make an interesting cognitive psychology study:  Okay I’m over it.  Back now.  So if the muse is really a part of your brain, and it responds and will produce different things depending on what it’s “fed”, does that mean that even mentally, you are what you “eat” (aka: read/watch/hear/absorb)?

Food for thought.

Anyway, I was very intrigued by D. D. Scott’s notion of naming your muse (or muses).  The concept of having more than one never occurred to me.  And the idea of naming it never really popped into my head either.  I’m not sure why.  I named my internal editor.  Naomi.  She’s this really annoying, pushy, always right red-head, who’s always well-groomed and has a passion for those ludicrous pumps that women seem to like that I don’t know how people walk in.  She’d fit in really well in New York.

But my muse?  I don’t know what she’s like.  I don’t even know if she’s a she.  It could be a he for all I know (although traditionally muses are women).  I guess that’s something I’ll think about over the weekend while I’m playing Florence Nightengale to my mom (who just had knee surgery AGAIN, this time on the other knee) in the Land O’ Dial-up (SAVE ME!).

One thought on “Musings on Muses

  1. I’m for the unconscious as the muse, and a resounding YES to the question of are we what we input. Absolutely! That’s why we end up writing like what we read the most, etc. I do believe in individuality, and our person mixes with what is input, and the alchemy that results is creativity.

    Hoping the weekend wasn’t too bad. My mama has had both knees replaced and is now the energizer bunny! May your mother receive the same.

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