above: "Three Muses" a painting from Pompeii
In ancient Greek Mythology, the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne have been depicted in art throughout history in many different forms, sometimes holding musical instrument, writing tablets or scrolls. They were known to be the embodiment of what inspired artists, poets and musicians in their craft.
For an artist, a "muse" may be the longing gleam in a lover's eye or perhaps the gentle curve of a woman's silhouette.
For one artist, Leonardo da Vinci, it was simply Mona Lisa's smile.
For Edgar Alan Poe, his muse was thought to have been the loss of his beloved wife, Virginia Clemm, that inspired his dark and twisted tales of death and the macabre.
For musicians, often, inspiration comes from something that touched them or was near and dear to the individual creating the lyric or melody.
For me, it's often something simple and varies from day to day.
When I first began writing seriously, I loved to get in my car and drive long country roads, sometimes without the radio and then other times with classical music playing in the background. I would drive until a scene became visible in my mind and the words to describe it would simply come. Driving on desolate roads allowed me to role play freely, so there were rarely witnesses to the crazy woman driving down the road talking to herself.
Now, I save gas and time, by turning off the phone and television, popping a CD in the stereo, and slipping off into the dark and twisted crevices of mind. I hope I don't get lost in there someday, but if I do, maybe my books will become more valuable and my kids will reap the reward. (LOL!)
I've even managed to find inspiration from a photo, song or even something I may have heard someone say in passing.
As a young woman, I would have conversations in the mirror while doing my hair or makeup, as though I were rehearsing for a play. I thought I was just a little nuts, but the way I understand it now, my creative process was cultivating scenes in my mind and speaking the words aloud applied the inflection that would dictate the tone of the story. I never wrote anything down back then, but now, no matter where I am, when a conversation plays out in my head, I find a way to get it on paper so I can build a story or scene around it.
Often times, an argument or conflict I've rehearsed in my head will be spoken aloud, as though I were the two characters involved. (Try being a fly on the wall on those days.)
Doing the dishes or taking long hot baths in silence sometimes helps me to find that "muse". Then again, the voices in my head could be just a sign of insanity. Which is highly probable in my case.
Nevertheless, whether I would be better off in a straight jacket or not, as long as there is something in the world to inspire me, I am going to use it.
Over the last few months I can't tell you how many people have told me, "I've always wanted to write."
To which I would reply, "Do it!"
There is no formula set in stone to the creative process, and each writer I have ever met has their own way of doing things. It's as individual as the way we fold towels when doing laundry or the systematic way we place dishes in the dishwasher. We each have our own style and have our own muses to inspire us.
So, if you ever catch me standing in line at the grocery store and find that I seem to be fixated on some magazine picturing some young, muscular hunk of a man on the cover, don't fret... the handsome lad is just finding his way into my head so I can breathe life into him when I get him home. Just pass by and leave me to my pondering, and rest assured that someday you will read all about him in some story I've conjured up.
Find inspiration in whatever you do, and remember... a muse is whatever you need it to be.