The Muse and Me

Have you ever had a muse, or a muse-like experience where you felt so passionate, or “taken over” by a creative spirit or compulsion to express and create? This is more than just “in the zone” … it’s almost as if someone or something takes over and writes for you.

Four examples of a muse in my life are shared below.

Example One – I was taking a senior level English course with the ominous title “Transformational Grammar and Advanced Creative Writing”. The program was exactly as the title … a writing course that made sure you dissected the grammar. Remember diagraming sentences? This was far more interesting as it dismembered each sentence to parts of speech, syllables, suffixes/prefixes and even lower in the structure. You could get credit for the course as a senior level English or Linguistics class. The professor was my first muse. She believed in and encouraged my writing. She was , the first to point out the value of reading regularly, journaling, and submitting what you wrote. She helped get me published the first time in a university publication and then a historical study in a military magazine. She told me I should embrace a bohemian lifestyle and write full-time. She turned me on to Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Sylvia Plath, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Jack Kerouac.

Example Two – I was motivated to the point of being driven, to have a laser-focus. Me driven, can you believe? Anyway, I wanted to get into a doctoral program and needed to start getting published in my then chosen discipline – religious education. I went to the best conferences, met the right people, and paid the price. This wasn’t a once and done thing. It was getting one then two then three then four then five then six a year published. Sheer vanity … I wrote some very good articles like “What I Learned when a Church Member Died”, an article about preaching my first funeral and the shortcomings of the religious education curriculum to prepare the associate minister in this critical area is an example.

Example Three – Nancy Karen Vandiver Garrison … I know her from high school. We also went to the same university. We did prose interpretation and literary criticism together in University Interscholastic League competition way back 45 years ago. Thanks to social media and email we talk nearly every day for years and still do, as recently as in the last few seconds. She holds me accountable to keep on writing and never give up. More than anything, she encourages me to ignore the rejections. She also says what’s next when I get an acceptance. She is a darn good poet and supporter of the arts. Plus, we both love The Monkees!

Example Four – In 1992, I wrote 175 pages in one day for a nonfiction book I was working on. I have had some 50 to 75 page experiences in writing that happen the same way. Sometimes I have poems bounce around in my head and won’t quit talking to me until I relocate them to paper. It can be very surreal. I’ve had several magazine articles that I’ve sold to publications like Children’s Leadership, Preschool Leadership, Poetry & Prose Magazine and Bewildering Stories that just flowed almost perfectly.

I find the muse magically appears when I put my behind in the chair and write.

Background on Muses: The Muses, the personification of knowledge and the arts, especially literature, dance and music, are the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (memory personified). Hesiod’s account and description of the Muses were the one generally followed by the writers of antiquity. It was not until Roman times that the following functions were assigned to them, and even then there was some variation in both their names and their attributes:

  • Calliope -epic poetry;
  • Clio -history;
  • Euterpe -flutes and lyric poetry;
  • Thalia -comedy and pastoral poetry;
  • Melpomene -tragedy;
  • Terpsichore -dance;
  • Erato -love poetry;
  • Polyhymnia -sacred poetry;
  • Urania -astronomy.

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