I recently led a Sacred Writing Circle in which our theme was to explore the role that muses play in inspiring us … for creating the spark that can result in a painting, a five-star meal, a medical breakthrough, an act of forgiveness or, in this case, an idea for a blog post.
No matter what we do in life, we need inspiration. Muses do that for us. Sometimes we aren’t even aware of who or what they are — but they never forget us.
To prepare the writers in our group for our writing exercise, I read the following quote by Stephen King from his classic book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft:
“There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer. He lives in the ground. He’s a basement kind of guy. You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in. You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you.
"Do you think it’s fair? I think it’s fair,” King continues. “He may not be much to look at, that muse-guy, and he may not be much of a conversationalist, but he’s got inspiration. It’s right that you should do all the work and burn all the mid-night oil, because the guy with the cigar and the little wings has got a bag of magic. There’s stuff in there that can change your life. Believe me, I know.”
I also played a YouTube video for our group in which female artists being honored at the 2020 New York Women in Film & Television Awards answered the question: “What is a muse?”
It got me thinking. Who or what is my muse? Do I have more than one? Male or female? Is it an actual person or a personified force?
One question about it sparked others. It was as if I was being guided by something greater than myself. I glanced over my shoulder for my muse. Surely, she — or he — had to be nearby.
As author Margaret Atwood says in the video, I also don't believe I have just one muse. There are many. Let me introduce you to a few of them.
Mabel the Mermaid is a playful muse who reminds me to take time to laugh, to swim, to go deep without being afraid, to be spontaneous and ride the waves, to be whimsical and to always look for buried treasures. She visits often but especially when I am taking myself or life way too seriously.
Jesus has been a surprising muse. I was raised Catholic and gay. As a result, I became very suspicious and weary of Jesus when I was younger. However, now he inspires me to stay focused on love; to return to love when I stumble; and to write about love whenever possible.
My partner of 31 years, Brian, is my muse because he believes in me like nearly no one else does. He knows me better. We all need someone like that in our life to inspire and celebrate us.
Then there’s the perspective of one of my other muses, Mexican artist Frida Kahlo: “I am my own muse. I am the subject I know best. The subject I want to know better.”
Thanks, Frida, for reminding that the greatest light is within.
American Author Ray Bradbury says, “To feed your Muse, then, you should always have been hungry about life … since you were a child. If not, it is a little too late to start.”
Fortunately, I believe our inner light has made us hungry about life since before we were born. That light may flicker, or even go out, from time to time. However, if we remain curious and open about how it can be relit, it is never too late.
Like miracles, there are muses all around us when we pay attention and care enough to feed and nurture them. Being grateful for a sunset somehow makes it that much bolder. Listening to advice from a friend can inspire us if we don’t resist or judge it. A moment of silence can and will result in a thought that can take you anywhere when you attach the right feeling to it.
The next time you feel tapped out or dried up — whether it is running a home or a corporation; creating art or enjoying it; or losing interest in your spiritual practice, ask yourself: Who or what is my muse? Who can light my fire again and keep it lit.
Be ready for it to show up in surprising and magical ways. It may appear in the form of a bumble bee or butterfly; a breeze; sea glass found on the beach; or an eagle in flight. It may present itself in your best friend, sibling, role model, or lover. People inspire us in so many different ways.
Maybe your muse is even closer to home. Maybe it truly is within.
Look for it to show up through the love, gratitude and forgiveness you allow yourself to feel. Look for it to also show up in those things we are often ashamed to feel — anger, jealousy and judgement. If we are hungry about life, we will welcome and embrace all of it. Everything is here to enlighten and inspire us … we just need to notice and let it in.
May you find your muse. May it be closer than you think.