The Appeal of the Muses
“I’ve lost my muse!”
This is often the cry of an artist when struck suddenly with an inability to create. But where did the idea of a muse come from? How did it come to be something we, in our modern time, shout?
Originally, in the religion of Ancient Greece, there were nine Muses. They were minor goddesses of the arts, history, and science, and were responsible for any creative work or at least the inspiration of the creative work within human culture. They often accompanied Apollo, the Greek god of literature and music, who was also in charge of the sun chariot.
But how does any of that relate to our modern writers and artists? The Muses gave inspiration, each in their own way. The one I intend to focus on here is Calliope, the “protector of poetic works, the rhetoric arts, music and writing”* and is, according to Ancient Greek religion, responsible for helping novelists, rulers, and epic poets, such as Homer.
In present day, writers tend to use the phrase “I’ve lost my muse” in a joking manner. Yet, it is incredibly hard to describe the difficulty of writing fiction. It is not something everyone can do, and when you partake on this journey, there is a need to be prepared to feel a little insane.
Why? Writers can often be found speaking to their characters, playing in a world only they can get to until they’ve successfully written about it, interviewing people who aren’t truly in the room with them, and discussing things with other writers such as portals, swordplay, and the plausibility of various other things. The story will do as it will, and as if under the force of a muse, it would feel forced if we as writers didn’t do what the story called for. We’d feel as if we were lying, despite the fact that by nature we’re writing something that never happened.
That, in and of itself, is the best way to describe the sensation of writing fiction. It is not so much that the writer is coming up with the story, orchestrating the characters’ every move, but rather that we have been given a window into another world and given the opportunity to record what we see, as we see it.
For this reason, I can completely understand how the Ancient Greeks would have assumed there was a divine hand in the creation of art, stories, or music. There is a sort of revelation, and in that revelation, a wonder that can only be chalked up to sheer luck.
How lucky I am to be able to see the other worlds, even if only connected to individual’s lives and only for a short window of time. And how lucky I am to share my experiences in those worlds with readers.
Writers are world hoppers. If we do our job right, we can transport people from their world into a world we discovered.
If you have other questions from mythology you’d like me to try to answer, send me an email at email@example.com or connect with me on social media @authorjjhanna.
J. J. Hanna is attending Taylor University for a degree in Professional Writing. She has published multiple devotions and book reviews and is a beginning comic artist. She published her first book, Existence, in 2015. Look for it on Amazon.