“O Muses, O high genius, aid me now!
O memory that engraved the things I saw,
Here shall your worth be manifest to all!”
- Dante Alighieri, in Canto II of The Inferno
"And so, have them for yourself, whatever kind of book it is,
and whatever sort, oh patron Muse
let it last for more than one generation, eternally."
- Catullus in Carmen I*
I’ve always been a big fan of the Muses: Greek goddesses of inspiration in music, literature, science, and art. According to mythology, the nine goddesses were the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, each of which had a specialization like Comedy (Thalia), Tragedy (Melpomene), Epic Poetry (Calliope), and so on. The ancient writers often prayed for inspiration from the Muses and credited them with their success.
As modern-day writers, we often joke that our Muses give us too many plot ideas or, on occasion, leave us hanging in the wind. But the reality is that our stories, whether inspired by a Greek deity or by personal experiences, require effort on our part in order to actually breathe life. Inspiration is the spark to create, but we are the ones who must then stoke the fire, fanning the flames until we’re ready to present our words to the world. We’re creatures of art that must sweat and toil in order to translate our vision from an ethereal idea into a tangible product.
Writing is a hard journey. It’s a long, uphill climb to take a concept, mold it, then polish it until it shines. Along the way, there are plenty of speed bumps. Real life, work, kids, and any number of distractions that threaten to slow us down. But eventually, if we’re tenacious, we can create something great. Something that, like Catullus wrote, will leave a lasting impression.
And the entire trip is one that starts with just a little inspiration.
So, what inspires you?
*Note: Both quotes are courtesy of Wikipedia