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Let me tell you about the muse

Without it, there would be no art

In Summary

• A muse is anything that sparks an artist’s creativity, stirring up new passion and kindling a flame in the artist’s soul

A boy thinks hard
A boy thinks hard
Image: FILE

What is a muse? In Greek and Roman mythology, a Muse refers to any one of the goddesses, the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, who preside over the arts, stimulating creativity and inspiration.

The meaning of the word muse in today’s world is sort of related to the first meaning, but it’s a lot less Greek gods and more earthbound. A muse today is anything, a place, an object, or a person, that sparks an artist’s creativity, stirring up new passion and kindling a flame in the artist’s soul.

When an artist’s muse is an object or place, it’s all straightforward and simple. But when that muse is a person, someone who inspires you to do great artistic things, which for some reason is a role traditionally reserved for women, then it gets complicated.

 

Often, creativity is tied to emotions, and so when a muse is a person, it is assumed that person is the artist’s lover. This is not always the case. Yes, a muse-person might be a lover, but it could also be a platonic friend, an infatuation or a stranger the artist admires from afar and has never spoken to.

But, because art and emotion a lot of times go hand in hand, a muse, lover or not, can tap into many of the same feelings as those of a romantic relationship. And just like most relationships, a relationship with a muse can last for years or fade quickly, which all leads to the same thing: relationships end, people leave.

And here’s what many an artist will go through when the muse-person leaves, or so I’ve been told. He will stare at his screen, at his canvas, at a piece of paper, unable to find the right words, the right the colours, the right sketch, all inspiration lost.

That blank screen, paper or canvas is a reminder that his muse is longer there. No more phone calls, no more meeting up for coffee, no more muse, and without his muse, the artist finds himself becoming a shell of the person he was. He is uninspired to write, paint or draw; emptied of the desire, the passion, the spark, and fearful he will find no one to inspire him the way his muse did.

Professional artists, though, rarely go through such torment. They know their muse is not to be found only in people but in places, objects or even in their imagination. Like Stephen King says in his book, ‘On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft’, “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

Why is all this important? Well, without the muse, there would be no art and yet, (I read this somewhere) everything we do in life is done so that we can enjoy art.

We work so we can enjoy a beautiful home designed by an architect, so we can own beautiful clothes and shoes created by designers. Given a choice, no one wants to go in to see a surgeon or lawyer, but books, plays, paintings, movies and music — we seek out those. It’s art that makes life… life.