The Mona Lisa, by Leonardo da Vinci, painted 1503 -1506

To speak of The Muse is to speak of The Ethereal, The Inspired.

The walls shook with the sound of cascading thunder, the windows vibrating in their frames. In a burst of light, the panes became liquid beneath my finger tips, I watched the circles fan away from my touch in circle after circle become a wave on some distant shore in a place, I’d never been before but held within my mind’s eye a shore golden, untainted and warm. 

   “Sit on the floor. Low, in front of the big picture window.” She turned off the lights and  opened the curtains on the night. We watched the show of the gods churning the heavens to make diamonds fall in a steady rhythm that the earth absorbed into herself, every impact, drinking deep. I kept thinking, When did the panes of glass become liquid? Was it always so, and I simply had not noticed it before? Certainly it had not happened at that very moment.

Imagination, the idea that reality is pliable… I’ve used it to make myself invisible, invincible, to disappear into the branches of a tall tree. I’ve used it to grow wings to fly  in dreams, rip reality away at the seems, to open those curtains on the night, over and over again. I’ve used it to hide in the shadows and escape, on a breeze. I’ve used it to slip through walls. But I wonder, can I use it, to tell you what it is?

I think, most of us, don’t like to share our Muse, or what the muse is to us, because the muse is everything. The Muse gets you there. Spark, the light you follow through the darkness, you hope, you hope, I hope. Ah…because it can be so easy , if you don’t know your way around, to think a Siren is a Muse. But that’s part of it, that maybe, maybe you don’t know your way around, maybe. You want that Muse who is going to guide you through, but in part of the beating of every heart that gives chase is the possibility of being taken down, but the hope to be saved. Hoping to awaken on the other side with the happy glow of a good dream. Because we must become completely enthralled with our Muse, trust, it is the nature of the relationship or we would not follow, because, where did she, or he, go? And all those things along the way, are part of the story. It wouldn’t be much good to follow ones muse to get the story and not make it out the other side to tell the tale, or paint the picture or take the picture or write the song, compose the music. How many different ways, different things and kinds of things, do we create? Sirens lead to shipwrecks, and Muses sometimes do too, but the intention of the muse is different. A good Muse can sustain life, when there is seemingly very little to sustain it from.

Fascination, inspiration, curiosity? Love, hate, hope, faith, belief, disbelief, wonder, awe…all of it. I’ve come to believe it is one of the most intimate relationships a person can engage in, that of the creative person and the Muse, a sacred bond. Inspiration and Imagination. The Muse is one and creates the spark of the other.

But what if you don’t get the happy glow of a good dream?
What were you looking for?
Well, you were poking around in the dark, weren’t you?
You followed?

When we think about muses, typically, I think, what is thought of is the male artist, of whatever art form, and a female muse. Sort of the romantic standard, in the simplest terms. Muses hide everywhere, take all forms, male, female, mystical creature, shadow, and to be more specific than that might taint it for those of us who understand it and need our muse, or muses, or heroes, intact. Inspiration might come from the most mundane of things. I’ve heard, read, some people who say that they have one specific thing that works for them, I wonder if I envy that? Those who have a go to thing that always works for them to get the creative juices flowing, the sweet spot, as it were. Most of us use music, a lot, powerful mood changer, think of all the movies you’ve seen that wouldn’t be what they are without the soundtrack. There are certain pieces of music that I have relied on over the years that I know I can count on to help get me into the state of mind that I need to be in to set down at the keys and really fly. But those are like my secret potions and I’m superstitious. Not, don’t walk under a ladder superstitious, that’s just common sense, but deeply, in ways that I feel as protective about as, my Muse.

Women, female artists, creators, we have muses too, and, let it be said, finally, though certainly others have said it, not all male artists have female muses, and not all female artists have male muses. In terms of physical manifestations of such, for me, a male muse and monogamy as in a person of affection, or usually one muse in particular, and I think of the relationship, imagine it, in those terms, that works, for me, because it is an intimate relationship. Though certainly most anything can spark the imagination, to each their own. The most passive Muse is not at all passive, the model who sits still and never utters a word is but the all powerful source of the divine breath that sets the writer, artist, musician to work. There are those who never touch their muse, who would never think of her, or him, that way, the angelic Muse, the virgin Muse. Those who hold their muse apart from all else. Most are fiercely protective and possessive of their muse or muses, because as much as this sounds like it is about love, and it most certainly is, it is about the work, and the ability to work and create, it is about coveted sources of the ethereal. A wayward muse has devastated many an artist. The Muse relationship is nothing less than a force of nature. And not to be confused with that of benefactor, or that of those blessed souls who are not artisans themselves but endeavor to hold up the world for those who are, while the writer or artist disappears into the depths of self-expression for the sake of said art. I wonder too, if the online world, and what can only be called…what shall we call it…soft core voyeurism? hasn’t polluted the muse relationship some, with a lack of privacy afforded the artist and physically present muse who can draw those curtains on the night, shut out the world, to find it,  but there is inspiration in that too. How many muses there must be who do not know that they are muses.

My Muse has to be able to get into it, the nitty-gritty of life, and understand it, because it’s the only way he can help me escape it and get me to where I need to go, where the moon turns into a glowing bead in my palm, and unfolds itself enough for me to see all the little moon creatures waiting to hatch through the iridescent membrane into the sky, and I tell you, that is how stars are born. I do tend to choose a Muse who knows his way around. My Muse also has to be able to kill monsters because I do that and I get myself into those places in my head and I can’t be having someone running for the door or hanging on my skirt when there’s a room to cut through. I am going in there, and my Muse knows the way, even if the way is to pretend to know the way, at first, until one does.

Muses are individual, personal, belonging to someone, that is part of what makes a good muse so valuable. You might think you are sharing a muse, and really only be watching the muse of another. A muse can be the fur coat that turns into the animal that it was, slides down off the hanger and leads you through the back streets for a night to some discovery at dawn. It can be a place, a sound, a feeling, a moment. For many the wonder and beauty of nature is enough to captivate them for a lifetime.  But it’s personal, all of it is so completely personal. Sometimes I’ve thought that those of us who create, that we look for this everywhere, this spark, this inspiration and have realized, those are the tough times somehow, strung out maybe, because it’s so much better somehow when you begin to simply see it, when it comes for you in wonder over and over again, renewing itself with each breath. The world is changed, altered through the scope of that lens.

I’m soft pedaling this though because, I don’t want to wake up from the dream. The longer I can stay in the dream, sustained there, time stands still and the more I can write, creating other worlds that someone else might find their way in. It’s important, that state of mind, as important as actual sleep and in the same way that we don’t like to be woken from our beds when we are in the middle of something good, so it is for many of us who create. To understand that, is golden. That is also where all of the stories of writers and artists who are ‘just weird’ develop.  How much more interesting the universe becomes when we fully embrace that which inspires us, what gets us there, what takes us there. It is love, and it is more.

The Muse is everything, true love,  and it is even more than that.

Teri Skultety

Wiki Muse
Fitzgerald, Eliot and Joyce
Famous Muses
The 10 Most Influential Artist’s Muses
The 10 Most Famous Muses
20 of Art Histories Greatest Muses
Famous Songs and The Muses Who Inspired Them
Top 10 Rock Muses
Elizabeth Gilbert on Inspiration

Note: Ironically, simply searching, it was incredibly difficult to find information and links about Literary Muses, worded most every way I could think of. And, one of my favorite muse stories thus far is that of the song “You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon, in writing this I found the muse for that song to have been  attributed as being Mick Jagger, Warren Beatty and none other than David Bowie. I always find couples wherein each partner is in a creative field in some way to be particularly interesting, if not fascinating. I think this speaks to my own want to be understood as a writer, obviously, to have my own idiosyncrasies accepted. But there isn’t a lot of information on that either, writers and their muses. There is far more information on artists and their muses because perhaps, when you’ve painted someone’s picture, it’s tough to say it isn’t them? Writers, we’re a secretive, mysterious, crafty lot.