Article · Creativity

The Nine Muses of Inspiration

The first time I noticed inspiration it was sculpted into the sides of a sarcophagus in the Louvre museum. Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory, and Zeus, the great womanizer, had nine daughters together; the Muses of Inspiration. These muses were carved for prosperity into the cold stone slabs of a marble coffin. The most famous are Thalia and Melpomene, comedy and tragedy, best known by their theatrical masks. The Greeks had oral tradition of literature, alive with music, including a muse for dance, Terpsichore. A writer was mostly about poetry, and they had several variations: Polymnis who fostered musical poetry (or hymnody); Erato, the muse of love poetry; Euterpe, the muse of lyric poetry, and Calliope, the muse of epic poetry. The muse Clio holds a writing tablet while she records history. The odd one out is Urania, the muse of astronomy. She’s the lone scientist and placeholder for future generations of academic publications.

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The muses characterize the ancient ideals of a cultivated man, as represented by the likes of Socrates, or Homer. “According to a belief attested in Greece as early as the fourth century BCE, the practice of literature and philosophy, or daily intercourse with the Muses, ensured immortality and the soul’s salvation.”

Some things never change.

The moral is, since the earliest times, writers prayed or drank wine while yearning for inspiration. And, not content to be a legacy just in their own minds, they’ve all craved the immortal success of a best seller.

* Image courtesy of Sarcophages des Muses, copyright 1993 RMN, Herve Lewandowski


Personality, or Mindset? What drives success?

Ever notice how people can be introverted when they talk about themselves but glowing extroverts when the topic is about something they are passionate about? I have noticed this about writers. They do not define themselves as writers, until someone asks a question about their book, and then they never shut up. This paradox has always made me laugh.

Recently, I listened to a TED talk by Susan Cain, an author who published a bestselling book in 2014 called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. I was surprised to discover that to a psychologist an introvert is not a reserved person. Introverts are not shy people who are afraid of public speaking–they do all those things very well. Introversion is not about timid behavior but a cognitive expression of how information is processed. Introverts spend hours pondering the inner world; their focus is on concepts and ideas. An extrovert is more interested in people and the things that make up the outer world. The differences show up in the way these two groups of people approach life. Introverts work in an internally focused manner, they prefer to prepare and practice before revealing their thoughts. Extroverts, on the other hand, get their energy by interacting with others and are willing to talk extemporaneously, even on topics they know little about. They can be charming, and often annoying, all at the same time.

Our culture applauds the extrovert and scolds the introvert by encouraging them to “speak up.”  Childhood  must seem tedious, rushed and pushy, for the young introvert. However, once we claim our identities, through work and daily routines, I don’t think that being an introvert or extrovert matters much. There’s hundreds of successful writers and engineers to fit both categories. I have found people evolve into hybrids, or even jump into the opposite category, as best suits them.

Repeating myself from my last blog, it is not what you are, but how you respond to the world and information. That’s the most intriguing measure of an intelligent nature. I find that performance, endurance, and success is in the mindset, not because of a personality type. Some people respond to new things with a growth mindset, seeking new directions and ideas. Others worry about themselves and their aspirations, until they reach a point when they become defensive and discouraged. They have developed a “fixed mindset” about their ability to learn, persuade and succeed.

I enjoy anyone with enough discernment to integrate their world.  Writers fall in this category, they have an over-developed “growth mindset” and are curious about ideas, people, concepts and the world around them.


Return The Shopping Cart

One of my favorite kind of stories. The everyday “I have been there too” tale. This one is short and ends with a humorous twist. The reader leaves with an “aha” understanding of how to make life sweet and inspirational. It reminds me that what happens to us is unimportant–correction, the experience may become a great story (and I am a believer in sharing stories) but it is how we react to things in life that is golden.


Simply returning the shopping cart creates possibilities for connection that are closed off if you ditch it on an island before slinking into the driver’s seat and pulling away. It’s the simplest of decisions, and, like most simple decisions, it can change your whole day.

On my last trip to the local grocer the parking lot was crammed and the closest available spot was in an adjacent lot. I grumbled all the way into the store, and I grumbled all the way back out again, pushing my cart past a store employee who was returning a train of them left in that adjacent lot. Mostly due to guilt–If I don’t return this thing that poor guy is going to have to come and get it–I closed the trunk and made the long trip back to the front of the store–the store that has no cart corral in its parking lot.

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