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Finding Your Muse

This blog post was originally posted on the SC Writers Association, Columbia II, website: http://columbiawritersworkshop.blogspot.com/2020/07/finding-your-muse.html

Zelda Sayre and F. Scott Fitzgerald

Creative types talk about having a muse, and I used to wonder what they meant. Is a muse an actual person? In Greek mythology, nine goddesses, the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, were muses who presided over the arts and sciences. In more recent history, muses were typically women who inspired male artists or writers and were often their lovers or spouses. For example, F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby, credits his wife Zelda Sayre as being his muse.

But not all muses are women, and in fact, not all muses are people—at least not living, breathing beings. In fact, the Oxford dictionary defines a muse as a person or personified force who is the source of inspiration for a creative person. If you happen to have a real person as your muse, congratulations. I often get inspiration from friends and family, but what I want to discuss here is the “personified force.”

The muse lives in the right side of the brain—the creative side. Our critic lives in the left hemisphere—the analytical side. Most of us can easily tap into our critic, but how can we access our creative side where the muse lives? For some, their muse can be invoked through a ritual, like lighting a candle, playing a certain type of music, practicing meditation, or through right-brain-sparking exercises like freewriting.

I found my muse, whom I named Daphne, through an exercise called subdominant handwriting, recommended by a creative life coach. Since I’m right-handed, my left is subdominant. My process was to write a question I wanted to have answered (e.g., a troublesome plot point) with my dominant hand. Then I switched the pen to my subdominant hand to respond. According to some neurological research, this process allows you to access the lesser-used region of your brain. I can validate the research by saying that when I tap into my subdominant side, I manifest creative, expressive, and insightful thoughts.
The more I practiced subdominant handwriting, the more the ideas came to me, and the clearer the messages became. My creative juices flowed from a much deeper place. Eventually, this inspirational force became a personified presence, and I could shut my eyes and see my muse’s face (“hello, Daphne”).

To be clear, I don’t write an entire story or book with my left hand. This exercise just helps me tap into my right brain more easily than simply writing, which is a linear, left-brain process. If you want to know more about subdominant handwriting , I recommend The Power of Your Other Hand.

You can access your own personified force through freewriting or other right-brain exercises. Or you might try adding a ritual that signals your brain you’re ready to connect with your muse. I encourage you experiment and find whatever works best for you. When you make contact, then nurture and treasure your new friend.  

Do you have a muse? I’d love to hear from you.

Published inFiction & StorytellingUncategorizedWriting Craft & Process

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