In Greek mythology, artists, thinkers, and other creative professionals had “mosis” to guide and inspire them. Mosis, the etymological term behind Muse, refers to wish and desire. For amateurs of Classics, Homer mentions the Muses at the beginning of his iconic Iliad and Odyssey, asking them to help him with the story. The Greek Mythology recalls no less than nine Muses that inspire artists. They are versed in music, comedy, tragedy, poetry, dance, hymns, astronomic, and rhetoric, along with subjects that would not typically be associated with arts such as grammar, geometry, agriculture, justice, wedding, and history. If there is one word that can describe the Greek Muses, it would be diversity. Nowadays, we continue to thank our muses for inspiration and blame them when we experience a creative block.
Being creatively frustrated, unfortunately, is not uncommon for authors. Whether you write for a living or pleasure, finding inspiration is one of the most challenging things you will have to do. The Greek Muses, however, could give you some clues as to where to find ideas. The nine Muses of the Greek Mythology – Calliope, Clio, Erato, Euterpe, Melpomene, Ourania, Polymnia, Terpsichore, and Thalia – bring inspiration in many forms. All have more than one arrow in the quiver to inspire artists. Calliope, the Muse who inspired Homer to write his Iliad and Odyssey, was depicted as a superior Muse, helping leaders to bring justice and serenity to the lands and protecting heroic poems too. Poetry and politics are two things that an author would rarely put together. Nevertheless, some of the greatest poems in history have been inspired by political events. So, there is something, after all, that the Greek Muses can teach today’s authors, and that is that inspiration does come from everywhere and anywhere. The idea that an aspiring author should book a place at an expensive retreat for the sake of creativity is preposterous. In a world where everything is accessible at the click of a button, your Muse doesn’t await onboard a unique and privileged experience. As such, it appears essential to go back to the Classics for advice. The Greek Muses highlight diversity of knowledge and ideas. Affordable diversity in the era of digital technology and pandemic means something different for everyone. Why different? Because it differs from a person to another. But inspiration could be at arm’s reach.
You need to explore new places
Agatha Christie, the creator of the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, set a lot of her novels in Egypt, France, and the South of England. The reason for her fascination for these areas is simple: She knew them exceedingly well. Christie had accompanied her then-husband to archaeological digs and explorations in Egypt. She had traveled through France a lot. She was born in the South of England and had spent a lot of time in the region. As she explored, she saved images, sensations, and memories in her mind, which she used in her novels. Exploration is at the heart of inspiration for many authors who need to continually change their environment to find their Muse. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic can limit your travel options. Nevertheless, changing your environment doesn’t mean traveling far. You can just as well purchase your creative office on wheels from a dealer with used campers for sale and use it to change your setting. Visiting neighboring areas and regions can be enough of a routine change to inspire you.
Open your mind with someone else’s ideas
Most creative people describe travel as an inspiring hobby that exposes them to a variety of cultures and ideas. There is no denying that going abroad can make you question established habits and concepts that you take for granted, and that may not exist in the place you are visiting. Going abroad, however, comes at a high price, both in terms of finances and health nowadays. More importantly, there is no need to pack your bag and wear a face mask if you want to dive into a new culture. You are probably already familiar with the Netflix and Chill saying. It’s time to introduce Netflix and Get Inspired. With a variety of foreign shows available, diving at the heart of a new destination, culture, and way of telling stories is only a click away. Japanese, Belgian, French, Spanish, Argentinean, South Korean, and many other places show how a common plot can generate completely different emotions.
Turn the PlayStation on
It’s not a new idea. Video games have long been praised for helping players’ creativity and problem-solving skills. For authors, however, they can offer an insightful trip to an imaginary or real place. More often than not, modern games’ quality is close to watching a Hollywood movie. As a player, you can interact with a landscape, whether from the past, the future, this world or another. Books can describe and bring a place to life. But games give you the unique opportunity to touch, explore, and live the experience as if it were your own. Make a conscious effort to look for inspiration in your favorite video games, because it is everywhere. If you are looking for an emotional saga about freedom in a dangerous and unwelcoming world, The Last of Us Part 1 and 2 takes you into towns and areas you know but that are stained by a virus. For creatives in a pandemic world, this could hit a little too close to home. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt game takes you on a journey into medieval Poland, showing realistic inns, hamlets, and castles; an ideal place to get inspired for your historical novel. The Outer Worlds, by Obsidian Entertainment, throws you into a witty and dystopian future where humanity colonized star systems. The bottom line: There is probably already a world where your ideas could exist and grow.
The story behind the words
Authors tell their stories through words. But they don’t always pause to consider what stories the words themselves are saying. Etymology can be a new source of inspiration to create deeper and stronger plots. In essence, etymology is the origin of a word. It tells the history that hides behind the spelling. A word such as disaster, for instance, means a dramatic event that brings great destruction. Depending on the type of novel you wish to write, it could be a useful word to set a climactic scene. But the etymology of “disaster” can provide a new interpretation. Disaster finds its roots in the Italian “disastro”, which combines the prefix dis- and the word astro, star. A disaster is not just a calamitous event; it now becomes an ill-starred event that doesn’t match the alignment of planets and stars. You can now unlock themes that combine astronomy, divinity, destiny, and an omniscient narrator.
Proust’s madeleine moment
When Proust wrote In Search of Lost Time – or Remembrance of Things Past, as the novel has several translations –, he introduced a variety of thoughts and recollections about the narrator’s childhood and experience of life. The novel spreads over seven volumes, but its most iconic moment, the episode of the madeleine, appears in the first volume, Swann’s Way. Marcel, the narrator, experiences a process of involuntary memory as he eats the crumbs of a madeleine cake soaked in tea. A sensation of déja vu or déjà tasted overwhelms the narrator, bringing a buried memory of his aunt to the surface. This begs the question: What is your madeleine moment? Unlocking lost memories and feelings can deepen your writing and inspiration.
It’s time to put your running shoes on
Physical activity keeps your heart healthy. But it is also a strategic factor in boosting your inspirational power. Indeed, when you work out, according to researchers, you could find your best ideas. Sports can dramatically decrease mental stress, which affects your creativity, even if you’re not conscious of it. Additionally, when you get your heart pumping, you increase blood flow to your organs, including the brain. Increased blood flow to the brain delivers enhanced oxygen and nutrients, which supports the apparition of connections in the brain. You think better after a workout because your brain has received plenty of support to make faster connections.
Can food be the key to your creative block?
When it comes to managing brainpower, sports is only one of the many solutions available. Eating foods that prevent cognitive decline, such as omega-3 fatty acids with salmon or antioxidants with berries, can support better mental functions for longer. Is a healthy brain more likely to get inspired? No. But engaging your brain into discovering and creating new flavors with creative cooking that boost your inspiration. Mixing unexpected ingredients and tastes to create something new – as it happens when you learn to cook exotic dishes – builds new cognitive connections in your brain. These connections are precisely where new ideas come from.
If your Muse isn’t answering your call, it’s time to try a new approach. Inspiration doesn’t appear out of the blue. More importantly, it isn’t reserved for individuals on expensive and creative trips. It is the result of a unique experience, from changing your environment to having your own madeleine moment. As the Greek Muses reveal, inspiration is the combination of unexpected themes and topics to uncover a new angle.