The Fickle Muse or: Oh Muse, Oh Muse, Why Have You Forsaken Me?

Throughout time, mankind has tried to rationalize the true source of inspiration. Though some artists attribute their oeuvre to their own hard work and diligence, there are still many who say it came from a source outside of themselves. This outer creative influence can take many forms:

  • The Muse: This always makes me think of the movie Xanadu. Because muses have nothing better to do than inspire slacker types to make giant disco roller skating rinks.
  • A higher power, i.e. God, the Supreme Being.
  • Though the two above are the most popular, there is another idea that comes from author Sage Cohen who wrote The Productive Writer:

“. . .but I have come to think of [the muse] as that fickle lover you can never count on to show up in a pinch, and one you would never want to leave alone with your best friend. This is where the genius comes in, a kind of archetypal companion invested in you, like a fairy godmother.”

The genius concept is compelling, however, I always went with the muse. The idea that there are guardian angels, so to speak, who can both guide and inspire us seems comforting. They can’t do all the work for you, but instead simply ignite the kindling that can later become a fire. Building that fire is our job here on Earth, and as we do we learn about each other and the universe itself.

But Sage Cohen was right, the muse can be fickle. Once the spark has been ignited, if you don’t stoke the fire and keep it going, it can go out. And then bored or insulted, the muse will move on to someone else. Someone along the line will take that idea and actually do something with it. Haven’t you ever had an idea—a story, song or anything, really—let it go, allowed it to fizzle into nothing, then later seen or heard that idea somewhere?

Maybe that is why we see such similar themes throughout history and world cultures. Perhaps there are only so many muses that exist, and they just keep inspiring mankind to repeat the same stories throughout history, with each iteration slightly different— making us repeat these themes until somebody finally gets it right . . .  a perpetual cosmic game of Telephone, with each generation informing the next.

This could be why George Harrison got into so much trouble when he released his single, “My Sweet Lord,” in 1970. Some thought the melody and music was too similar to The Chiffons song “He’s So Fine.” Harrison was sued for copyright infringement, in a legal battle that lasted for over 10 years. Now, The Beatles were perhaps the greatest popular music songwriters of all time. Nobody thought George Harrison had deliberately plagiarized an old song from the 60s. Regardless, it was determined in the end that he had “subconsciously” copied the tune.

And so, even former Beatles are at the mercy of the muse. Perhaps Harrison’s  muse thought that the spiritual concept of “My Sweet Lord” really needed expressing at the time, and “He’s So Fine” was just easily accessible in his subconscious. Unfortunately, muses—though brilliant creative machines—don’t have any notion of modern copyright law. Sorry George.

Some time ago, I was going to write a story about a muse who came to Earth. He had to become human to solve a crime and chase an angel who had also come to earth to cause various shenanigans. But, alas, time has passed and the fire has fizzled. Now I fear it may be too late. I have squandered my inspiration, and the muse has left me. I fear if I go it alone, it will all just come out like some Paul Bettany B-movie action flick.

But who knows, maybe the muse was toying with me and somebody has already done that idea before. Or maybe I should just go and build a giant roller skating rink.

Source: Wikipedia


4 thoughts on “The Fickle Muse or: Oh Muse, Oh Muse, Why Have You Forsaken Me?

Add yours

  1. Fickle, fickle muse. I think mine likes to laugh as he (yes, he) makes me dance like a puppet. i just wish he’d stick around for longer periods of time.


  2. *shaking fist at muse* Like everyone, I have a love hate relationship with the muse. Always playing with my emotions, always gets me excited about an idea, and then runs away…laughing…always laughing at me.


  3. I’m still processing these ideas (although, I believe in a higher power, God)…but the definite part of this post that resonated with me was the idea of history repeating itself. I’ve learned in playing and writing, music especially, that there really just isn’t anything that hasn’t been done. And, yet, songs that may say the same exact thing seem new. I’ve also come to not worry too much about being a copy cat or vise versa-take it as a form of flattery, well, considering that I’m not dealing with copyright infringement or royalties…agh…you know what I mean, right? This was a very cool post, Jeff! Thanks! Oh, and if you build a giant roller skating rink, invite me and Maycee! 🙂


  4. Yes, if only we could keep muse the way Hannibal Lecter kept the census taker; with fava beans and a nice Chianti- fuh, fuh, fuh, fuh, fuh. Is muse fickle? Or is muse just a mercenary…


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