The original muses were nine minor goddesses in Greek mythology who provided inspiration for artists. Calliope might be the most useful for writers.
In an old post Seeking Divine Inspiration, I asked if writers prayed to their muse or god?
In real life, it’s sometimes true love and the one that got away, which inspires great writing. John Keats immortalised Fanny Brawne, in love letters and sonnets. Shakespeare often referred to a ‘Dark Lady’ and a ‘Fair Youth’ in 154 love sonnets, who are thought to be a noted prostitute of the time, and a gay lover, meaning the bard was bisexual.
Scott Fitzgerald used his wife Zelda as the basis for several characters, also nicking parts of her diary to use in his novels! W. B. Yeats’ poetry is full of unrequited love for Maud Gonne. The main characters of Pride and Prejudice are based on Jane Austen’s affair with Tom Lefroy, a lawyer who went on to become a politician and Lord Chief Justice of Ireland.
More recently, Bob Dylan was inspired by his wife Sara Lowndes, penning one of his best albums Blood On The Tracks when they broke up.
Leonard Cohen died in 2016, but aware of his own frail health, wrote a moving farewell to his dying muse Marianne Ihlen—who inspired the songs So Long, Marianne and Bird On A Wire.
There’s a strange form of sexism when it comes to muses, for male writers are said to be inspired by the women they loved as if something in their psyche is reflected by the liaison, whereas few female writers are identified as having their work lifted up by the men they gave their hearts to.
I’ve dedicated several love poems to old girlfriends, who inspired happy memories. A recurring character in my Cornish Detective novels is an American photographer, called Mish Stewart, who is based on my camera-toting friend of the same name—with her permission.
While in the early stages of writing the last book in the series, which is set in the art colony of Saint Ives, Lizzy, a friend in Birkenhead unexpectedly sent me some art books. One was about an Austrian-New Zealand painter called Hundertwasser, who was new to me, but whose colourful paintings were ideal for my plot. I dedicated the story to my friend Lizzy.
Who has been your muse?
Have you dedicated any stories to loved ones?
Do you have any famous writers’ portraits on your wall, to act as inspiration?