Mystic Writer

On the history of the writing Muse


All authors know it. We all experience the frustration. Writing is hard. At times we think we are not good enough.  We reread sentences that are so shockingly bad that we question why we are doing it at all.

Writing is about discipline and sometimes we are going to lack inspiration to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.


Paul Cezzane. The kiss of the muse. C. 1860.

Writer’s block is mentally exhausting, but the plus of having a bad bout of staring at the blank page is that eventually you are privy to the feeling of relief when ‘the Muse’ returns. She kisses us gently on our clammy, frowning foreheads and lifts the weight of writer’s block off of our slumpy shoulders.

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Authors throughout the millennia have relied on this figure of inspiration to find them and rescue them from their creative dead end.

The ancient Greeks had 10 muses, one each for the different creative disciplines. Dante repeatedly cried for his muse to “aid him now,” Chaucer had his Lady Myn, and Shakespeare had muses of all genders and ages dotted throughout his sonnets.

Writers have been dallying with these ethereal personifications for years and it tells us something fantastic — writers throughout time have had trouble writing.

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Writing is an ancient trade. It’s been done for thousands of years, but no matter how good the finished project is, no matter how much money the publication made, no matter how big the impact of the book – every writer, through out all of time, has had some kind of writer’s block.

Each of these writing greats have called for the personification of inspiration to visit them. Which in turn means, each of these writing greats has been completely stumped as to what to write next. 

Now whilst I don’t personally start each chapter of my book with a call out to a beautiful, angelic woman for help and it is certainly arguable that the historical Muse in her original form has lost its relevance, (women are no longer just the inspiration for art, women are the inspired who create phenomenal art), the Muse helps us to understand the timeless nature of writing.

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The Muse reminds us that despite the history of writing being vast and wondrous, all writers throughout time are linked and we all experience something similar. It does not matter if your name is Sophocles, Hemingway, Angelou or Rowling. If you are a writer, there will be many days when writing is a terrible struggle and you need to know that that’s okay.

Amie McNee has received a degree in Medieval and Renaissance history at the University of Sydney. Whilst working on her current novel she runs her Instagram page: @inspiredtowrite.

Amie McNee

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