Within each of us is a buried spark that drives the intuitive creative process, a deep place inside us that we are not aware of, but shapes our thoughts and feelings. As an author, it is a place that we must travel in order to create innovative ideas in our novels, short stories, and poetry. The writer of today struggles with the act of creation. He may set schedules for himself to write so many words a hour, peer at countless photographs on the Internet to find a concept to use, or search for a trend that will sell his books. All of this is logical and a conscious use of his mind to create, but is it the best way to invent the plot lines for your novels?
Ancient poets of Greece and Rome believed that creation was inspired by a muse, a god-like being who was the daughter of Zeus and Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory. In myth, there were originally three muses, but as time went on they became nine: Calliope, Clio, Euterpe, Erato, Terpsichore, Thalia, Melpomene, Polyhymnia, Urania. Each muse had a specialty art that they inspired. The muse would come to the poet as a companion, whisper in his ear and grant him three gifts: a laurel branch to use as a scepter, a beautiful voice with which to sing his verse, and knowledge of the future and the past to guide him in writing his poetry. This ancient poet believed that creativity was divine inspiration, coming from someplace outside themselves. The ancient poet felt that he was the conduit of the muse’s message. The muse dictated and the poet created. There was no need for hubris by the poet since he was not responsible for what he wrote and performed. All credit went to the divine muse. A sense of gratefulness to the gods and a release from the burden of performance was given to the poet. Throughout the height of the Greek and Roman eras, the companion muse speaking to the poet was the accepted norm.
Modern science has been learning more about how the human brain functions as to our thought processes, memory, and how we use the information in our brains on a day to day basis. Much of the viewpoints of the ancient poets and their muses can now be explained and better used in our efforts at creativity.
Each one of us has dual levels of identity, a conscious ego and an unconscious companion, known as the id. The ego is the conscious mind, the one who is in control of what you think, what you plan to do, and what you will focus on. Accompanying these rational thoughts are involuntary memories, images, feelings, that have influence over you, but are autonomous and beyond your control. This is the primal thought processes of the id. Our conscious mind has a more limited capacity of how much information that it can process. What it can’t handle goes down to our primal levels and stays there until needed. What the ancient poet termed to be a muse is your unconscious mind working to solve problems below the threshold of your awareness. It is the place where epiphanies happen, where short-cuts and indirect methods of thinking can create original connections in the mind of a writer.
When you follow the model of thinking of your id as a companion or muse, an entity separate from yourself, it gives you the writer the ability to hand your creative problems over and then later accept the heady insights of inspiration when they come. You must learn to work with the unconscious part of your mind, it is a wild spirit that works at its own pace and should not be forced. When your id is busy and offering ideas, you the writer must be ready to accept and work with it. When it is at rest, you must accept that and allow it time to work unseen in the back part of your mind. Do not begrudge the time, remember that your “muse” is a separate from yourself and works at its own pace. Do other tasks; keep your hands busy with something unrelated to the story problem, or do exercises to keep your writing skills honed. The use of morning pages or word prompts are good choices.
When you least expect it, your unconscious mind will deliver. Make sure you have a notebook or a tablet ready to scribble down the stories when they come. The idea may arrive as a character that speaks to you and refuses to depart until you write her down, or it may be a series of images that connect together in a new pattern. Often these answers are driven by hidden emotions or old memories put together in innovative ways. This is the natural expression of our dual thought processes within, the ego and the id working together to create inspiration for the stories that is at the heart of what makes us writers.