Finding My Muse—and Yours
“Blessed are the weird people: poets, misfits, writers, mystics, painters, troubadours, for they teach us to see the world through different eyes.” - Jacob Nordby, Blessed are the Weird: A Manifesto for Creatives
Being a Weird person has been a blessing for me. It has helped me find my Muse. Let me start at the beginning. I was the child under the blanket, reading with a flashlight. For as long as I can remember, I have been a voracious reader. As a child of the pre-internet world, I had to find my entertainment myself. Any number of books had found their way into my blanket tent. When I had devoured The Hardy Boy Mysteries, I would sneak into my sister’s room and take her Nancy Drew Mysteries. Then, it was the massive black Collier’s Encyclopedias (remember, this was before Wikipedia). Reading was my escape from a world I didn’t enjoy. Being a child of divorce, I hid myself between the pages of a book because the contents kept me company. They became my secret, nighttime friends. Little did I know that this would also be the flint that lit the spark of my creativity.
After books, television became part of my existential life raft. Saturday morning cartoons rescued me. I would wake up eager to plant myself just feet from the television, and back then, we didn’t have many channels. I could list the shows I enjoyed, but that would fill many pages, so suffice it to say, one of my favorites was the Super Friends cartoon. This was the predecessor to the Justice League animated series. With Superman, Batman, the Wonder Twins, Aquaman, and so many others, my eyeballs never left the screen. Above all others, though, I found a soulmate in an unlikely hero: Wonder Woman.
School had taught me about Greek mythology which became a ravenous passion of mine, and every single book I could read about it was absorbed into my consciousness. Even before I could understand all of the intricacies of the history or the Eleusinian Mysteries or the complexities of Olympian incest, I saw the Greek gods as a version of superheroes. Perseus, Heracles, Theseus, and so many others had stories that I needed to learn about. I hadn’t become the staunch feminist I would later be, so I didn’t notice the dearth of female heroes in Greek myth. That would change, though, when I combined my love of mythology with another adoration of mine—comic books.
Before comic book stores existed, I would go to stationery stores and find the spinner racks where I would grab handfuls of comics to read, and this was prior to any Marvel vs. DC rivalries. I read Archie, Richie Rich, Justice League, Teen Titans, Spider-man, and many others, and I watched the cartoons that matched, but two episodes of Super Friends changed me forever.
You might be asking, “What does this have to do with finding your Muse?” Trust me. I’m getting there.
One episode of Super Friends, “Battle of the Gods,” had the gods testing Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman against monsters of myth. Here, the gods lived on the planet Caltos, and this is where Olympus existed. I got to see Zeus, Hera, and Aphrodite in animation, as well as Medusa and the Golden Fleece. It bridged two of my worlds together. A second episode, “Secret Origins of the Super Friends,” had Lex Luthor and the Legion of Doom go back into the past to remove Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman from history. This was my first exposure to the origin of the Amazon princess, and it planted a seed. In this episode, I learned that Hippolyta, Diana’s mother, sculpted her from clay, and Aphrodite brought the statue to life. I didn’t know the ramifications of this until much later; my love of Greek myth and Wonder Woman would become the touchstone from which my inspiration would grow.
It was then I watched this hero I adored come to life on television by virtue of Lynda Carter. In 1975, Wonder Woman was a live action series where the Amazing Amazon spun herself into my living room. I loved all sorts of heroes, but for some reason, this one had my heart. As a boy, it wasn’t popular to be such an avid fan, so I didn’t tell my friends, but I placed myself in front of the television to see bracelets deflect bullets, Amazons fight Nazis, and aliens invade the Earth with Princess Diana of Paradise Island to intercede.
Before the advent of VHS tapes, we only saw movies in the theater, and it wasn’t a common occurrence. If I’m not mistaken, seeing the Superman movie in 1978 may have been my first theater experience. I truly believed a man could fly. In 1981, I saw Clash of the Titans, a version of the Perseus story, and you better believe I was clambering to see it. Fourteen year old me was screaming inside. The flame of inspiration, although yet unknown to creative me, was there, and it was growing.
It was around this time I had learned about Dungeons & Dragons from my brother Neil. Back then, the books were smaller paperbacks, but I found the hardcover versions of Deities and Demigods, Monster Manual, and the Fiend Folio, and this is where my imagination exploded. I bought tiny metal figures and painted them. I had dragon dice. I played with friends in high school. And, I watched the cartoon. Man, my childhood was an amazing time to be a budding creative.
By the time I was in high school, I was writing a little, but it wasn’t until I was a senior until I wrote a short story that would invariably change my life. Back then, the only outer space television show that had the world enrapt was Star Trek, so it entered my consciousness. Combining that and my love of Greek mythology, I wrote “The Olympus Corps.,” a short story about outer space heroes flying around in a space ship battling monsters and gods. My inspiration flame raged for a while when this story came out, but then, like most things, it took a back seat to life.
Over the years, I revisited it, expanding it into what I thought might be a novel, and in 2010, my mother asked if I wanted to publish it. I’d never actually considered that. I just assumed it would be something I did just for me. Ultimately, I self-published the novel, renamed Task Force: Gaea—Finding Balance (somewhere I decided I wanted to make it a series), and then came Memory’s Curse, The Liar’s Prophecy, The Archer’s Paradox, and hopefully in 2024, Oracle’s End, the final book in the series. My journey of continued inspiration had borne fruit. Detouring from Greek myth into Celtic, I started a trilogy, The DragonHawk Cycle, with the first novel, The Quest of Wyndracer and Fyrehunter, currently out as well.
So, this is my story of inspiration. But, for you, dear reader, you may be wondering, “How do I find my Muse?” Let me help you.
First, ask yourself: “Why do I want to write?” Is it for money? To put your work out into the world? To be creative? All of the above? Sometimes, finding your motivation can help you realize your purpose. Then, ask yourself: “What do I love? What consumes me? Keeps me up at night? Distracts me?” For me, it was mythology and fantasy. For you, is it real life experience or fiction? Dragons or dinosaurs? Vampires or zombies? See what genre you’re drawn to.
The next step is basically writing down ideas. They don’t have to make sense yet. Put the word vomit on the page. Get it out of your head. You’ll play around with it later. See where it takes you. Let it guide your journey. Maybe what you initially thought isn’t where you want to go. Take risks. What’s in your Google Doc isn’t going out in the world yet, so test your own boundaries. Challenge yourself.
Finding your Muse is a process, a journey, a trek through your mind and experiences. It could take weeks, months, or years, but don’t force it. Let the ideas come to you as they do. Research. Mix ideas together. Separate others. Look to your inner fire to see just how hot it burns. When it dies down, do something to fuel it. When it’s too strong, step back a little. Too much of a good thing can actually stifle your creative mind. Guide the ideas. They’re malleable, like clay, clay that never hardens. It’ll always be there for you to play with.
Inspiration is also fickle. It’ll come and go. Don’t force it. Sometimes, it just needs to rest. Creativity can’t be made to happen. It loses its magic then. If you believe in magic, you can become one of the Weird people. Rest assured, when you do find it, you can harness the power to change the world.