Jade Dunlop: Betting on the Muse

Ah! The cold, unforgiving stare of the blank page! The laptop hums quietly in condescendence while the cursor blinks slowly; smugly waiting to leap forward with words it knows just aren’t coming.  Time blurs like a bad dream as the deadline creeps ever closer. Paralyzing fear grips my body as I acclimate myself to the pitiful realization that I have nothing to say to my audience. I stand before you empty handed. Silence from my fingertips. My literary stage fright.

Writer’s block.

It’s a sensation I’m sure we’ve all felt at one point in time or another – “professional” writer or not. It creeps up on us while we are penning memos at the office, scribbling school assignments or even typing emails to old friends. We somehow find ourselves at a loss for words. Maybe we have too many words, just not the right ones – or the right words, just not in the right order? Whatever the case may be, we find ourselves disappointed; sitting quietly – taunted by our own ineptness with the English language. A heat wave passes through our bodies as we fidget and sigh in our seats, attempting to force what should flow like an Alpine spring. We wait impatiently for inspiration to strike like lightning.

Far across vast expanse of time we can find relation to the men and women of Ancient Greece, who believed that inspiration was, literally, a spark of the divine.  The Muses were 9 beautiful nymphs, daughters of Zeus who were born of the sparkling waters flowing down from Mount Olympus. Each one represented a different realm of the arts: Euterpe was the muse of lyrical song, Terpsichore, the muse of dance, Clio represented history and Urania governed astronomy, Thalia and Melpomene ruled comedy and tragedy respectively while Polyhymnia created sacred songs and Erato inspired erotic poetry. Last but not least, the beautiful Calliope was the muse of epic poetry and literature. When these bewitching ladies weren’t too busy singing, dancing, drinking and making love in the gardens of Olympus (as nymphs are so known to do), they would come to take pity on us poor mortals craving creativity. They would grant to us a bolt of inspiration as clean and fresh as the waters from which they first sprang, shaking us from our petrified state of innovative inadequacy. And when we feel the Muse’s kiss of genius shoot like an arrow through our minds, we become as powerful as the Gods themselves.

For those of us who have felt that kiss – that warm embrace of brilliance that those faithful Muses bring – we truly know what an intoxicating and fortunate experience that is; to break the spell of the menacing blank page and to finally let the words flow like the wine of our ancient deities. How lucky we feel to no longer be a slave to our own shortcomings – fear and anxiety subside and we are once again able to express ourselves. Fingers no longer tongue-tied as they dance across the keyboard! Freedom with speech! What a glorious feeling!

For centuries now, men and women have respected the Muses ability to jump start the engines of our minds and fill our hearts with inspiration, for as long as there has been writers, there has been writer’s block.  Legend even has it that it was Calliope herself, in her infinite wisdom, who assisted Homer as he searched for inspiration when he penned his epic poem The Odyssey. But as respected as these powerful nymphs are for putting dynamite to our writer’s block (for which us literary types are ever thankful), they’ve been cemented in history for a much more important reason. The Muses represent inspiration – inspiration to create. And it is when man creates that he truly becomes like a God.

Where Mighty Zeus, King of the Gods and father to The Muses, could reach into the clouds and create thunder and lightning, we mortal men can reach for a paper and pen, and create history. We can raise mountains and empires, part seas and continents and shape humanity’s future and record it’s past through the simple movement of a pencil. Though the strokes of ink on paper have given way to characters on a computer screen, the written word will always remain mightier than the sword. Even the mighty King Zeus, with all his power and force, is at the mercy of our wordsmiths – for he himself would have disappeared into the dark, bottomless chasm of history if man had failed to write about him and record his greatness on paper for future generations to come.

But this staggering global influence does not just apply to the written word, but to all forms of art. It is through these creations of man – simple or complex – that we as a species can come to understand each other. All our art, whether inspired by the heavenly Muses or by more earthbound matters, has the capacity and potential to change the world. Art inspires. Art inspires feelings, emotions and ideas. Now, whether those ideas are of romance, world revolution, space exploration or a new colour scheme for the bedroom, art is creating change. Art inspires more art. Our innovations innovate. Over time, we can watch the lineage of what we bring into existence grow and evolve – an ever blossoming family tree of creation that can shape our society into something new – something better.

It is with this knowledge that I submit to you this column. Although I cannot guarantee it to be life changing or world shattering, I can only hope that it will create something – even if it is something as simple as a smile or a sigh. With my muses safely back in the verdant and immortal gardens of Olympus and this article floating around the endless sea that is the internet, I am now free to pursue other endeavors until the bolt of inspiration strikes once again. Which it will, as we are all created to create.

What great things will I inspire? Who’s muse will I be?

Betting on the Muse
Charles Bukowski

Jimmy Foxx died an alcoholic
in a skidrow hotel
Beau Jack ended up shining
just where he
there are dozens, hundreds
more, maybe
thousands more.
being an athlete grown old
is one of the cruelest of
to be replaced by others,
to no longer hear the
cheers and the
to no longer be
just to be an old man
like other old

to almost not believe it
to check the scrapbook
with the yellowing
there you are,
there you are,
victorious; there you are,

the crowd has other 
the crowd never
never grows
but the crowd often

now the telephone
doesn’t ring,
the young girls are
the party is

this is why I chose
to be a 
if you’re worth just
you can keep your
hustle going
until the last minute
of the last
you can keep
getting better instead
of worse,
you can still keep
hitting them over the

Charles Bukowski

“I am different
Some say I am strange
but I’m just an original
and I shall not change”
^ a poem I wrote in the 6th grade.
 A character that cannot begin to be summed up in the 6 sentences that comprise the byline can be capsulized in two words: Jade Dunlop.

3 Responses to “Jade Dunlop: Betting on the Muse”

  1. Rita Shular Says:

    What a wonderful story and the pictures are very pretty, thanks for making me smile today. Great writing as usual.

  2. Big smile and contented sigh – Thanks – I needed that

  3. Gina Mastroianni Says:

    Amazing…you’re beautiful 🙂

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