Muses, Protect Us from Unruly Musing!
muse, verb: “to reflect, to be absorbed in thought” (mid-14th century); “to ponder, dream, wonder; loiter, waste time” (12th-century Old French)
Writing usually starts with a little musing. Pursuing that musing too far, however, can turn the writer from reflecting to wasting time. That calls to mind a different word.
amuse, verb: “to divert the attention, beguile, delude” (late 15th century, from Middle French amuser “cause to muse”)
Musing becomes unfocused and transfigures into little bits of beguiling thought. These thoughts can circle back to the original musing, allowing the writer to get some writing done, or they can divert the attention too far. Which calls to mind a different word.
bemuse, verb: “ to make utterly confused” (early 18th century); or, as Pope punned “devoted utterly to the Muses”
Is it the amusing Muses who have bemused the writer’s intentions?
Muse, noun: “protector of the arts” (late 14th century); from the Greek Mousa “the Muse”
There are nine of these mythological protectors, daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (“memory, remembrance” as used in “mnemonic device”: Calliope (epic poetry), Clio (history), Erato (love poetry), Euterpe (music), Melpomene (tragedy), Polymnia (hymns, sacred poetry), Terpsichore (dance), Thalia (comedy), and Urania (astronomy). Despite Pope's quip, they're not in the business of hindering the creative process.
Writers, borrow a few inches from Clio’s scroll and obey the prodding of Calliope’s stylus: get those musings down on paper before you have to change your title from “writer” to “muser.” After all, editors can edit your writing. Musings are a little more difficult.