Clio's Lessons

Education and knowledge can serve to inspire creative souls.

By Molly Anderson | Posted 1/15/06 | 9/23/23

Clio, the Athenian Muse of history, education, and knowledge, is often neglected by writers and artists. I hope to re-kindle your interest, and show you all the gifts she can give to us.

Most people think of history as a boring subject, mostly confined to dusty old books. Few stop to consider that history is always changing and growing. Each day that passes adds to the history of our time on Earth. Consider, too, that history is always being re-written, altered, and edited as the balance of power shifts. To the victor goes the spoils — we've all heard that old saw. The victor also writes the history books. History itself is full of untold stories, missing pieces, songs left unsung.

I have always kept a journal, since I learned to write. I cannot remember a time when I lacked that faithful confidante and friend, that ally against the dark demons of the soul. Through the years, I have filled many blank pages with my stories, poems, hopes, and dreams. This has made me see the value of recording my own history. It is a comfort to pour out my deepest secrets to this constant, steadfast companion.

I can confide all my feelings without restraint or fear of reprisal. Here, in my journal, I can safely rant and rave until I feel sane again. I can trust the pages to keep my secrets safe inside, for a journal is never tempted to gossip. When we value ourselves, we value our own histories. When we commit the details of our lives to the page, we do so in a hope that these stories and lies may outlive our bodies. It is in this way that we seek to become immortal.

We can also become inspired by the histories of others. Choose an interesting historical figure — for instance, Cleopatra. Write a story from her point of view. Then, write the other side of the story — how might a poor woman in Ancient Egypt see things differently?

You can also write a poem, letter, play, or journal entry from these differing points of view; the contrast can make for an interesting, surprising, spicy piece! If you prefer the visual or performing arts, you can also create a collage, painting, skit, or song inspired by some of history's untold tales and not-so-famous faces.

Education and knowledge can also serve to inspire creative souls. Feeling stuck, blocked, or generally icky? Jump-start your creative batteries with a drama class, painting workshop, or private creative writing lessons.

Visit your favorite bookstore or library, and educate yourself about some aspect of the arts that interests you — a biography of Frida Kahlo, a how-to guide for writing a novel, or a book of Van Gogh's paintings can be inspirational. Try something new, learn things that surprise you, or just surf the shelves, opening books at random until you uncover something intriguing. Clio will guide you.

I love to look through books of photographs, then write about the people and places caught in each frame. Photographs contain stories, poems, songs, surprises, and hidden delights. One of my current favorites is "On this Earth," a collection of photographs of endangered East African animals in the wild, by photographer Nick Brandt. Each picture has a different story to tell.

If you'd like Clio's help in the studio, simply light a candle and ask her to join you. Read, write, or paint with her beside you. When you have finished, thank her for her help and invite her to inspire you and surprise you anytime. Soon you will find her gifts everywhere: the local library, museums, galleries, and antique shops are some of my favorite places to connect with Clio.

In those quiet places, holy with learning and mystery, she is quietly smiling, holding an open book in her hands. Her head is crowned with laurel leaves, and her eyes are bright. If you but listen, she will tell you a million stories, and more.

Next: Erato: The Art and Soul of Sensual Poetry

©2006 Molly Anderson. All rights reserved.