AS A musician and writer, I often have reason to find out where my Muse has gone.

In the middle of a piece of written musing or musical doodling it abandons me without telling me where it's going or how long it will be gone for.

If it has gone out for a drink, then I make coffee. If it seems to have packed its bags and gone abroad, then I have to rely on my wits - a source that is never entirely reliable. You cannot text A Muse and expect one will turn up, but you can find them on the internet.

According to Greek mythology there are nine muses, so - in theory - there is a roster and at least one should be on duty for creative emergencies 24/7.


But the Muses are a whimsical bunch who seem to work to their own timetable with no interest in such mundane things as deadlines or contractual obligations. This is, coincidently, always exactly when you need them to be attentive to your dilemma, providing divine or at least some minimal practical inspiration.

Appealing to the Muses as you begin a creative enterprise has a long tradition.

Getting them on side early clearly helped Homer with getting the Odyssey across the finish line. In a more contemporary context, I have been reading about the ways that musicians and writers tempt, cajole or even order the Muses to appear.

Some of the more startling tactics include striding up and down commanding them to assist, invoking them with an incantation or wooing them with poetry.

My favourite, slightly crazed strategy - discovered in a book about creativity - was dressing up. The author suggested putting on your finest duds or wearing a specific costume before beginning to write or compose.

The notion of wearing the right clothes to get the Muses to take notice is an interesting one. Would it help the musician struggling with a country song to put on a cowboy hat? A crime writer to don a trench-coat or sci-fi authors to fix aerials to their ears?

I could try writing this column while wearing a onesie that says "Ancient Geek" across the front to see if that improves the quality of the prose, but I think the Muses would find this was not amusing, simply daft.

Perhaps the trick is more about getting the right Muse looking over your shoulder correcting rhymes, syntax or melody.

Of the nine, Clio is the one for guitar and history together with Euterpe who, apparently, could play everything. Thalia was good for a laugh being the Muse for comedy - might enjoy the onesie wearing.

If Melpomene showed up I might be worried as she was into tragedy. Or Terpsichore, the Muse of dance, as when it comes to dancing, I need all the help I can get.

Erato is the Muse of love poetry and all the stuff that happens when people fall into love and find it is very deep and hard to write about without making a fool of yourself. Polymnia was the one for geometry and grammar which might be useful when writing a book about the triangle but Ourania was the one for the stars.

Of the nine, Calliope is the all-rounder - she hangs out with royalty as the Muse for justice and serenity whose job it is to protect heroic poems.

I wasn't planning to write anything heroic today ... just this column, but you never know when you or I might find we need a Muse.

■Terry Sarten (aka Tel) is a writer, musician, social worker and muse hunter - feedback from any Muses out there: