I met Dorothy Tucker in 2010 when I spoke at the Wisconsin State Alzheimer’s Conference. She had just retired, and she told me she’d kept a journal off and on during her 30+ year career as a nurse.

She came to Oregon that fall and we spent a week editing her notes and connecting the bits and pieces of her writings to create a rough draft of her memoir. She went home and continued to work on it with the encouragement and support of her favorite aunt, who was a retired writing teacher.

I got a card from Dorothy yesterday. Her aunt died about a month ago. Dorothy had been her caregiver through an extended illness and a long, arduous dying process. Dorothy said, “She was my muse. I don’t think I’ll finish my book now.”

I called Dorothy to offer my condolences. She talked about how much harder it was to deal with her aunt’s death than she had anticipated, and how ashamed she was for being angry at her throughout the process.

I said, “Dorothy, you have to write about this. Don’t monitor yourself. Don’t judge your feelings. Just write. If you experienced these feelings, you have to know other people are feeling the same way. Writing about it will help you heal your own heart and you can also help others.”

Our conversation made me think about the concept of a muse. I don’t believe Dorothy’s aunt was her muse. I think we each have a muse within us. Our muse is that thought that tugs at us, wakes us up in the morning and revisits us at unexpected times throughout the day. It is a gift that sometimes acts more like a nag.

Your gift may be writing. It may be art, gardening, cooking, sewing or something completely off the wall. It can be scary to share this gift, because we first have to believe that this “thing” we need to create is worthwhile. We risk putting time, effort and energy into something that could be met with indifference or even criticism.

I hope Dorothy won’t give up on her book. Her stories are unique and at the same time universal. I know her experiences will inspire others. If your muse is tugging at you today, I hope you’ll listen to it. After all, every great work of art, every important novel that’s ever been written, and every innovation that has ever led to advances in technology and medicine all began with a thought. I hope you’ll do whatever it takes to bring your thought, idea or plan to life.