In preparation for this Radio Show I decided to take a little stumble through Google to find out what a Creative Muse really is. Here’s what I’ve discovered: there are thousands, if not millions of conversations out there about the Creative Muse.
Looking strictly at the definition of Muse, we have:
- Verb – to muse; to ponder; to think deeply and at great length; to meditate.
- A proper noun – In Greek mythology any one of the nine goddesses who were the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne — Calliope, Clio, Euterpe, Melpomene, Terpsichore, Erato, Polyhymnia, Urania, and Thalia. They were each given providence over various aspects of the arts and sciences and thought to favor and inspire selected humans.
- A noun – The spirit or power that is thought to inspire or watch over poets, musicians, artists, or scientists; the source of one’s genius or inspiration.
What the Creative Muse is to Me
What I’ve come to understand about the Creative Muse is that, for a writer, a muse is something a little different from a painter or sculptor’s muse. Painters and sculptors hold images of people or things in their mind and bring replicas of them – from their point of view – to the canvas or clay. For writers, life is our muse. We can draw inspiration from a flyby comment from a friend, or a breeze – or for me today it was watching a flock of geese land in high winds. And we MUST write it down to capture its essence. For writers, the very act of writing IS our muse, it is something that calls to us –without fail – whether we heed the call or not.
That’s all very romantic isn’t it?! I guess what I’m really saying is that a muse isn’t something to be chased, it is something we BE that is to be honored.
So, how do we honor, and invite the Muse into our lives more consistently (so that we don’t have to feel like it needs chasing)?
Ways to Honor & Invite The Muse
- Write Regularly – Some people recommend every day, for me that just makes room to judge myself when I don’t so … write regularly. Write anything! Some days I’ve written nothing but ideas about things to write later. Other days I’ll journal or do ‘more productive’ writing. I used to not write regularly but I did a whole lot of talking about writing: how I don’t have time for it, how important it is to my little soul, how it has always been in me … and still, I never did it. Then I realized how abusive talking about writing like that can be. I was reinforcing its integral role in my life and at the same time depriving myself of it.Now that I am writing more regularly, no matter what it is that I write, it is even more fulfilling than I imagined!
- Have a Ritual – A number of authors that have been interviewed on the Writing on Air Radio show have mentioned the things they do to set themselves up for writing. Some go to their special writing place. Some light candles or meditate before they begin. I’m not sure I have a ritual for myself yet. I’ll get a glass of water or tea , maybe a snack and go to wherever I feel like writing that day. It’s all about finding a way to get into the “mood” or to set the intention that now is the time to visit your Muse.
- Exercise – It seems a bit counter intuitive: to get away from your writing to be able to write. If the likes of Mark Twain, Henry Thoreau, Albert Einstein, Maya Angelou, and Stephen King did it, I think there must be something to it. I know that when I need to think, I need to move. For me that means walking as well. Hey! I’m in GREAT company! Somehow the motion of my legs acts like a pump for my brain to get out of its singular stuck thought and into more interesting waters.
- Read – The more I write, the more voracious a reader I become. I’ll read just about anything – even those aggravating click bait articles on facebook that I curse myself for clicking on. In almost everything I read, I find something to examine, to ponder and to write about from my own point of view. There is a little risk with reading more: you could find an author you love and they will influence the way you write. You’ll know you’re trying to sound like them more than being yourself if your writing starts to feel fake, or clunky, or just crap. Learn technique from other authors and let that enrich your personal craft.
- Create space and time for your muse to appear – This has been a biggie for me. I would spend my days at the office cursing that I had to be there “working” instead of sitting in some beautiful room at a lovely desk and writing until my fingers bleed. (Isn’t that what writers are supposed to do?!) And when I wasn’t at the office I’d find other things to do instead of write … and I’d curse them too. Then, one day, my ever practical – and at that moment fed up with my complaining – husband, said “change your schedule at the office.” Now why didn’t I think of that?! I changed my schedule: now I alternate my weeks between the office and my writing / creative pursuits.
- Associate with other writers – While friends and family can be great fodder for your writing, they are not always the most helpful when it comes to the actual craft of writing. I’m still working on this one for myself. A couple weeks ago, I was listening to the audio version of Real Artists Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins. In the book he talks of a group of writers – the Hemmingway, JRR Tolkien kind of writers – and how they had created a group that met on a weekly basis to discuss their work, read some of it aloud and support each other through the writing process. Anne Lamott mentions the same concept in her book Bird By Bird that I’m reading now.
It would be nice wouldn’t it, to be able to have someone accessible to you, who knows what it’s like to write and to talk you off the bridge – or talk your character off the bridge – whichever is required, when you need it.
What I’ve come to know is …
Without answering our muse, honoring the muse, we become unfulfilled, emotionally tortured souls. I suppose that’s how the image of an alcoholic recluse hunched over the typewriter has become the iconic stereotype of a writer.
When we are at our desks, pen and or keyboard at hand, if the words won’t come, the muse is there.
When we are present in our lives, noticing and noting the nuances and moments of life, the muse is there.
And when we write, OHHH when we write … the muse is there!
In all of these moments, we are in the space, the frame of mind, honoring our muse…if we let it be that simple.
Listen to the full show…