Gabriel de Cool, The Muse (1895)
She’s fleeting, she dictates her own terms and she can leave you a blubbering mess if you miss her calling.
She’s ephemeral, a reluctant paradox, a butterfly resting gently on your open hand.
She’s the muse, the idea that arrives unexpectedly, the inspiration that hits you while in the shower and she always comes when you’re least prepared.
How can you tame such a wild goddess of imagination, a mythical dragon of ideas and seductive temptress of expression?
For centuries we’ve always thought we could tame the muse, keep her chained up in the corner and then prod her with a stick whenever we need an idea or inspiration. However we all know that by doing that we kill the very thing we revere. We see it from the boardroom to the schoolroom where new ideas and inspiration are forced into being and then boxed up and compartmentalised so they fit in with society’s dull and grey expectations. However Ideas need to be like wild cowboys roving the plains, kicking up dust and causing trouble for the pedestrian mentality.
So what’s the best way to ‘tame your muse’ without actually taming her?
You get to know her. Like a curious child watching a bug crawl across a flower, you study her every move and you get to know the sounds of her imminent arrival, know what situations best lure her in and make her feel most comfortable. She is a guest, a venerated one that deserves your undivided expectation. This is where the paradox comes in, you can’t invite her as she’ll most probably never turn up for the date, but you can be ready for when she drops by unexpectedly with a bottle of wine, ready for a good chat.
Sometimes though you may feel abandoned by your muse, where it’s like you’ve been sitting by the letterbox waiting for a letter from a loved one that is well overdue and as times goes on you give up hope believing she’s gone forever. It’s similar to writers block where new writers stress and fret thinking they’ll never write another line, whereas the old wordsmiths get up, walk away and do something else because they know the muse will always return, she always does.
When she does return you make her feel as comfortable as possible and this is what I’ve found works for me.
Being open means being open to all possibilities. It’s an infinite universe out there full of magic and mystery and as soon as you say “I know it all” or assume you know how it all works then you shut the door on your muse by saying “I don’t need you”. Opinions and judgements are best left for red wine fuelled dinner parties and arguments with the mother in law.
Kindness to yourself and others is the cornerstone of being receptive to inspiration. If you’re spending your time getting angry at people, complaining, shouting at the TV and forming suburban vigilante mobs you’ll just get echoes of your own righteousness going around your head. The beauty of creativity will be reduced to designing bigger prisons to hold all the people you hate. Open your heart, know that you are protected in some strange way you can’t explain and don’t be afraid to say nice things, to make people feel better not worse.
A life full of ‘doing things, places to go and people to see’ is a life void of precious down time. It’s critical to your soul and your muse that you make time for reflection and contemplation and also lay your heart open to the universe and acknowledge the bigger mystery. I’ve found that by deliberately creating a lifestyle where I have the time and space to ‘create and ponder’ the rewards are rich and plentiful.
It includes, creating more physical space by de cluttering your home and just filling it with things you love and that inspire you. Also create more time by cutting hours at work or changing jobs to one you really like. Do you really need the TV to keep you company? You may have noticed that ideas come when you’re doing things like washing dishes, walking the dog, having a shower, but not very often watching TV, which tends to dull the senses and render us zombie like.
A ‘thankyou’ is the alchemy of the universe. By giving thanks for what you have turns any negative energy into something magical that is pregnant with possibilities.
Have a pen and note book handy (or an iPhone)
Yep, you never know when she’s going to whisper in your ear, so make sure you have way of recording it either with an old fashion notepad and pen or tap it into your iPhone, and then email it home like I do.
Show that you’re ready… just show up.
Just starting writing or painting or any project, is like sending a smoke signal to your muse inviting her to come and play. Many times I’ve sat at the computer and just started to type and more often than not, ideas start to flow and I find myself no longer staring at a blank screen. Even if I write just rubbish, then it’s something. I can always delete it.
And keep showing up…..
Go well and go gently on your journey with your muse, but unfortunately it’ll be on her terms however that’s OK you were just planting flowers anyway.