What if your creativity came from a place greater than you—a source of inspiration that never let you down?
Ancient Greeks and Romans believed that art was born out of a divine conduit—or genius. People weren’t geniuses but tapped a divine spirit to create their art.
In Plato’s time, the concept of creativity didn’t exist. Instead, Greeks saw art as a form of discovery through a muse that mediated inspiration from the Gods—a benevolent guiding spirit linked to the divine.
The idea of a muse may be why some artists think they can’t create until they’re inspired.
Don’t wait for your muse to appear. Call it out.
Something magical happens when we put an intention out into the world to create. Dorothea Brande knew this when she said, “Act boldly and unseen forces will come to your aid.” Read more
“Art does not come from the mind. Art comes from the place where you dream.” – Robert Olen Butler in From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction.
The other morning, I had a dream about writing. I was definitely in my happy place when I woke because the dream starred one of my favorite authors–Neil Gaiman–who was giving me writing advice.
In the dream, my hubby and I were having a picnic on a grassy knoll in England. (I’ve never been to England so I’m not even sure what it looks like or if there really are grassy knolls). Mr. Gaiman was walking by and stopped to entertain us with the details of his next writing project.
I told him I was a writer but that I was having problems finishing my current novel. He said, “You’re getting caught up in all that other stuff that doesn’t mean anything.” Wagging his finger at me, like my mother used to do when I was young and naughty, he continued, “Just tell a story. Forget about everything else for now.”
I woke up smiling. I mean, who wouldn’t with Mr. Gaiman wagging his finger at you? Read more
A few weeks ago, my soon-to-be daughter-in-law asked me to give a toast at her and my son’s wedding this Saturday because in her words, “you’re a writer and good with words.” I thought sure. No problem. I’d be honored.
Then as the days went on and no ideas came except maybe reading a love poem (which would be nice but not very original), I began to panic. How do I gather up the events of our life together—mother and son—in two minutes? How do I convey the meaning of the journey my son and his bride are embarking on? Read more
A young woman introduced herself to me at a poetry reading recently. “I write poetry, too,” she said. “But only when the inspiration strikes me.”
Ah, youth. I remember saying the same thing when I was younger.
You see, I’d bought into the myth that writers are a temperamental lot who only write when their muse “inspires” them. Fortunately, I’ve grown as an artist and realize now that the best writers are the ones that cultivate their inspiration daily. They discipline themselves to write each day even when they’re tired or don’t feel like writing. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, inspiration becomes a habit.
How can you cultivate inspiration? Read more
Throughout history, artists have called their sources of inspiration many things: ego, God, muse, daemon, genius, angel, their higher-self, or as Edwin Land, American scientist and inventor once said, creativity is simply, “a brief cessation in stupidity.”
Most days I feel about as creative as a slug on a morphine drip.
I have to fight for my creativity. I have to force myself to stay in my chair and to stay writing. Some writers call it “bum glue”—writing something without getting up twenty times to stare longingly at the chocolate pudding inside the fridge.
Why is it so hard to stay focused? Usually there’s a reason.
Yes, I run my own business and I have a zillion busy things to do each day. And, trust me, I’ve used that excuse a zillion and a half times to avoid my writing. But why do I find so many excuses to avoid what I love to do most in the world? Mostly, I think, it comes down to fear.
You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club. Jack London
Inspiration comes from many places. Sometimes, it’s a visual image—fog settling over the bay, a blue jay teetering on a phone wire, a dead leaf swirling on the wind. Sometimes, inspiration comes in the form of sound—a phrase overheard, the sound of water rushing over rocks, silence when the power goes out. But too often, inspiration doesn’t just come out of the blue—I have to go hunting for it.
One of my favorite ways to find inspiration is to read the work of others—poetry, fiction, nonfiction. As a writer, we train ourselves while reading to have different levels of awareness running at the same time. Kind of like having multiple computer programs running at once.
On one level, we’re fully immersed in the story or poem, but on another level we’re noticing language, syntax, the arrangement of words, metaphors, rhythm. We notice how the author or poet uses concretes and abstractions, how she presents her characters or builds suspense.
As you read, notice if the piece grabs you. And, if it does, where does that happen? Be on the lookout for what inspires your muse.
Sometimes, an idea or inspiration will come in the form of one word. One wild word that sparks your muse into action. Read more
Ever feel as if your muse is sitting back, stuffing her face with Bon Bons while watching reruns of “True Blood”? How do you inspire her to get off her ever-widening rear end and get back to work?
Check out www.Ted.com, where you’ll find “riveting talks by remarkable people.” Or, as I affectionately call this website—muse juice.
One of my favorite inspirational talks is by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love. In trying to answer the question, “Where does creativity come from?” she tells of the time she met American poet Ruth Stone who grew up in rural Virginia.
Sometimes, when Ruth was out working in the fields, she’d feel and hear a poem coming at her from over the landscape—like a “thunderous train of air” barreling down on her. She’d run like hell to the house to get paper and pencil so when the poem barreled through her she’d be ready. Sometimes, she’d almost miss it. During these times, she’d grab a pencil and reach out with her other hand and catch the poem by its tail, pulling it back to her. When this happened, the poem would come out on the page perfectly intact but backwards—the words written from the end of the poem to the beginning.
I love this story because it feels as if it could be true. Read more