Creativity – Have You Met Your Muse?

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Musings on Muses

Eve Goodnight (you’ve got to love her name!) has an interesting take on creativity as she asks, What are muses, anyway?

The origin of the Muses is a little fuzzy…. The Greeks believed that an artist was merely a skilled laborer who successfully channeled their Muse spirit. They believed that it was the Muse who supplied the “genius” in the work, or not. 

She then references Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk (see below) about creativity and genius, in which the author of the highly successful “Eat, Pray, Love” comes to the conclusion after wondering about this whole creative inspiration ‘thing,’ that her job is to just “show up.”

But, Eve hastens to remind us that creative endeavors are not at all like most jobs. In other words, is just showing up really all it takes when inspiration is elusive for us? She humorously notes, “It’s amazing how productive I can be at housework or gardening while looking for inspiration for a writing project.”

Can you relate?

One of Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk points is to compare a muse to the role of Clarence the Guardian Angel in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Here’s Eve’s spin on it:

In the end George still does all the work, but Clarence facilitates the “miracle” in this story…. I like to think of my Muse like this. I show up everyday and I write… But only if I’m doing my job, putting words on electronic paper, can Clarence do his job and help me.

She then referenced another source, pulling in a podcast of Tim Ferriss (“The 4-hour Work Week”) interviewing the subject of “Looking for Bobby Fischer,” Josh Waitzkin. Josh learned how to ‘train’ his muse to visit him on demand, so to speak. He writes about it in “The Art of Learning,” in which he says it’s possible to tweak our environment and routines to entice our muse to show up. Eve writes,

I’ve recently adapted my morning routine to begin with 30 minutes of writing…without any external input. No email, no Facebook and no conversations. It’s quickly becoming my most authentic and personal writing.

She put these seemingly disparate viewpoints together, dovetailing them so they make sense. Read her entire blog post at The Writer’s Muse, Mythical Creature or Elusive Creative Ally?

And enjoy, get inspired, and “get” this whole muse thing without all the woo-woo by watching Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk. She’s witty, she’s charming, and thoroughly disarming. Watch it, and be prepared to be mesmerized, bedazzled, and enlightened, rather like…well, a muse might do.

Don’t be daunted. Just do your job. Continue to show up for your piece of it, whatever that might be. If your job is to dance, do your dance. If the divine, cockeyed genius assigned to your case decides to let some sort of wonderment be glimpsed, for just one moment through your efforts, then ‘Ole!’ And if not, do your dance anyhow. And ‘Ole!’ to you, nonetheless. I believe this and I feel that we must teach it. ‘Ole!’ to you, nonetheless, just for having the sheer human love and stubbornness to keep showing up. – Elizabeth Gilbert

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Creativity – When Creative Confidence Crashes

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Back in the late 1990’s after a period of prolific writing as I honed my craft, and just before I might have burst into traditional publishing, I crashed and burned emotionally with a major bout of clinical depression. I stopped writing entirely, except for an occasional–tentative–foray into revisiting the books I’d written and set aside, because they were flawed. No, they really were. But probably not as bad as I thought.

The thing is–and those of you who are susceptible to “shiny object syndrome”will understand this–a new idea would be more appealing than trying to rescue a story I was discouraged over. Hence the burgeoning files of books that weren’t even doing the rounds of agents and editors. I know. But my foolish mistakes are not the focus of this article. Back to my point.

Fast forward to 2012. My clinical depression was essentially gone, and this aging Boomer just up and retired. And because I never seem to do things by halves, I moved across the country to the deserts and mountains of Tucson, Arizona, 2,500 miles away from Ohio and nearly everyone I loved, essentially to begin a new life. Since then I’ve been writing with increasing consistency.

But it hasn’t been easy. With the way my brain works, and with self-talk that is often unhealthy, I found myself limited, until I realized I was the one limiting myself.

Here’s the thing. There is a momentum to writing. I had it back in the 90’s. :(

You may recall the Law of Inertia. It goes something like this: “A body in motion TENDS to stay in motion. A body at rest TENDS to stay at rest.”

That’s the problem with a 15-year hiatus–rebuilding momentum. But more than that, it’s also a matter of regaining self-confidence, which is a huge part of a writer’s momentum.

Perhaps you can relate.

My friend and creativity coach Dan Goodwin has been delving into the why’s and wherefores of creativity for as long as I’ve known him. As a true DaVinci type himself, he is multi-talented in his own right. He also knows first-hand about losing creative confidence, because he’s written about it here:

“If you haven’t been freely creative for a while, it can seem harder to get back into that flow with each passing day. In fact, you more than likely have started to wonder whether you’ll EVER create anything meaningful or worthwhile again.”

His solution? He lays out a plan of action that should allow any of us to get back into the swing of things with our creating, whatever our specialty may be:

  • Recall past creative highs. 
  • Believe your creativity is ready and waiting. 
  • Start with small projects. 
  • A little each day. 
  • Acknowledge your progress. 

Of course these are only the bare bones of his plan. But you can access the entire article where he elaborates for each point at How to Recover from a Crash in Creative ConfidenceOpens in a new window so you can come back here to leave a comment!

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The Future of Publishing – Crystal Ball Gazing Anyone?

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Today I’m revisiting an article I wrote a few years ago (Publishing in 2011 and Beyond). I’m giving it a major face-lift, firstly because the year 2011 is part of the original title. [Note to self. To create “evergreen” articles, don’t include dates indiscriminately in TITLES!] But mostly I am updating the content because even in a mere three years, things have changed dramatically. First, the debate over print books versus digital books is mellowing out. Many of those who were staunchly against eReaders and in favor of good old-fashioned print books have dipped their toes into the electronic waters (shocking, I know) and, if not complete converts, are  Continue reading

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Story Ideas – A New Character & Story Resource

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I came across a page on Facebook today that jump-started my writer’s imagination and quickly sent it into over-drive. Before I give you the link, let me tell you what all it has. There are vintage photos of people, for some of whom information is known, but for others, no one (yet) has a clue. There are also extensive write-ups for some of the photos. There’s a fascinating tale of a woman who, at 18, set herself up as a Parisienne courtesan, and lived a rather notorious life with many lovers of both genders. Bless her, she kept journals, so her version of her life is out there in “My Blue Notebooks PA: The Intimate Journal of Paris’s Most Beautiful and Notorious Courtesan” by Liane de Pougy

How could you use the information on this page for story ideas? Well, if you write historical fiction, the connection is self-evident. But how about using this page as research for time-travel as a sub-genre of romance, science fiction, and of course historical fiction, including westerns, regency romances, etc.? That’s just a start. There are also paranormal, horror, YA and children’s literature as possible genres. This is a “sky’s the limit” resource. You just need to think about it.

Head on over to Facebook now to have a look yourself: AncientFaces. The page already has nearly 70,000 likes. I wonder how many of those were from writers? My guess is that the majority represent genealogy seekers. You will definitely want to check this out.

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Story Ideas: Outside Your Window

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Looking for something to write about? Here are two ideas from Kristi Tencarre, whose writing prompts are some of the only ones that I’m even interested in, because of her unique eye and the spin she puts on them. She uses the arts to inspire.

Both prompts are about looking out your window. And at the end, I offer Continue reading

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