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 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