I wish I had Elizabeth Gilbert's problem. Honestly.
That said, I found her concept of the externalization of the muse as a construct who helps the artist continue creating–deeply thought provoking. Days later, I'm still mulling.
I'm a spiritual person with a relationship with God as I understand Him, and there have been times when I felt like I was “channeling” something divine, finger plugged into a light socket, the “flow” Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi speaks of coming through me. I race beside to catch it before it moves on. (Ruth Stone is mentioned in the video chasing a poem. That rang so true tears came to my eyes.)
Other times the work, whether it's painting, writing, glass beadmaking, jewelry design, dance or writing–is just work. Hard work, oft repeated, done of out of dogged determination and humility. Here I am. Use me. Please.
I'm waiting for the current. Waiting for the breath of God to animate me. Waiting for the muse, the djinn, the magick to come and make something new through me. It usually does. And there's nothing more amazing than that feeling. It's addicting. It's eternity in a moment.
But it's fleeting, and only sometimes, and the cost is high. High in expectations, and rejections, and emotional risk, and in misunderstandings from others.
Oh, and it usually doesn't pay well.
I'm a mental health therapist. I might have become one to overcome some of the stereotypes about The Crazy Artist. I think I really became one though, because I'm so fascinated with people and their stories, what makes them tick. I'm a student of human nature-endlessly curious. Early pictures of me have a theme-my diapered hind end as I squat to investigate something. I'm investigating Creativity all the time.
Investigating and managing the emotional and financial risks. Saying to my husband, an amazing artist, OLE! and Amen. Saying to myself as I write, and write on, and get ready to get the writing out there (finally) with all the attendant terror–good for me, for trying.
That's my job. I show up at the page. I hope the muse will visit me. And if not, I create on anyway.
Please watch this video. If you aren't an artist, watch it so you can encourage those in your life who are. (though I believe we're all creators of something. It's how we're created in God's image.)
Tell me how this is for you. I really do want to know.
June Hur posted this some time ago, and I’m still thinking about it. I watched it wishing I had such a way with the spoken word. And it’s funny, because I was talking to someone about the intrusive Muse last night. But it is true, and it is thought provoking. It’s a talk well worth listening to again and again.
Thanks so much for commenting, Val! She is so articulate about things we grapple with.
I think there are a couple of questions here. The first is how to deal with fear. We all have it, and for good reason—the “lizard brain” and all that. We wouldn’t be here as a species without it. You don’t conquer fear, you manage it. That takes discipline and training.
Then there’s the question of creativity and fear that it won’t come. Sometimes it doesn’t. I think that’s okay… unless you depend on it for a living, in which case it’s about food on the table, roof over head, etc. Good recipe for performance anxiety. Good luck being creative with that dark cloud looming.
Like you, I have something else that I do, which is all consuming at times, and acts as a natural break from being creative. In my case, it makes the heart grow fonder. When I’ve ignored my creative for too long, I need to do something, or I get seriously cranky, or worse. I don’t really worry about whether I can. I’m just glad when I get to. I don’t even care how it comes out. I’m just happy to have the time. Lizard brain doesn’t even get a chance to get a word in edgewise.
I’m a photographer though. I deal with the visual world. It’s different for a writer. I get that. My dad was one. I saw the struggle. It has to come from within you, and there’s always the fear that it just isn’t there. My lizard brain would be all over that.
That’s why I like blogging. It isn’t writing. Not really. It gives me permission to get stuff out there without worrying about what it looks like.
Great mention of the “lizard brain” from Seth Godin. It’s all about survival. Good tie-in there, because in many ways we are all dealing with that.
It’s a tricky one. I often think there’s no such thing as a creative profession, there’s only creative people, and they end up in different walks of life (medicine, engineering, arts, programming, teaching, …) and make a difference there with their individual talents.
They all have ups and downs, days when they’re in the ‘flow’ and make great progress and many days when they feel demotivated or depleted, whether or not they understand why or have a ‘Muse’ to blame.
I think if we’re that kind of person, we need the depth and the drama to feel truly alive, which means we’ll look for it, consciously or subconsciously, in whatever job or walk of life we’re in and we’ll keep digging until we find it.
I like your concept of creative people who choose work that they can express that in. Certainly my work is such an outlet. I don’t know about seeking drama, personally I get enough of othr peoples to want peaceful existence for myself!
I think it’s all about one’s personal outlook. The people asking about whether she is worried about her career are really expressing their outlooks and their comments don’t directly relate to the author or her mindset. Everyone has fears and I suppose if someone is terrified of failure as a writer, it would be wise for them to pursue a different career. Muses don’t only appear to writers. Everyone is creative, even when not working in a field viewed as artistic. Writers, artists, even architects, are heavily influenced by the economy and during lucrative periods, creativity is affordable and the writer’s fears dissolve.
Thoughtful answer, Janie! Creativity is affordable… good point!
Toby, I really enjoyed listening to this. Really. It’s a fascinating insight into the human mind. Now let’s be an open book, here. I don’t believe in God. But I’ll accept that there are things we don’t understand and I would not for a moment poo-poo what this lady had to say about inspiration.
I don’t have a muse, I don’t have something external telling me what to write. I wish, in some ways, I did. It would be much less work than waking up at 3am, realising I haven’t finished that thread, or that what I wrote yesterday doesn’t fit the timeline.I don’t write because I must, I write because I want to, because I like the stories I created in my head and I love it when others do, too. (I might just blog about that) That said, I do try to write every day and if I don’t write, I take photographs. Some say my photos are great. I just say I capture a moment in time and freeze it.
I think the speaker has built her own survival mechanism, her own suit of armour, if you will. “It’s not my fault, I didn’t do it”. It works for her because in her context it’s harmless. But I think that attitude is so bad on so many levels, the sort of thing a guard at Auschwitz might have said, in totally different circumstances. I believe we have to take responsibility – and, yes – the kudos for what we have done. Sure, I think sometimes an individual can transcend to another level, shall we say – such as in dance or music, as she mentioned. And there, perhaps, I can agree a little with what she had to say when she said ‘I turned up for work today; where were you?’ Because sometimes you can tap into that extra level of yourself and very often – you can’t.
Wow, what a wonderful thoughtful answer. It’s amazing how this sparks different responses for those who watch it. Several creative friends wrote me long personal emails about what they agreed/disagreed with about it.
I think the debate is the thing, the inquiry, the search!
Thanks so much for sharing. And you’re so right about abdicating responsibility.
Reading the post and the comments below it, I think this one reflects my own reaction to it. I also have problems with something external telling me what to write/make/take pictures of. I do have beliefs that include something divine but they expressly include that ‘they’ do not concern themselves with what my mind comes up with. We are all one and therefore all is us. It is fascinating to me to see what that weird contraption called ‘the brain’ makes of all the incessant input it gets all day long and churns it out in the shape of stories, fantasies, realisations and ideas.
Maybe it’s my autistic streak sneaking to the fore, but after skipping through the video, absorbing possibly two minutes total, the ’70s (guess it was) came to mind. Specific scene was a copycat coffee house where the uniform of the night was black slacks, black turtlenecks and black eye shadow, worn by waitresses, performers and most patrons alike. And there was the typical performer, not striding about and shaking water off his hands like Liz, but sitting on a stool reciting “poetry” that Rhymed not, neither did it scan.
But there’s this upside: the market for self-help is nearly equal to that for cookbooks, because they who like them can never get enough. You’d think Joy of Cooking and Betty Crocker would be all a gal or guy home chef would need, but any house where you find one cookbook you can be certain to spy a dozen. Same with self-help spiritual healing self-realization whatever. And the bucks pour in.
I just like the idea of a muse to credit or blame!