What They Are Saying...

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

How A"Muse”ing

I was recently asked if I ever get writer's block. I quickly answered, “No. I don't believe in writer's block. I always have something to say.” But that's a short answer to a much more complex process.

In fact, there are times I don't write, sometimes for months. Then, there are times when my fingers can't type fast enough. I've written entire novels in three days. It's a phenomena I've come to accept about writing, which I've chalked up to “inspiration”. 

Simply put, I wait for my muse.

In ancient times, the Greeks and Romans, who had incredible arts like music, poetry, paintings, and sculpture, believed that those who created these works did not do so alone. They were guided by daemons, or genies, or muses. Artists were merely vessels that the gods used to express themselves. Before the Renaissance, artists “had” genius, now they “are” genius.

The Moors of Northern Africa ruled the Iberian peninsula (where Spain is now) for over 700 years. They loved the art of dance, and when they would see a dancer preform incredible acts – leap so high, spin so fast, clearly illuminated from within – they would clap and cheer, “There! That's God!”, or “Allah! Allah! Allah!” To this day, in Spain, when a fearless matador dances with the bull or a Flamenco dancer delights, the crowd cheers, “Olé! Olé! Olé!” That is where the word came from.

Personally, I don't believe in gods, but I can't deny that there are days when images fill my mind, demanding to be put to paper, and do so now, now, now! I don’t' think I'm weird. And I know I'm not alone.

One day, Paul McCartney woke up humming a song. It bothered him because he didn't know it's name, or even when he heard it. It haunted him the entire day. Finally, he told his band about it (the Beatles, maybe you've heard of them) and hummed it for them. “Nope,” they said, “that song doesn't exist.”

They recorded it. You know it as “Yesterday.”
Ruth Stone

Poet Ruth Stone told Elizabeth Gilbert that as a child she could “feel” poems rushing at her. When that happened, she'd race into the house to grab pencil and paper and write them as they came. Occasionally, she'd be late, and as the poem pushed through her she'd reach out, grab it, and force it back in, writing every word as she did so. In those instances, the poem was “perfect and intact”. And completely backwards.

There's an advantage to believing that you, as an artist, or comedian, or writer, are NOT alone. If you've sat down to create and what you end up with isn't awesome, you're not entirely to blame. The lack of success is not solely yours. The flip side, of course, is, should your work hit it out of the park, you'll have to admit, you weren't alone.

Maybe you are a genius. Maybe you can be creative without your muse. But your muse will never be creative without you.

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