"Muse, Muse Where Art Thou?"

TORCH

An inspiration

rides on a barebacked white horse

against the wind,

bearing gift-wrapped kindling

for an unlit fire,

salve for blistering hands.

An inspiration

lies awake at night

pondering the possibility of true love

with an unknown factor

who might change the outcome of the picture

completely.

An inspiration sits quietly in blue or red

for a place to live, alms for the poor, a marriage to

a blank canvas,  it never meets.

An inspiration fights at times,

just to stay alive.

________________

I wrote that poem many years ago in response to a friend who  had lost her inspiration and could no longer produce work she was proud to call her own. For whatever reason, her muse left on horseback one day and she was lost.

She told us she felt “vacant” as if part of her moved out without a 30 day notice.  She said she was forced to find another tenant to fill that space or she’d be bankrupt, so she started drinking. Sad as it was, she found a tenant that was far too eager to take up residence in her domicile and eventually forced her to allow a rent to own contract and bought her out in a few years. She was young but no longer had the will to keep going. Her art left her for good that day. A year later, she was found dead in an alley, apparently murdered.

It’s sad that we give up and walk away from the very thing that keeps our spirit alive and free, creativity. We often give up for reasons that seem confusing to others. I, along with countless others just shut down and don’t wait around for the door to open again, a door that will bring in a new and refreshed tenant who will gladly live in that sacred space inside us. What makes the muse move out without notice in the first place?  How do we produce one day and the next find an empty apartment?  Fear has been the basis of my “shutting down”, fear of success, fear of failure. That tag team can creep up on me like the enemy they are and ambush, leaving me tenant free, standing in a vacant room. And then there’s depression.

In her blog ” Case-notes from the Artsy Asylum” Susan Reynolds has posted an article about depression in creative folk, and cites this study: “Arnold Ludwig wondered the same thing. Lucky for us, he didn’t get distracted from Psychology and swept up in clay (you can probably guess who did that).As a result he’s now a professor, and a researcher at the University of Kentucky Medical Center. Also an MD – so he’s just the guy to find out more about this.

And he did! In fact, it was a study of 1004 men and women over the span of 10-years. His group was made up of a wide variety of accomplished people in just as wide a variety of professions, including art, music, science, business, politics, and sports.

In the end, he found:

  • between 59 and 77 percent of the artists, writers, and musicians suffered mental illness  especially “mood disorders”
  • compared to just 18 to 29 percent in the less artistic professionals”

There are times when the Muse taps on the window asking to be let in, but we often don’t pay attention to that tapping, and instead go out and buy new locks and install them on the door by feeding our anxiety about not creating. Instead we scramble for something to take its place such as love, sex, alcohol, drugs and depression often fill that space.

Is there hope?  Yes. A friend of mine went to a career counselor to find out what she could do about this lack of inspiration. She was given several tools to try and decided on one that spoke to her. She purchased space for a want ad in the local newspaper. Her ad read something like this:

“WANTED: Muse for hire. Willing to pay any price to get the position filled. Needed for full time (24/7), year round work. No hiring process, no interview. Just show up if interested. Immediate start.”

It was just a small $5.00 ad, but it was something that served two purposes. She was able to realize just how desperate she had become trying to find that muse or at least another muse and how much her ability to create meant to her. Her ad was answered when she read it the next day in the paper. Although her artistic muse had left, another muse answered the call and gave her inspiration to write that ad. The drought ended and she was back at the easel that night. Now I know that was just too simple, but it does happen. Some of us wait for years for that muse to come knocking or calling to rent that apartment. For others, it returns in another form and still others it just never comes back.

If your muse has flown the coup, try bringing it back by venturing into another creative outlet. Think about something you’ve always wanted to try, like throwing a pot on a potter’s wheel or making a necklace out of jump rings or simply take a local art/craft class. Work on a project you’ve put off, read, go buy yourself a new pen or notebook, carve out a work space for yourself and sit there even if  you don’t do anything.  Remember that fear of failure and fear of success? Ask yourself, “What am I afraid of?” You can make plans for a dinner party, see a movie, paint a room. Rearrange your work space, or go to the local art store and look around. Find another avenue for creativity to seep back into your life. Sometimes I’m frozen and can’t do any of these things, but I have learned to not panic. I write and play my guitar. I write this blog because at the moment the paintbrush and canvas have stopped speaking to me. In order to keep that door ajar, I do something else. Once you stop thinking about the creative block, you open the door for your muse to come back.

Inspiration can come and go at a moment’s notice, or with no notice at all. Thinking outside of the box, utilizing other creative venues can be of greater value than looking to fill that empty apartment with destructive tenants. Think of the price.

“Artists are visited by the Muses, or tormented by their own passions and demons.” (Wes Nisker)

“O! for a muse of fire, that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention.” (William Shakespeare)

Please leave a comment on this blog. I would love to hear from you.

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13 Comments »

  1. Alis Clair Said:

    Having been plagued by the loss of my muse for over 12 months I can identify with this post Brett.
    You have made me think in a different way to the way I have been. Thank you for that.

    My muse has been coming and going just recently so hopefully she will be back for a longer stay very soon.
    My heart goes out to all that never manage to get the same muse back.

  2. Joan Said:

    Interesting blog Brett. I have found myself in that place many times. Once the
    drought lasted a few years. But I must admit, I knew it would return. I was
    one of the lucky ones I guess.

  3. Myfanwy Said:

    Words of wisdom, and a lovely poem too.

  4. altheap Said:

    This is great, Brett, very thoughtful. I’m so sorry about your friend. It’s easy to just say “step outside the box” and try something else when your muse isn’t too far away . . . at other times it sounds so empty.

    BTW: love the Palin sidebar <<

  5. Oh Brett, how much that touched me. What a beautiful poem for such a sad outcoming of events. It is so sad when someone starts to feel lost, and can’t find satisfation in their work. They feel their spirit and talent has left them; when in reality, it is they that have left their talents and spirt behind.

  6. onawhimsey Said:

    Brett, thank you for sharing such a painful event.

    I think many of us, and I include myself, have been in that desert searching for our muse. None of us understand the reason why our muses can be so magnanimous at times and at other times be so cruel by teasing us or disappearing all together.

    There have been times when my muse deserted me but I have been lucky in that I have been able to turn my thoughts to other ways of inviting her back. Up until now she has responded favourably but I know she can be fickle.

    Thank you for the enlightening words.

  7. Diane Clancy Said:

    Hi Twin,

    In the busyness of life, I have been struggling to stay in touch with my muse …

    I hope you will notice very soon that your muse it back. I know my muse does not like such busyness!!

    There is something for your over at my blog today … I hope you like it.

    Thanks for having subscribed to my blog … I hope I am being able to get back my muse better …

    Hugs to my twin,
    ~ Diane Clancy
    http://www.DianeClancy.com/blog
    http://www.DianeClancy.etsy.com

  8. Liv Said:

    Great post and poem. I find that my creativity is very seasonal with different muses present at different times of the year, and at different phases of life. Sometimes an old one returns, and sometimes one disappears forever. The scary part is never knowing what a muse will do. I am often too impatient to wait and find out.

  9. Mary Said:

    I so needed to read this. Thanks for the inspiration

  10. Di Said:

    Brett, you’ve put into words feelings i have felt!
    By naming that compelling force, “muse”, I am able to seperate myself, my creativity and my artistic ability from what may be at times, the underlying culprit or the vital inspiration!
    In either case this serves to validate me and quiet the self-critic!
    Thank you, thank you, thank you! Di
    http://www.dbhoyleart.blogspot.com/
    http://www.dbhoyleart.etsy.com/

  11. Great arrticle, Brett. With the changes in my life coming, I am packing my ceramic molds for storage. I won’t be able to do ceramics as I do them now for a long time, and possibly ever. It will be a while before I have a place to set up my kiln and run it again, and at that point I can try other techniques with clay again. My muse is still around, but she’s wondering what will happen to her when she is forced to change outlets. And I’m worried about what will happen if she gets tired of waiting around.
    Jill

  12. Diane Clancy Said:

    Hi Twin,

    Did you ever check our the surprise I have for you at my blog?

    http://www.dianeclancy.com/blog/2008/09/brilliante-blog-award/
    There is something for your over at my blog today … I hope you like it..

    Hugs to my twin,
    ~ Diane Clancy

  13. Lea Said:

    What a beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing.


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