What do you do when you are stumped creatively? I saw a wonderful video on TED.com the other day. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love spoke about the elusiveness of creativity and it got me thinking about my own dance with my muse. As creatives, whether our medium is paint, music, a camera, glass, ceramics, or words, we all have moments of doubt and frustration.
In Elizabeth’s speech at the TED conference, she spoke of how the ancients used to believe that creativity was not something that could be possessed. It was fleeting and something that passed through receptive individuals in its attempt toward expression. How often have you been doing something completely unrelated to your art and then found yourself suddenly inspired with a magnificent tidbit of music, or an image of something that you have to paint, or a story idea that just won’t leave you alone until you write it down? That inspiration is the muse, the daemon as the ancient Greeks called it or the genius as the ancient Romans thought of it.
I love this idea of partnering with your muse instead of constantly trying to hunt it down and lock it in a closet. About six months ago I had one of those fleeting moments and was inspired with an amazing story idea for a novel. The concept is fresh and intriguing and the timing is right for this kind of story, however the idea is basically just the opening scene. That’s it. I’ve struggled for several months trying to give life to this story but it’s like pulling teeth to keep the it moving and I just keep running into dead ends. So the other day I took a cue from Elizabeth’s video and I spoke to my muse. I said “Listen, you gave me this awesome story idea and I love it but it’s not going anywhere. If you really want this story to be written I’m going to need your help.”
I stared back at my computer screen. Nothing. No fireworks, no words magically appearing on the screen, no choir of angels or heavens parting above my head. So I got up and got a glass of water. By the time I got back to my desk, story ideas started to cascade in my mind. I grabbed my pen and started writing. Within twenty minutes I had three full hand-written pages of story and plot ideas and character innuendo. The next morning, as soon as I sat at my desk, thoughts started flowing again and I filled two more pages with incredible stuff for my story!! It needs a lot of work but I guess that’s my part to play now in the equation. Kooky, fairy dust stuff? Perhaps. But it worked for me, at least this time. Now I just have to get busy and make a story out of the all the inspiring thoughts my muse entrusted me with.