Keys to the Creative Muse

Eight years ago American author Elizabeth Gilbert gave a TED Talk on creativity and where it comes from. At the time her book Eat, Pray, Love was a mega sensation, selling millions of copies around the world. Yet people would ask her, “Aren’t you afraid you’re not going to top that?” This started her contemplating why anyone would be afraid to do what they loved to do and she began investigating the concept of the creative muse. If it’s assumed that creativity comes from the writer, this creates a lot of pressure. If it’s understood that creativity comes from a higher source, this frees the writer of the burden of responsibility. Elizabeth discovered the ancient Romans thought creative genius came from the muse or the source, which she said is a better way of thinking about it because this puts the onus on the muse, rather than the mere mortal of the writer to create something unique.

Elizabeth said she had once met poet Ruth Stone, then in her nineties, who told her that when she was growing up in Virginia she’d sometimes be out in a field sensing a “thunderous train of air” she knew was a poem. She’d “run like hell” from the field to her house to find a piece of paper and pen “to catch the poem by its tail and pull it back into her body” and onto the page.

Tom Waits had another approach, continued Elizabeth. One day he was driving on the freeway in L.A. when fragments of a melody appeared in his mind. He had no paper or recorder handy and feeling anxious about losing the inspiration he looked up to the sky and said, “Excuse me, can you not see I’m driving? Come back at a more appropriate time.” After this he had a deeper connection with his creative source.

Encouraged by the way Waits dialogued with his creative muse, Elizabeth tried the same thing one day during a difficult patch of writing Eat, Pray, Love. Almost in despair, she looked up to the corner of the room and said, “I am putting everything I have into this…I don’t have any more than this so if you want it to be better you have to show up and do your part of the deal, but I’m going to keep writing because that’s my job.” This saved her, she said and she urged her viewers not to be daunted by whatever they want to create. “Just do your job.”

I find if I sit at my desk every day and write whatever wants to arise I may enter a stream of writing, a golden thread of inspiration. Suddenly words pour onto the page and I have only to write them down for they are flowing as though from a tap. Willingness and allowing open the tap. The muses might think, ‘Oh there she is at her desk, let’s give her some writing today.’ They see I’m serious and not going to leave. I’ve created a space for the writing. Some days I might have only a vague idea of what to write.  If I go with that usually there’s plenty underneath this. The floodgates open. It seems mysterious but it’s really openness to receive. I’m only aware of my hand moving across the page and the writing is effortless.

To open to your creative muse you may wish to try the following three-step process:

1. Relax and breathe deeply.

2. Open and allow.

3. Write whatever comes with acceptance.