Creative Muses, Magic, and Synchronicities
February 12th, 2009
I absolutely loved the TED talk given by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, in which she discusses where creative inspiration comes from. I heard Gilbert speak at a small Boston bookstore a couple years ago and she's super funny and personable.
During the bookstore talk, Gilbert talked about her experiences with synchronicity and asking for signs. I could relate to her stories as I refer to my own experiences with synchronicity as "winks from the Universe." Walking back to my car after the talk, my mind was all abuzz with thoughts about synchronicity and the meaning of signs. Just then I looked up and saw a huge fabric sign pinned the building across the street that said,
It's a sign!
Ha! Well, the Universe seems to have a sense of humor. Or I'm totally bonkers. Or both.
In the TED talk, Gilbert talked about how in ancient Greece, people believed that creative genius came from a source outside the artist, something like a daemon or Muse that would provide the artist or writer with their material. She was playing with the idea of returning to this ideal as a way of taking the pressure off of artists (as in, "It's not my fault this book sucks. My daemon is lame-o!") and also lessens the artist's ego (as in, "I can't take full credit for this piece, my Muse gave me the idea.) Now, this may sound far-fetched or odd, but I can understand it to a degree.
I often don't know the meaning behind my artwork and its symbology until much later. I say that it comes from my intuition, my higher self, or my subconscious. So, why not call it a Muse? Would that help take any of the pressure off? I'm not sure, but it's an interesting idea. It reminded me of parts of The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, which talks about being a conduit or a channel.
Yesterday, I was musing on Twitter about whether or not these ways of getting ourselves creating are just trickery, but then I came back to this: Does it matter? Whatever works! As skeptical, cynical, or cautious as I may be, when it comes down to it, I'm also open to the possibility of all the things in the world that I can't explain or understand. I'm open to the possibility of signs, intuition, and synchronicity. It certainly makes life more interesting. And who couldn't use a little more magic in their life?
What would happen if you were open to the possibility of synchronicity, signs, and intuition in your creativity? What if you just played with the concept of it? What sort of expression might that lead you to?
No matter what your feelings about where creative inspiration comes from, it is helpful to take the pressure off ourselves (which is why I love to give myself permission to make "bad" art. It helps!) In her TED talk, Gilbert encourages us to forge ahead:
"Just do your job. Continue to show up for your piece of it. If your job is to dance, then do your dance. If the divine, cockeyed genius assigned to your case decides to let some sort of wonderment be glimpsed for just one moment for your efforts, then Ole. And if not, do your dance anyhow. Ole to you, nonetheless, just for having the sheer human love and stubbornness to keep showing up."