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."

23 Responses

Great post! Yes, does it really matter where or how creativity gets to us? As long as it does. I also LOVED Gilbert’s TED talk. I’ve watched it twice already, and I’ll probably watch it again.

So glad you keep showing up !;-)

Wow. Speaking of signs. I was just over at Beth Owl’s Daughter where she’s been talking about creativity lately; and I was thinking, since she’s talking about it from a Pagan perspective, what about the Muse? And here you are talking about Daimons and Muses.

What a great post! I felt so in tune with what she had to say. My last post was about creative magic, so I’m in sync.
Thank you so much.

You already know how I feel about synchronicity! I love it when it happens. But it hasn’t happened much lately. I wonder if it is because I haven’t been as open to it as usual. Hmm, perhaps that is something to think about.

I have a bit of news to share with you. My sister-in-law gave birth to a girl this morning. They named her Leah! Of course I thought of you. I asked why Leah and the response was, “Because it is a beautiful name!” I hope that makes you smile.


what an appropriate post- it’s a sign! i just did a piece that ended up coming together in ways i hadn’t thought about, but that fit perfectly. a lot of it is about being open & seeing what happens.

That was fantastic! She is a great speaker and I really enjoyed it.
I’ve always believed in the magic….when I get really into something it feels like I am no longer at the wheel…so it has to be magic…I love it!
I could go on and on about synchronicities…love them too!

Wow! What a great speech! Thank you so much for posting this. I read her memoir last year. I’m also working on a sermon at the moment for my Advanced Preaching class, and she completely inspired me. I know her’s wasn’t a stereotypical ’sermon’ but it was one of the best I’ve heard lately! Surely filled with all sorts of good news. :)

I love your “Sign” – that is truly hilarious! I think I definitely could use a sign – even an obvious one, as I am in a writing funk right now. I’ve suddenly lost interest in a large project that was my defining passion – my “mission” in life. I do believe it is just a phase – procrastination in all its forms is my Evil Daemon.

It’s also interesting to read what you say about inspiration – I remember doing a philosophy paper once on the subject – and I remember part of it was about the Greeks seeing it as sort of a “Divine Madness” kind of thing – almost like a “possession” – and I kind of like that idea.

The only pitfall, though – is that gives me yet another excuse to procrastinate. If I’m waiting for inspiration, that is just a con game. I have to just show up and do my part – which sometimes is just writing a lot of awful stuff – and then eventually the good stuff will start to come.

You have a wonderful Blog!
I should start an art one as well.
I haven’t painted lately. However, this blog has inspired me.

You can see what I have been doing for art over at my blog

Cheers and Congrats on an exceptional blog!


If I didn’t believe in or follow the signs, I wouldn’t be here right now:) Signs can be like stepping stones, that lead you down your creative ( or any) path, you just have to be open to them.

Excellent post! Thank you! I believe ’showing up’ is the key: ‘Letting go’ is important too, as you said: Giving yourself ‘permission’ to make bad art. That takes the pressure off and that is where the ‘magic’ happens.

Your new look on your site is great too.


I love the new look.

My friend send me the link to this video already – hmmm, twice now, there might be some synchronicity here.

Leah – I totally enjoyed this latest post about where the inspiration comes from. I often think about “signs” and what everyday occurrences lead to, etc. I think about where and how I get inspired a lot. I think I am most open to inspired ideas when I have let go of pressuring myself to “produce” and also take time to meditate and reflect on what is happening in my life.

In fact, I am participating in your Creative Every Day challenge, and was feeling bad about not posting sooner about my efforts. I have finally broken through the “block” or whatever it was and posted on my blog about it.

I am so glad I found you on Twitter and took the time to check out your blog. It was so worth it! Thanks for all you do.

Oh! I love the new look of your blog! :) Awesome post :)

I found you through Coonie Rose. What a fabulous mind. I think I’m now interested in her book as well.

Oh I loved what Gilbert had to say and I agree. I love that you included your story when you had heard her before too. The Sign was just perfect.


I’m lovin’ your new blog – it so you!
Thank you for sharing this amazing video. A friend gave me her book and said, “this is you, you have to read it.” I’ve had quite a week moving mountains and facing some scary challenges. The dark clouds are lifted and I am amazed at the energy I have today. I will pull out that book and start it today!

I look for signs and believe in the synchronicities as indicators that I’m on the right path. I believe more and more every day that I am a part of something bigger than me and that I am a co-creator. I had a realization last summer that when I get into the creative zone that the my work is to reveal what is already there. I loved the story of how the poem comes barreling through the field. I know this feeling. The waves of ideas keep crashing in for me. For the most part it is fun but when I get tired because it is exhausting I have to watch out and remember to take care of myself.

Thank you dear one for sharing as you do. You are right were you are suppose to be right now. Thank you for showing up each day!

{soul hugs}

ps – Last spring I did a photo essay called, “Looking for a sign.” One of these days I’ll publish it onto my blog. I think you’ll love it.

pss- Happy Valentine’s Day. Swing by my soul journal blog for a little luv. I have party gifts for everyone.

I love your blog’s new look! And Elizabeth Gilbert is inspiring. Your story about signs got me laughing and thinking. Thank you so much.

For many years I’ve looked for signs as guidance and tried to listen to the muse when working–it’s the times that I don’t pay attention that I seem to fall far off the path so there’s a lot to be said at least in my life to be open to signs and to be quiet enough to listen to my muses :)

Thank you, lady – this was perfect for me today. I linked to it from my post this morning.

And I deeply believe that we are informed, inspired, led (when we can be still enough to listen – if we “show up at the page”) by things larger than we are. Learning to move with those forces expands the soul. I think that’s what it’s really for.

This is brilliant and perfect, Leah. I must remember to reference it for Found Art Friday!

I have found this video twice now. It must be my own syncronicity! :) I love this talk by Elizabeth Gilbert and your “sign”.

Sometimes it takes a blatant sign to help us see…what we need to and to lead us in the right direction, down the path that holds our future, our purpose, our reason for being.

I saw a sign just yesterday in an antique shop it said “Follow Your Dream”.

Many blessings to you! Thanks again for the encouragement!


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