“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
– Marcel Proust
It’s different for each of us; the power, the magic, the light or spirit that guides us through what we love to do. All of us have a muse, tangible or intangible, we come to rely on to keep the creative juices flowing.
In fact, we may have several muses we count on (depending on the project or circumstance), but sometimes they are not easily accessible, or can’t be summoned exactly when we want.
We are demanding of our muses, expecting them to provide the inspiration to make it through another page or poem. We expect them to be there; we expect them to be as easily turned on as our laptop. It’s when they do not meet your expectations that you begin to expect more of yourself. You push yourself harder, stepping past the point of creativity.
You start forcing the work, and most often the results appear exactly as they are. Forced.
This is when frustration sets in and, often, when we begin to run dry. When the inspiration for your work goes missing or is ignored, productivity decreases and the results are less than enthusiastic. The term ‘writer’s block’ (a convenient excuse, more than a syndrome) is often used, but it is far more than that.
When your work becomes routine, you have probably been working too hard or have become too focused. It gets to the point where you begin to ignore life as it surrounds you. In doing so, you fail to notice your muses.
Like the sister goddess they are (the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, as Greek mythology goes), a muse is to be treated kindly, and not as slaves or implements. A muse must be respected and treated as the gifts they are. They cannot be overworked, and they, along with your self, need time to rejuvenate.
When you are at odds with your inspiration, it is time to infuse your muse.
There are easy ways to restore the creative process, sometimes it’s as simple as giving yourself permission to step away from the page or palette for a while. This is a good time to read, to take a walk or short trip, listen to live music, or go out for coffee with a friend. Feed your muse and it will continue to provide the mental nutrition you need.
Then there are times when the simple becomes complicated, when you don’t feel like talking and dumping your problems on a friend, or when reading the book everybody is raving about becomes more about analyzing another page of words.
This is when you need a wholesale change in how you have been functioning. As Carpal Tunnel syndrome may settle in when certain muscles are over-used, your creativity may become cramped in its current isolation. This is a perfect time to find a project or passion that uses another part of your brain or body, a time when you need to stretch other muscles.
For a musician, it might be taking up yoga. The graphic designer who spends too much time hunched over a Mac may take to the garden (I think the ‘high tech, high touch’ philosophy was introduced in the early ‘80s). A painter may take up sculpture as a means of providing an alternative artistic vision. A writer may take up painting, or a musical instrument. Sometimes
it is doing quite the opposite of what you have been doing.
I have been stuck in the edit mode over the past months, rechecking, reformatting, and (in some cases) rewriting past works, all with a certain goal in mind. Editing, while necessary, does not have the same creative spark as writing fresh material. It can be laborious, soul sucking, occasionally painful (you are, after all, killing your babies) and immeasurably frustrating. The more you edit, the more frustrating it becomes.
I often use poetry to counter to process, to give myself time to let words fall onto the page. It can, and does, work, but it still finds you in the same place; sitting in front of a keyboard trying to formularize feelings for the greater world.
It does not allow a fresh perspective.
Over the past months, I’ve stepped back behind a camera as a means of getting beyond the now-familiar fictional worlds I have created. Photography is also very familiar to me, having spent my first career as a photojournalist, but it is not an art form in which I have become immersed for many years. Even then, my former camera work was more focused (no pun intended) on what was newsworthy and what needed to be recorded. It was a career of learning how to fit art and intuition into a deadline.
These days my photography is more specific to composition and controlling, capturing or defying the availability of light. It’s a challenge, as much as it is enjoyable. It’s forcing me to look at life differently, to find a new perspective. It is about stepping beyond boundaries and comfort zone. As you look deeper, you begin using a separate and distinct side of your psyche.
Although I am still mainly in edit mode, these regular breaks from my current reality are allowing a new vibrancy into my poetry, and have fostered a greater overall sense of well-being. It comes from not doing something that is usual. While it may not be unusual, it is something different.
The adage ‘a change is as good as a rest’ rings true. Your creativity is refreshed by not using your talents in the same manner you have been. As you return to the work that brought you down in the first place, you can approach it in a different context. You may discover elements of your regular craft that you had not noticed before, simply because you are now looking at them in a different way.
Sometimes it is not what we look at, but how we look at it.