“How do I connect with a Muse?” It seems like a strange question, but since I write about the nine Muses in The Pillars of Dawn, I actually get asked this question fairly often. Usually, the question pops up when I’m sitting with artists, and the conversation rolls around to blockages.
I don’t believe in blockages, writers’ or otherwise, so I usually end up saying so and acknowledging my creative outputs are heavy, deep, and if uninterrupted can go on for hours/days without pause.
The short of it is, when I connect to the pipeline—it’s pours out, and it’s all I can do to try to keep up. (Funny note: my laptop is getting old, so when I’m on a really good streak and blazing out content, there are times when my keystrokes outpace my word processor and I have to stop for a minute and wait for my computer to catch up. Yes, I need a new laptop. It’s on the list.)
Artists in these conversations refer to this energy as the Muse. Inspiration. Graced with productivity, ideas, and source. I don’t disagree. I think of it much the same way, and I thoroughly enjoy writing about the Muses in my series with this power.
People mistakenly think I have some sort of “in” with Calliope, or something and ask me how they can get an introduction, or how to “snag” a Muse for their project.
That’s not really how it works. The best explanation I can think of to entice a Muse to an artist really boils down to the concept of true partnership. Enchant her with your energy, and prove you’re a good match for her.
Muses (energy) will partner with like energy (vessel). Like attracts like in this case, right?
While I can imagine myself, and the characters I write in The Pillars of Dawn as vessels—they (and myself) must be a match for the energy of the Muse in question. As seen in the books, pairing the wrong energy with the wrong vessel is catastrophic. It just doesn’t work.
As a storyteller, my match to a Muse energy is storyteller energy, right? So, what is storyteller energy? It starts with willingness. It begins with curiosity. Being open to answers that bring more questions, that breed more mysteries, which leave breadcrumbs of truth that lead to discovery. Quintessentially, story is a journey. If you’re not open to a sojourn down the scenic route—you’re not open to storyteller energy and that Muse will pass you by. If you have all the answers already, she’s going to go dance with someone else, because she wants to discovery the mysteries, too.
The same rule of inspiration applies to all forms of elevated and cosmic consciousness whether that’s music, law, language, mathematics, the sciences, astronomy, leadership, and so on and so forth. Like energy attracts like energy. Being open to the mystery, brings connections with higher consciousness in the field in which you would like to have a pipeline to inspiration and discovery.
The principle is pretty basic, also known as “The Law of Attraction”.
So, now you’ve got the Muse. You’ve managed to connect with a sense of curiosity, openness, willingness to create in this amniotic womb of the unknowable mystery in your chosen field. Now what?
Now that you’ve connected, you treat the relationship like a partnership—a true partnership. The connection is “at will”, remember? She’ll just move along if you’re puttering around trying to decide what to do. In short, put a damn ring on it. Commit.
What does that mean?
There’s a level of commitment required in this relationship to keep your Muse, and your inspirations flowing. Commitment to the work. Commitment to the process. Commitment to the continued relationship of Muse and Vessel. The second you decide you’re too tired to keep going, she’ll pack up and move onto the next Vessel. (You can win her back, if you work at it, but she’s going to make it hard on you.)
As a storyteller, my commitments look like this: When an idea comes, I make note of it. Always. Whether I’ll follow that breadcrumb later or not is another story—but I always make a note. This is why I have boxes of notes, scribbles on my hands, menus with dialog in the margins, sticky pads, audio recordings, and photos with captions for my files. The inspirations are popping in, constantly.
How do I keep them popping in? By living. This seems weird, but it’s true. The movie, Short Circuit, where the robot is struck by lightning, and he wanders around saying “Johnny Five is Alive”, “Need input”.
That’s my life as a storyteller. Short Circuit is a perfect metaphor for the human condition, and the life of a storyteller. I basically wander around saying, “Need input”.
Story cannot happen in a vacuum. It needs air. It needs experience. It needs contrast and depth. All of which I need in order to produce believable content, characters, and scenarios. My imagination is rich—but it has limits. I need actual tastes, textures, and elements to flesh out my worlds and scenes.
To that end, I try a lot of new foods, drinks, recipes and markets. I put a lot of strange stuff in my mouth. Some of it is delicious—some of it is retch-worthy. AND I WRITE ABOUT ALL OF IT.
I wander through textile stores on weekends and touch all the things. I rub in on my inner forearm, my check, and my neck. Furs, faux furs, leathers, cottons, blends, satins, weaves, and so on. AND I WRITE ABOUT ALL OF IT.
I walk into apothecary shops to taste and smell. I invite strangers into conversations. I get on the bus and people watch for hours in the city, with no destination in mind. I take photos of people at the beach. I loiter in the library for hours and make notes on the books people are checking out, and how they observe me in the corner, spying. I wander through Goodwill, and assemble outfits for my characters. I jump out of airplanes. I stop at the rock shop at that little beach town on the coast and pick up all the pretty stones and give them jobs in my scenes. I book short trips to places I’ve never seen. AND I WRITE ABOUT ALL OF IT.
Input. Input. Input. I am alive. I need input. All these details and inputs I’m gathering, cataloging, storing—becomes story-ing.
Hence the phrase on my business card:
Inhale Life, Exhale Story.
My commitment to my Muse is that I live big, and boldly, and often messily. I gather data. I ask a lot of questions. I make notes of hypotheticals, ponderances, curiosities.
In turn, she (my Muse) gets to adventure this world with me. She’s with me when I’m at the textile store, or skydiving. She’s with me when I’m drinking a new wine or flirting with the bartender. She’s right there when I’m wandering the jagged coastline searching for mermaids, and gathering shells. She’s even with me on all my worst dates. She is living vicariously through all my discoveries and experiences.
So when we sit down together, as partners, and I place my hands on the keyboard, tuck my legs up under my body and disconnect from this world—Aria blooms under my fingertips.
Vast spaces open up between this world and the next, and in those gaps characters emerge, conflicts abound, and adventure beckons. And all those scenes are fleshed out with everything I have tasted, touched, smoked, or swallowed, everything I have ached from, yearned for, bled on, laughed at, been broken by, lifted from, reached for, and have been inspired to express because it feels so very real.
Sometimes reality and my imagination cross over. They can get tangled and woven because so much of my life is put in my work. It takes time to come out of a writing binge and unpick reality so I can function as a normal human being again. This can be hard for people to be around; especially if I go straight from a heavy writing session to lunch with friends, I can be really disoriented for an hour or more.
But hot damn, was it fun while I was in there! Being plugged in is like flying! Even the hard stuff can be a total blast.
So you see, the commitment doesn’t end with just being open to the mystery and the discovery. The commitment doesn’t end with putting your butt in the chair to pour it out all out. The commitment is a life choice. It’s a way of living, for me anyway.
This life choice means I have a flourishing, co-creative relationship with my pipeline to creativity and I live accordingly. By nurturing this energy, I can rely upon it to support me whenever I sit down to work. By keeping this relationship fed and secure, I have total faith and trust in the power of the connection. It goes both ways.
A Muse is not there only at your whim, and to treat her as such means she’ll just move along.
She does not just make appearances when it’s convenient for you, say on Saturdays between 10am and 3pm. You either make her a part of your life, a part of your tribe—or she will run off with the cute painter down the road.
Respect her time. Listen to what she says, her voice is an equal element in your work and life, whichever field you are working in. Support her needs, and she will support yours. Make time to be alone with her. Make time to show her your world. Make time to play, adventure, and enjoy one another. Then when the inspirations start pouring in…get a notebook and pay attention.
Many of the writers in the groups that believe in blockages have habitualized those blockages. They have fortified those blockages so well, and cling to them so tightly that nothing is getting in. They must be dismantled from the inside out—and by dismantle, what I really mean is recognizing they are fictitious, and they will simply crumble.
FEAR. False Evidence Appearing Real.
Those blockages are fear.
This is the part that confuses me about blockages in creativity. What the actual fuck is there to fear about unlimited creativity?
Unlimited potential. Wow. Seems unreal, right? Except it isn’t. It’s totally achievable, and a mega ton of fun to boot.
So, moral of the story. Have fun. Play. Be sensual. Be creative. Be a good partner. Be curious. Be hungry. Be open. Be adventurous. Be loose.
All you have to do to “snag” a Muse is be living your life, and be open to the ideas that come. And once you’ve piqued her curiosity with your laughing, smiling, joy…she’ll scoot in closer, snuggle up against you at the keyboard and as you to tell her s story.
Then you just take a deep breath and prepare for an amazing ride.