TEN MYTHS ABOUT ARTISTS #12: The Muse Never Falters

MYTH: Creativity never sleeps. If you hit a wall, then you aren’t a real artist.

Truth: The Muse will come and go, but give her half a chance and she will always return.

Today’s myth was inspired by a blog post from Danielle LaPorte, whose website White Hot Truth…because self realization rocks is becoming one of my favorite reads.

“Life balance” is an insidious myth. Picasso, Oprah, Steve Jobs, Einstein, Maria Callas – they weren’t aiming for balance, they were aiming to rock their genius, and they’ve all had periods of burn out.

This was a little spooky. Okay, a LOT spooky. Because I got the old synchronicity thing going again.

Because a few days ago, for the first time in like two years (or more???), I sat down and began working on a new series of fiber work.

Danielle’s post today was actually the third or fourth synchronistic thingie. The second was her post from a few days ago, about kissing up to your muse.

I woke up in the middle of the night a few days ago with a great idea for next month’s column for The Crafts Report. At first I rolled over to go back to sleep. I’d just sent in my column and had a few weeks before the next one was do. I was sure I’d remember the great idea.

But something in me said, “No. Get up NOW. Just go write it.”

I went with it. And wrote almost the entire article in one sitting.

The spooky thing about that? It was the night before her post on don’t-dis-the-Muse. (Cue Twilight Zone music…)

The synchronicity thingie piece before that happened at dinner out with friends last week. Turned out one of our dinner companions is the daughter of another good friend who’s a painter. Her dad has a new series of artwork on exhibit, after a hiatus of many years from painting.

I mentioned I’d tried to buy one of his paintings a few years ago and he wouldn’t sell me one. She said yeah, he had a “thing” about not selling any until he had a body of work produced, even though he hadn’t even started his new phase when I’d tried to buy one. “He’s funny that way,” she mused. (Pun intended.)

Funny? Hmmm….. He wouldn’t sell his old paintings…. He’d stopped painting…. Now he had a new body of work.

It hit me like a ton of bricks.

I hadn’t made any new fiber work because it had stopped selling a few years ago. I don’t care what the newspapers say, artists and craftspeople know the recession started a lot further back than last year. Oh, I sold a few, but it was tortuous.

When people stopped buying, it wasn’t exciting to make more. And as they sold (slowly), I unconsciously held on to the ones I had left.

So that, if the muse never came back, I’d have something on hand to prove I really had been an artist.

I know it’s it’s desirable to grow and change as an artist. But change for change’s sake was not desirable (for me.) I was stuck.

Awhile ago, I realized that even if my fiber work remained what it was, and I never had a new idea, well, having that one really great theme in my life would be “good enough”. That cracked the door open again.

The remark that made me realize I was hoarding my old work opened that door a little wider.

Getting up in the middle of the night to write blew it open. Danielle’s post was like putting a door stop in it, to keep it open.

And then I sat down at my sewing machine and thought, “What if I just do some simple little pieces….? Just for me.”

Her post today was the final nail in the coffin. Er, door. Should doors be nailed open?? Okay, forget that metaphor, it stinks.

So being willing to be a “not very good artist” again (making the same old work) and realizing what I was holding on to (“I was once a pretty good artist!”) was enough to get me in front of my sewing machine once again. (Which is when I also sewed through my finger, but I’m not going to let that stop me, either, though I worry that my machine has now tasted blood.)

Danielle’s observation–that the muse may come and go, but if we care enough, we will just hang in there–was powerful. Letting go when the inspiration wanes, knowing we will come back, somehow, some way, even though we have no idea what that will look like, that feels like jumping off the edge of the world.

But now I know, as long as I persevere, it will indeed come back.

Because it has to. Or I’ll die.

It may be the same stuff. If so, then I will keep making it. I will rejoice and be grateful I had at least one really good thing to offer the world.

It may start the same and change. That’s okay, too. It will be what it will be.

What’s important is–it’s back.

I don’t care what it looks like anymore. I don’t care what other people think about it anymore.

I just have to do it.

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15 Comments

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15 responses to “TEN MYTHS ABOUT ARTISTS #12: The Muse Never Falters

  1. And your blogging about this is synchronicity for me as well because I have been slowly realizing over the last week or so that I can let go of the muse and allow her to flit about as she desires until she lands back in my lap. I am currently in the winter of the muse and I am certain spring is just around the corner. I was born to create.
    Thanks Luann. ;o)

  2. “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes, Art is knowing which ones to keep”….

    I can’t remember who said this…not my quote…
    but I believe quieting all the self monitoring little voices is the first step in inviting the muse to dance with you

  3. Beautifully put, Denise. Reminds me of that quote from John Crowley’s book LITTLE, BIG: “If winter comes, can spring be far behind?” Always makes me a little weepy….(in a good way.) :^)

    Kerin, lovely quote! Thank you for that.

  4. Your words never fail to point me in the right direction… and if Denise is on your compass rose, well then, by gum, I am going off in her direction as well! I find such solace in your series about the myths as I am just discovering that I like dipping my toes in the creativity pool. I am practicing wading in deeper and letting the waves of inspiration wash over me. Thank you for your wonderful words, Luann. Enjoy the day! Erin

    • Gosh, Erin, I’m beginning to feel like the Buddha… :^)

      But seriously, I’m delighted these posts are helpful. Writing about this stuff helps clear the cobwebs out of MY head, too! :^)

  5. Ben-David

    Oh, yes – you MUST get up and record those late-night flashes.

    And I understand how doing work “just for you” fits into this article… but many times the crack-yer-brain-open creative spark has taken the form of a client/market demand that never would have come from me.

    Or from playing the “who says” game: looking over your work – or existing designs for similar products, and asking “who says” -

    Who says it has to have this size/color/shape/material/message?

    Who says this is the best functional/aesthetic organization of parts?

    Who says only X type of client wants something like this?

    Etc.

  6. BD, if I cover every single point in each myth, I would end up with one myth two miles long!! :^) Everybody tells me my posts are too long as it is. :^D

    Yep, you’re right. Custom orders sometimes drive me mad–at their worst, they teach me what I DON’T want to make. But some of them, sometimes the toughest ones, have indeed inspired whole new explorations in technique, design, etc., like my faux soapstone technique.

    Love the “who sez” game–that’s a good one!

    • Ben-David

      BD, if I cover every single point in each myth, I would end up with one myth two miles long!! :^)
      - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -
      Please don’t take my comments as challenges – maybe I should have said “yet” instead of “but”…

      I’m a former New Yawker, now living in Israel, and a man… the Trifecta of bluntness…

      • Trifecta of bluntness–now THAT’S funny! :^)
        I’m glad you’ve expanded on my essays. If it’s a myth, and it’s getting in the way of someone making their best work, then it has a place here.

  7. Oh how I love Danielle LaPorte!
    Thank you for the reference to her blog.

  8. If you ask me (you did not), I don’t think your entries are too long. They are what you need to say, and what you need to say includes a lot of words/concepts.

    I used to have the worst time going into my yarn-dyeing studio and deciding what colors to use. I somehow needed to be new and different every time, and I had a pre-determined thought that each skein would have three colors, and they would be analogous or close to it.

    Then I tried just “put some color on, any color you like, don’t plan so much ahead.” And I was able to work much more efficiently. That works for me.

    Last time I dyed, I had way more yarn to dye and way less time to do the work. So I sat down and made a little list of exactly what I was going to do, just sort of placed an order with myself before even going in the studio.

    I decided there was no exactly right way to divide things up. I also decided that I’d dye things so that I would adore knitting every yarn/color if I chose to knit with it. I reduced the number of colors to apply, which saved labor. I did other things differently.

    I dyed that yarn a lot faster than I’ve ever dyed before. Just by letting go of needing to start from scratch when I entered the studio! I allowed my pen to tell me what I would do when I got there, and I just followed orders.

    That helped me break through. I’ve decided to take a break from dyeing for at least a year but I think that last session really freed me up to do other things by just starting.

    I didn’t need to “feel” the inspiration. I just needed to work and enjoy the color and the soft fiber.

    Maybe this does not sound like what you were talking about. To me, it is.

    I can work without “the muse” whoever she be. I can just work with my skills and brain and knowledge.

    I don’t have to make every creative item be a masterpiece, to do my job of going forward as a creative person. And sometimes I learn a lot from letting go of needing to be a certain sort of inspired.

    Love these posts. Thanks.

  9. im loving your posts kesha…this one reminded me of a sculpture professor i had in college. after i had graduated and finished TAing there, i went through a period of about a year 1/2 where i didn’t make any new work. I was concerned and emailed him about it, and he basically told me not to worry and just be receptive for the return of my muse.

  10. more than a ‘muse’ the serendipitous meetings are the creation of the Master Artist – divine appointments.

    You are more than an artist, you are a child of the Great Artist! And He just wants to say hi ;)

    Maybe this sounds crazy, but I’ve experienced this kind of stuff before – its not spooky – its miraculous!

  11. OK, this is deep. And badly needed. I’ve been struggling with balance, output, lying in bed awake all night because the muse is there but my more organized brain is telling me I need sleep…

    Thank you. I plan on spending some time here, as well as checking out Danielle LaPorte’s blog.

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