Archive for the 'Muse' Category

Trying to Capture the Elusive Muse

In a dream, I swim through a beautiful ocean of words, until I meet a very old tortoise who whispers the perfect sentence in my ear. I can’t remember the sentence when I wake, but my hair is wet.
** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **

One of my greatest frustrations with my muse arises when she provides incomplete information. When inspiration strikes, I want to see the whole picture. To visualize the complete story, imagine exactly how the scene unfolds or clearly hear the voice of an important character. But the truth is that muses almost always provide only fragments. That’s actually the muse’s job. To offer a spark of inspiration. Then we must turn the spark into something more. So many of my best pieces of creative writing have arisen when I started with just a hint of an idea, a hazy image, a line of dialogue or a brief moment of action that I first told myself wasn’t worth pursuing. But when I push aside the voice that tells me “No,” and insist on following the flash of inspiration, I often find something lovely unfolding. Writers frequently talk about how their wonderful novels, memoirs, plays, screenplays and poems originated with such snippets. I find it really helps me to remember that when I’m annoyed at my Muse for only providing me with wet hair while leaving the perfect sentence balanced on the tip of my tongue.

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

Who Is Your Muse?

I love this exercise, which I’ve posted here in the past. I like to go back to it occasionally and keep answering the question in my journal. And I’d love to hear from you: Who is your muse?

Here’s the challenge:

Write “My muse is…” and quickly finish the thought with the first thing that comes to your mind. Continue writing “My muse is…” and completing the sentence at least 15 or 20 times. Keep your pen moving. Don’t pause; don’t think too much about it; don’t censor yourself! Allow yourself to write things that are silly, stupid, profound, nonsensical … just keep going and see what you come up with. Most of all, have fun with this!

Then post your favorites in the comments below — I love it when you share your creativity!

Here are some of mine:

My muse is an anteater sniffing around to find the perfect anthill full of crunchy little creative ideas.

My muse is a banana peel waiting for someone to slip on it.

My muse is a ballerina with three legs, creating new dances that only she can dance.

My muse is a little girl with tights that won’t stay up and a pencil box full of stars.

My muse is a guitar made out of cardboard and rubber bands.

My muse is a crumpled piece of paper with the formula for happiness written on it in hieroglyphics.

My muse is a conversation between two people who don’t yet know their hearts have begun to intertwine.

My muse is a moonbeam grinning down at me from the dark night sky.


DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

Push the Creativity Reset Button Every Day

I’m rerunning one of my most popular posts today (originally published August 16, 2012):

Has this ever happened to you? You’re determined to start writing or painting or pursuing another creative passion on a regular basis. So you sit down to treaty negotiations with your Muse, and the two of you draw up a plan: Your Muse agrees to visit you for half an hour before work every day to provide inspiration, and you agree to show up with paper and pen or paints.

The two of you sign and notarize the document, your Muse flits off to study the funky aardvark dance that’s sweeping Madagascar, and you give yourself a celebratory high-five in the mirror before going to bed feeling great.

Things work wonderfully for the first week. You set your alarm early, get up, and write or paint your heart out.

The next Sunday night, your cat has a hairball emergency requiring your middle-of-the-night supervision. Obviously, after all the midnight drama, you’re way too tired to get up the next morning and be creative. But that’s okay. You decide to write or paint for a full hour the next day.

On Monday night, however, after a late-night salami pizza with extra garlic and anchovies, you keep waking throughout the wee hours between disturbing dreams of monkeys juggling hamsters, and pigs in tuxedos giving speeches at state dinners.

Too exhausted to get up early Tuesday morning, you tell yourself you’ll just write or paint for an hour for the next TWO days. No problem. But the next morning, you hit the snooze button on your alarm clock. Really, can anyone be expected to get up at this ungodly hour? You see your Muse standing next to your bed, tapping her foot and looking put out, but you ignore her. For two mornings in a row.

The next day is Friday, and you really deserve a break – it’s been a tough week, what with all the hairballs and talking pigs. Not to mention the terrified hamsters. You’ll double down next week and catch up on all the creative time you missed.

Once Monday morning rolls around again, the amount of work you need to do to catch up seems so daunting that you bury your head under your pillow while your Muse screams into your ear. Finally, she gives up and flies away with a pout.

You’ve broken your Creativity Treaty. Your Muse is drowning her sorrows at the Muse Pub, and beginning to flirt with an artist who speaks in haiku while turning napkins into abstract art.

Meanwhile, you’re stuck under the covers. You wonder if you are even meant to be a writer/artist/musician. What were you thinking? You’re way too busy. The world seems set against you pursuing your creativity. You’re not really even a very good writer/artist/musician anyway.

This is when you need to push the Reset Button.

It’s time to text your Muse and ask her to come back and renegotiate. This time, include this clause in your treaty: “Every Day is a Restart.”

If you miss a day, you start fresh the next day. Do the already-planned 30 minutes that morning, not 15-and-a-half hours because you’re so far behind.

Because the thing is: You won’t do 15-and-a-half hours. And feeling that you should just adds creativity-killing pressure.

Creativity-killing pressure has been known to cause people to curl up into tense little balls while their Inner Critics hurl horrific insults at their tender insides. And creativity-killing pressure always frightens muses away.

But if you can treat every day as the first day of a new treaty, you lower the pressure on yourself and put a smile on your Muse’s face.

Muses love daily restarts. Because muses exist in the Now. Creativity exists in the Now. Every day is a fresh start. Every moment is a fresh moment.

So, hit the reset button, pick up your pen or brush, and start. Now.

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

10 Ways to Woo Your Muse

metal sculpture

Rerunning one of my most popular posts:

  1. Do something you haven’t done since you were a child. Slide down a slide. Eat a peanut butter and banana sandwich. Play in a sprinkler. Sing a song you liked when you were a kid.
  2. Keep a notebook next to your bed, and write about whatever wakes you up.
  3. Take a little time to stop “doing” and just “be” for a while. Meditate. Walk. Stare at the wall. Soak in a bubble bath.
  4. Spend some time doing anything you consider fun, even if it seems frivolous. Especially if it seems frivolous.
  5. Go for a walk and look at everything in your path as if you’re seeing it for the first time.
  6. Enjoy some childlike creativity. Color. Dance. Play with Play-Doh.
  7. Pay attention to your dreams—both the night kind and the day kind.
  8. Rip up your To Do list for the day or for the afternoon or for half an hour and do whatever you feel like doing.
  9. Go outside at night and count the stars. Or waltz in the rain. Or share your secrets with the moon.
  10. Do something silly. Talk in a funny voice. Walk down the street backwards. See if you can balance a spoon on your nose.

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

Push the Creativity Reset Button Every Day

Has this ever happened to you? You’re determined to start writing or painting or pursuing another creative passion on a regular basis. So you sit down to treaty negotiations with your Muse, and the two of you draw up a plan: Your Muse agrees to visit you for half an hour before work every day to provide inspiration, and you agree to show up with paper and pen or paints.

The two of you sign and notarize the document, your Muse flits off to study the funky aardvark dance that’s sweeping Madagascar, and you give yourself a celebratory high-five in the mirror before going to bed feeling great.

Things work wonderfully for the first week. You set your alarm early, get up, and write or paint your heart out.

The next Sunday night, your cat has a hairball emergency requiring your middle-of-the-night supervision. Obviously, after all the midnight drama, you’re way too tired to get up the next morning and be creative. But that’s okay. You decide to write or paint for a full hour the next day.

On Monday night, however, after a late-night salami pizza with extra garlic and anchovies, you keep waking throughout the wee hours between disturbing dreams of monkeys juggling hamsters, and pigs in tuxedos giving speeches at state dinners.

Too exhausted to get up early Tuesday morning, you tell yourself you’ll just write or paint for an hour for the next TWO days. No problem. But the next morning, you hit the snooze button on your alarm clock. Really, can anyone be expected to get up at this ungodly hour? You see your Muse standing next to your bed, tapping her foot and looking put out, but you ignore her. For two mornings in a row.

The next day is Friday, and you really deserve a break – it’s been a tough week, what with all the hairballs and talking pigs. Not to mention the terrified hamsters. You’ll double down next week and catch up on all the creative time you missed.

Once Monday morning rolls around again, the amount of work you need to do to catch up seems so daunting that you bury your head under your pillow while your Muse screams into your ear. Finally, she gives up and flies away with a pout.

You’ve broken your Creativity Treaty. Your Muse is drowning her sorrows at the Muse Pub, and beginning to flirt with an artist who speaks in haiku while turning napkins into abstract art.

Meanwhile, you’re stuck under the covers. You wonder if you are even meant to be a writer/artist/musician. What were you thinking? You’re way too busy. The world seems set against you pursuing your creativity. You’re not really even a very good writer/artist/musician anyway.

This is when you need to push the Reset Button.

It’s time to text your Muse and ask her to come back and renegotiate. This time, include this clause in your treaty: “Every Day is a Restart.”

If you miss a day, you start fresh the next day. Do the already-planned 30 minutes that morning, not 15-and-a-half hours because you’re so far behind.

Because the thing is: You won’t do 15-and-a-half hours. And feeling that you should just adds creativity-killing pressure.

Creativity-killing pressure has been known to cause people to curl up into tense little balls while their Inner Critics hurl horrific insults at their tender insides. And creativity-killing pressure always frightens muses away.

But if you can treat every day as the first day of a new treaty, you lower the pressure on yourself and put a smile on your Muse’s face.

Muses love daily restarts. Because muses exist in the Now. Creativity exists in the Now. Every day is a fresh start. Every moment is a fresh moment.

So, hit the reset button, pick up your pen or brush, and start. Now.

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

Paddle Surfer Wisdom

Rerunning an old favorite today:

Last week on Kauai, my husband met a weathered paddle surfer who claims a he’e (octopus) helps him navigate the sometimes treacherous ocean waters.   I love stories like this. Whether you believe it literally or enjoy it as a colorful myth, the paddle surfer’s story also makes a wonderful metaphor.

paddle surfer

I’ve spent a lot of time here talking about my Muse.  But now I’m thinking about how the inspirational muse and the navigational octopus could work together in the creative process.

My Muse feels like an ethereal guest.  He’s pouty, he has ADHD and he owns a perpetually broken watch.  Though he drives me crazy, his dynamic personality and vivid tales color the room with brilliant imagery when he chooses to visit.

But do I have a creative he’e?  And if so, what purpose does she serve?

I imagine an ancient and wise creature living in the deep waters of my subconscious. Always there, silently watching.  Hers is the voice that bubbles up when I berate myself for not working on one of my unfinished novels.  That quietly whispers in my ear:  “No, Sandy.  You’re supposed to be writing about creativity now.”

octopus

My he’e knows which current flows smoothly in the direction I’m headed.  She nudges me away from the dangerous undertow that threatens to sweep me far from my center.  But this insightful octopus speaks softly, watching as I often do the exact opposite of what she’s suggested.

“The animals know things,” the paddle surfer told my husband.  “You just have to listen to them.”

I believe we all have a creative creature residing in our deep waters and steering us in the right direction. It’s the voice you hear in those small moments when you stop listening to all the other noise in your head. When you stop thinking and stop doing and allow yourself to simply be. And if you tap into the muse’s amazing bursts of inspiration while still hearing the quiet wisdom of the he’e, the two together might help you reach amazing creative heights.

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

 

10 Types of Muses—Which One is Yours?

Rays of Light

Lately, I’ve been thinking about my muse. Or muses. I wrote about my muse a few years ago, but he/she has changed since then. (Even my muse’s gender changes regularly!) At that time, I needed a muse who was forceful and would get me out of bed to write early in the morning. Who was, as I wrote, “a cross between a take-no-prisoners drill sergeant and a thoroughly enticing lover.”

But my muse has changed over the years. More recently, my muse has segued into a whimsical child who tugs on my sleeve and whispers in my ear. (Or yells, if I’m not listening!) And sometimes she’s simply a light breeze that carries inspirational tidbits to me. But still, I occasionally call on my drill sergeant muse when I need a little creative kick in the butt.

So I started thinking about the different personalities of my muses over the years, and I came up with this list. For me, my muse is like a divine artistic guide crossed with an imaginary friend. But with a chameleon personality that becomes what I need.

Does your muse have one of these personalities? Or is s/he a cross between two or three of these? How would you describe your muse? I’d love to hear about him/her!

  1. A take-no-prisoners drill sergeant.
  2. A thoroughly enticing lover.
  3. A mischievous buddy.
  4. A loyal comrade-in-arms.
  5. A whimsical child who tugs on my sleeve.
  6. Whispers on a warm breeze.
  7. A hyperactive pest.
  8. A free-spirited wild woman.
  9. A temperamental diva.
  10. A grounded, wise old oak tree who speaks to me.

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

Write Naked

I’m rerunning this popular post because I know some of you out there want to know how to capture your shower and bath musings!  

Okay, I know I gave this post a provocative title. Provocative, but not misleading, because I’m going to talk about writing while in the shower.

shower

In my post Friday, I mentioned dragging my Muse into the shower to sneak in a creative moment. Writing in the shower came up in the comments to that post, too. Since it was on my mind, I did a little Internet research about shower writing. And I found products!

I’ve always written in my head in the shower, repeating a few sentences over and over until I’m finished so I won’t forget them. It never occurred to me to actually physically write in the shower. But apparently it occurred to other people, because you can buy the items below to help with your shower-time creativity.

Links to Shower Writing Tools:

Erasable Shower Note Tablet: Like a small whiteboard, with waterproof crayons, a crayon caddy and suction cup mounts included.

AquaNotes: A pad of waterproof paper with suction cups to attach it to the shower wall. Comes with a water-resistant cedar pencil and a suction cup pencil holder. You can buy the regular AquaNotes or the “LoveNotes” to leave a message for that special someone in the shower!

Underwater Dive Slate: A search for “dive slate” turns up dozens of different dive slates made for scuba divers. But they’ll work fine in the shower, too.

waterfall

These are products designed for construction professionals who need to take notes in all sorts of weather:

Waterproof Bound Book

Waterproof Notepad

All-Weather Pen: A ballpoint pen that “writes on wet paper, and upside down in temperatures from -50 to 400°F.” I think at 400°F, the pen might be fine, but the writer would have melted into a puddle!

I also found advice to use kids’ washable crayons or old-fashioned grease pencils to write on tile shower walls.

So choose your method and don’t let a little water dampen your creativity!
 

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

Make a Valentine for Your Muse

 

I just came across this post from a couple of years ago, and I’m re-posting it to offer some ideas for celebrating your muse this Valentine’s Day!

We like to celebrate our special loved ones on Valentine’s Day, so why not give our muses a little Valentine’s Day love, too? I made this collage and included a Rumi poem as an offering to my Muse for all the inspiration in the last year.

You could also write a poem, a love letter, a couple of sentences, a haiku, a short story or anything else to celebrate your muse.

You could create a happy inspiration dance, paint a picture of your muse, write a celebratory song, or take a contemplative walk with your muse by your side.

How will you celebrate your muse this Valentine’s Day?

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

Push the Creativity Reset Button Every Day

Has this ever happened to you? You’re determined to start writing or painting or pursuing another creative passion on a regular basis. So you sit down to treaty negotiations with your Muse, and the two of you draw up a plan: Your Muse agrees to visit you for half an hour before work every day to provide inspiration, and you agree to show up with paper and pen or paints.

The two of you sign and notarize the document, your Muse flits off to study the funky aardvark dance that’s sweeping Madagascar, and you give yourself a celebratory high-five in the mirror before going to bed feeling great.

Things work wonderfully for the first week. You set your alarm early, get up, and write or paint your heart out.

The next Sunday night, your cat has a hairball emergency requiring your middle-of-the-night supervision. Obviously, after all the midnight drama, you’re way too tired to get up the next morning and be creative. But that’s okay. You decide to write or paint for a full hour the next day.

On Monday night, however, after a late-night salami pizza with extra garlic and anchovies, you keep waking throughout the wee hours between disturbing dreams of monkeys juggling hamsters, and pigs in tuxedos giving speeches at state dinners.

Too exhausted to get up early Tuesday morning, you tell yourself you’ll just write or paint for an hour for the next TWO days. No problem. But the next morning, you hit the snooze button on your alarm clock. Really, can anyone be expected to get up at this ungodly hour? You see your Muse standing next to your bed, tapping her foot and looking put out, but you ignore her. For two mornings in a row.

The next day is Friday, and you really deserve a break – it’s been a tough week, what with all the hairballs and talking pigs. Not to mention the terrified hamsters. You’ll double down next week and catch up on all the creative time you missed.

Once Monday morning rolls around again, the amount of work you need to do to catch up seems so daunting that you bury your head under your pillow while your Muse screams into your ear. Finally, she gives up and flies away with a pout.

You’ve broken your Creativity Treaty. Your Muse is drowning her sorrows at the Muse Pub, and beginning to flirt with an artist who speaks in haiku while turning napkins into abstract art.

Meanwhile, you’re stuck under the covers. You wonder if you are even meant to be a writer/artist/musician. What were you thinking? You’re way too busy. The world seems set against you pursuing your creativity. You’re not really even a very good writer/artist/musician anyway.

This is when you need to push the Reset Button.

It’s time to text your Muse and ask her to come back and renegotiate. This time, include this clause in your treaty: “Every Day is a Restart.”

If you miss a day, you start fresh the next day. Do the already-planned 30 minutes that morning, not 15-and-a-half hours because you’re so far behind.

Because the thing is: You won’t do 15-and-a-half hours. And feeling that you should just adds creativity-killing pressure.

Creativity-killing pressure has been known to cause people to curl up into tense little balls while their Inner Critics hurl horrific insults at their tender insides. And creativity-killing pressure always frightens muses away.

But if you can treat every day as the first day of a new treaty, you lower the pressure on yourself and put a smile on your Muse’s face.

Muses love daily restarts. Because muses exist in the Now. Creativity exists in the Now. Every day is a fresh start. Every moment is a fresh moment.

So, hit the reset button, pick up your pen or brush, and start. Now.

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

Who Is Your Muse?

I love this exercise, which I posted here last year. I like to go back to it occasionally and keep answering the question in my journal. And I’d love to hear from you: Who is your muse?

Here’s the challenge:

Write “My muse is…” and quickly finish the thought with the first thing that comes to your mind. Continue writing “My muse is…” and completing the sentence at least 15 or 20 times. Keep your pen moving. Don’t pause; don’t think too much about it; don’t censor yourself! Allow yourself to write things that are silly, stupid, profound, nonsensical…just keep going and see what you come up with. Most of all, have fun with this!

Then post your favorites in the comments below — I love it when you share your creativity!

Here are some of mine:

My muse is an anteater sniffing around to find the perfect anthill full of crunchy little creative ideas.

My muse is a banana peel waiting for someone to slip on it.

My muse is a ballerina with three legs, creating new dances that only she can dance.

My muse is a little girl with tights that won’t stay up and a pencil box full of stars.

My muse is a guitar made out of cardboard and rubber bands.

My muse is a crumpled piece of paper with the formula for happiness written on it in hieroglyphics.

My muse is a conversation between two people who don’t yet know their hearts have begun to intertwine.

My muse is a moonbeam grinning down at me from the dark night sky.


STOP STRANGLING YOUR MUSE!
I’ll help you slay your Perfectionism Dragon,
Herd your Inner Critics into a soundproof room,
Send your Procrastination Monster whimpering back to his cave,
And defuse all your creative blocks.

To schedule a free 30-minute telephone creativity coaching session with me, or for more information, click here.

Make a Valentine for Your Muse

We like to celebrate our special loved ones on Valentine’s Day, so why not give our muses a little Valentine’s Day love, too? I made this collage and included a Rumi poem as an offering to my Muse for all the inspiration in the last year.

You could also write a poem, a love letter, a couple of sentences, a haiku, a short story or anything else to celebrate your muse.

You could create a happy inspiration dance, paint a picture of your muse, write a celebratory song or take a contemplative walk with your muse by your side.

How will you celebrate your muse this Valentine’s Day?


Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Rebellious Action

When I read this poem about creative resistance by fabulous creativity guru Jill Badonsky, I could totally relate — I bet you will too!

Rebellious Action

The Muse hovers with yellowy pink taffeta wings …

fluttering dangerously close to the chandelier
holding a BIG red and black sign that says

ACTION.

The poet sees the sign and sighs.

The Muse waves the sign dramatically,
pressing her teeth together in a large forced
smile.  the sign says ACTION!!

Sigh x 2.

The Muse flings a few nimble adjectives deftly onto the blank sheet of paper– “cooperative”, “accommodating,” “attentive”.

The poet swats them with a fly swatter and places them in the garbage with the trout and pilaf leftovers from Tuesday night.

The Muse drops five getcha-going verbs on the poet’s blank paper.

The poet pushes the verbs around with her pen, pausing when she sees the word “go,”
and then collects them all in a Mason Jar,
holes in the lid, and places them next to the cinnamon and the thyme.
The thyme, by the way, expired in ‘05.

The Muse, exquisitely perturbed,
Pulls out her secret stash of NOUNS…
“potion”, “enchantment”,
“chandelier”
and “rubber chicken”.

Nose up, head over shoulder she hands them  to the poet.

The poet begins to write…
…………A grocery list.

The Muse takes the red and black sign and bonks herself on the head with it,
flies out the window to visit the gardener who is planting seeds of
good intentions in the rich, fertile soil next door.

The poet smiles and writes this poem.

Copyright © Jill Badonsky. Posted here with permission from the author.

* * *
Jill Badonsky is an internationally recognized workshop leader, keynote speaker, creativity-coaching pioneer, illustrator, and humorist. She is author of The Nine Modern Day Muses (and a Bodyguard): 10 Guides to Creative Inspiration for Artists, Poets, Lovers, and Other Mortals Wanting to Live a Dazzling Existence and the award-winning, The Awe-manac: A Daily Dose of Wonder.

You can find all kinds of fun creative resources at Jill’s website. I highly recommend subscribing to her newsletter, which always inspires me when it lands in my inbox!

Sandbox Challenge #23: Who Is Your Muse?

Here’s the challenge:

Write “My muse is…” and quickly finish the thought with the first thing that comes to your mind. Continue writing “My muse is…” and completing the sentence at least 15 or 20 times. Keep your pen moving. Don’t pause; don’t think too much about it; don’t censor yourself! Allow yourself to write things that are silly, stupid, profound, nonsensical…just keep going and see what you come up with. Most of all, have fun with this!

Then post your favorites in the comments below — I love it when you share your creativity!

Here are some of mine:

My muse is an anteater sniffing around to find the perfect anthill full of crunchy little creative ideas.

My muse is a banana peel waiting for someone to slip on it.

My muse is a ballerina with three legs, creating new dances that only she can dance.

My muse is a little girl with tights that won’t stay up and a pencil box full of stars.

My muse is a guitar made out of cardboard and rubber bands.

My muse is a crumpled piece of paper with the formula for happiness written on it in hieroglyphics.

My muse is a conversation between two people who don’t yet know their hearts have begun to intertwine.

My muse is a moonbeam grinning down at me from the dark night sky.


Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Ten Ways to Woo Your Muse

metal sculpture

Life is interfering with my desire to get a new post written, so instead I’m offering one of my most popular lists:

  1. Do something you haven’t done since you were a child. Slide down a slide.  Eat a peanut butter and banana sandwich. Play in a sprinkler. Sing a song you liked when you were a kid.
  2. Keep a notebook next to your bed, and write about whatever wakes you up.
  3. Take a little time to stop “doing” and just “be” for a while.  Meditate. Walk. Stare at the wall. Soak in a bubble bath.
  4. Spend some time doing anything you consider fun, even if it seems frivolous. Especially if it seems frivolous.
  5. Go for a walk and look at everything in your path as if you’re seeing it for the first time.
  6. Do something creative. Color. Dance. Play with Play-Doh.
  7. Pay attention to your dreams—both the night kind and the day kind.
  8. Rip up your To Do list for the day or for the afternoon and do whatever you feel like doing.
  9. Go outside at night and count the stars. Or waltz in the rain. Or share your secrets with the moon.
  10. Do something silly. Talk in a funny voice. Walk down the street backwards.  See if you can balance a spoon on your nose.

Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Why I Don’t Speak Cello.

I’m on vacation, visiting family, friends and old college pals in my home state of Virginia, so I’m offering one of my most popular posts:

On Tuesday morning, a cello sat on the sidewalk outside my house. I considered engaging in a musical conversation, but instead rushed off to work.

On Wednesday morning, the sidewalk looked up at me with empty eyes.

**   **   **   **   **   **

I have a confession to make. Lately, I haven’t been practicing what I preach on this blog. Circumstances in my life at the moment have had me working long hours six or seven days a week, every week, for a while. Life has been particularly stressful. And I haven’t been maintaining a creative practice.

This blog itself does give me a bit of an outlet. But I haven’t devoted any time at all to what I call my soul-writing. The fragments of fiction and poetry, the phrases of metaphor and memory my Muse hands to me. Moments of creativity that may become pieces of a larger project or may just feed my deepest self by merely existing.

But this past weekend, I didn’t work at all, taking two days in a row off for the first time in quite a while. And guess what happened? My Muse took the opportunity to begin nudging me. Or maybe he’s been nudging me all along, and I just haven’t been listening. At any rate, a couple of metaphorical micro-stories flowed into my mind. And once I started writing them down, more arrived.

Perhaps not surprisingly, they all speak to issues of creativity and writing. I’ve shared one above, and I plan to continue sharing them and write about the issue each describes. “Why I Don’t Speak Cello” illustrates my current period of overworked stress. Something extraordinary sits on the periphery of my life, and I’ve been refusing to engage with it. Creativity is always extraordinary, you know.

My life hasn’t slowed down, in spite of the fact that I actually had a real weekend. And my stress level remains high. But this little story my Muse handed me reminds me that I can still take 15 minutes to talk to the cello before I rush to work.

15 minutes a day. That’s how you learn to speak cello—or become a writer, or maintain a creative practice—no matter how much crazy life throws at you.

And if you do ignore the cello until it disappears, just remember to stop and talk to the timpani and the trombone when they arrive.

Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Wisdom From a Paddle Surfer

I’m on vacation, visiting family, friends and old college pals in my home state of Virginia, so I’m offering one of my most popular posts:

Last week on Kauai, my husband met a weathered paddle surfer who claims a he’e (octopus) helps him navigate the sometimes treacherous ocean waters. I love stories like this. Whether you believe it literally, or enjoy it as a colorful myth, the paddle surfer’s story also makes a wonderful metaphor.

paddle surfer

I’ve spent a lot of time here talking about my Muse.  But now I’m thinking about how the inspirational muse and the navigational octopus could work together in the creative process.

My Muse feels like an ethereal guest. He’s pouty, he has ADD and he owns a perpetually broken watch. Though he drives me crazy, his dynamic personality and vivid tales color the room with brilliant imagery when he chooses to visit.

But do I have a creative he’e? And if so, what purpose does she serve?

I imagine an ancient and wise creature living in the deep waters of my subconscious. Always there, silently watching. Hers is the voice that bubbles up when I berate myself for not working on one of my unfinished novels. That quietly whispers in my ear: “No, Sandy. You’re supposed to be writing about creativity now.”

octopus

My he’e knows which current flows smoothly in the direction I’m headed. She nudges me away from the dangerous undertow that threatens to sweep me far from my center. But this insightful octopus speaks softly, watching as I often do the exact opposite of what she’s suggested.

“The animals know things,” the paddle surfer told my husband. “You just have to listen to them.”

I’d like to believe we all have a creative creature residing in our deep waters and steering us in the right direction. It’s the voice you hear in those small moments when you stop listening to all the other noise in your head. When you stop thinking and stop doing and allow yourself to simply be.

I’m going to work on tapping into the muse’s amazing bursts of inspiration while still hearing the quiet wisdom of the he’e. I can imagine that doing this consistently could make it possible to reach amazing creative heights.

Copyright @ Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Write Naked

I’m on vacation, visiting family, friends and old college pals in my home state of Virginia, so I’m offering one of my most popular posts:

Okay, I know I gave this post a provocative title. Provocative, but not misleading, because I’m going to talk about writing while in the shower.

shower

In my post Friday, I mentioned dragging my Muse into the shower to sneak in a creative moment. Writing in the shower came up in the comments to that post, too. Since it was on my mind, I did a little Internet research about shower writing. And I found products!

I’ve always written in my head in the shower, repeating a few sentences over and over until I’m finished so I won’t forget them. It never occurred to me to actually physically write in the shower. But apparently it occurred to other people, because you can buy the items below to help with your shower-time creativity.

Links to Shower Writing Tools:

Erasable Shower Note Tablet: Like a small whiteboard, with waterproof crayons, a crayon caddy and suction cup mounts included. (Looks like they’re out of stock at the time of this writing.)

AquaNotes: A pad of waterproof paper with suction cups to attach it to the shower wall. Comes with a water-resistant cedar pencil and a suction cup pencil holder. You can buy the regular AquaNotes or the “LoveNotes” to leave a message for that special someone in the shower!

Underwater Dive Slate: A search for “dive slate” turns up dozens of different dive slates made for scuba divers. But they’ll work fine in the shower, too.

waterfall

These are products designed for construction professionals who need to take notes in all sorts of weather:

Waterproof Bound Book

Waterproof Notepad

All-Weather Pen: A ballpoint pen that “writes on wet paper, and upside down in temperatures from -50 to 400°F.” I think at 400°F, the pen might be fine, but the writer would have melted into a puddle.

I also found advice to use kids’ washable crayons or old-fashioned grease pencils to write on tile shower walls. So choose your method and don’t let a little water dampen your creativity!

Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Creative Inspiration vs. Writing as a Job

This article from Fuel Your Writing brings up a wonderful point. James Chartrand discusses author Elizabeth Gilbert’s talk on creativity at the 2009 TED conference. He highlights her belief in inspiration as something that comes from outside the writer as opposed to genius within the writer.

Chartrand mentions this moment in the speech, when Gilbert discusses talking to her absent muse:

Listen, you, thing, you and I both know that if this book isn’t brilliant that is not entirely my fault, right? Because you can see that I am putting everything I have into this, I don’t have any more than this. So if you want it to be better, then you’ve got to show up and do your part of the deal, okay? But if you don’t do that, you know what, the hell with it, I’m going to keep writing anyway because that’s my job. And I would please like the record to reflect today that I showed up for my part of the job.

Chartrand says, “I think this is brilliant. We’re used to not thinking of our creative endeavors as a job. A job is what makes you money, and then you write because you have to or because you want to or because you need an outlet for your creativity.” He goes on to discuss the importance of showing up for your muse, just as you expect your muse to show up for you.

I believe we should do everything we can to encourage inspirational moments, and that we must grab them hard with both hands when they arrive. I also believe in the “butt in chair” philosophy of writing—if you’re serious about it, it really is a job as well as creative playtime.

What do you think?

Copyright @ Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Trying to Capture the Elusive Muse

In a dream, I swim through a beautiful ocean of words, until I meet a very old tortoise who whispers the perfect sentence in my ear. I can’t remember the sentence when I wake, but my hair is wet.
** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **

One of my greatest frustrations with my Muse arises when he provides incomplete information. When inspiration strikes, I want to see the whole picture. To visualize the complete story, imagine exactly how the scene unfolds or clearly hear the voice of an important character. But the truth is that muses almost always provide only fragments. That’s actually the muse’s job. To offer a spark of inspiration. Then we must turn the spark into something more. So many of my best pieces of creative writing have arisen when I started with just a hint of an idea, a hazy image, a line of dialogue or a brief moment of action that I first told myself wasn’t worth pursuing. But when I push aside the voice that tells me “No,” and insist on following the flash of inspiration, I often find something lovely unfolding. Writers frequently talk about how their wonderful novels, memoirs, plays, screenplays and poems originated with such snippets. I find it really helps me to remember that when I’m annoyed at my Muse for only providing me with wet hair while leaving the perfect sentence balanced on the tip of my tongue.

Copyright @ Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Why I Don’t Speak Cello

On Tuesday morning, a cello sat on the sidewalk outside my house. I considered engaging in a musical conversation, but instead rushed off to work.

On Wednesday morning, the sidewalk looked up at me with empty eyes.

**   **   **   **   **   **

I have a confession to make. Lately, I haven’t been practicing what I preach on this blog. Circumstances in my life at the moment have had me working long hours six or seven days a week, every week, for a while. Life has been particularly stressful. And I haven’t been maintaining a creative practice.

This blog itself does give me a bit of an outlet. But I haven’t devoted any time at all to what I call my soul-writing. The fragments of fiction and poetry, the phrases of metaphor and memory my Muse hands to me. Moments of creativity that may become pieces of a larger project or may just feed my deepest self by merely existing.

But this past weekend, I didn’t work at all, taking two days in a row off for the first time in quite a while. And guess what happened? My Muse took the opportunity to begin nudging me. Or maybe he’s been nudging me all along, and I just haven’t been listening. At any rate, a couple of metaphorical micro-stories flowed into my mind. And once I started writing them down, more arrived.

Perhaps not surprisingly, they all speak to issues of creativity and writing. I’ve shared one above, and I plan to continue sharing them and write about the issue each describes. “Why I Don’t Speak Cello” illustrates my current period of overworked stress. Something extraordinary sits on the periphery of my life, and I’ve been refusing to engage with it. Creativity is always extraordinary, you know.

My life hasn’t slowed down, in spite of the fact that I actually had a real weekend. And my stress level remains high. But this little story my Muse handed me reminds me that I can still take 15 minutes to talk to the cello before I rush to work.

15 minutes a day. That’s how you learn to speak cello—or become a writer, or maintain a creative practice—no matter how much crazy life throws at you.

And if you do ignore the cello until it disappears, just remember to stop and talk to the timpani and the trombone when they arrive.


STOP STRANGLING YOUR MUSE!
I’ll help you slay your Perfectionism Dragon,
Herd your Inner Critics into a soundproof room,
Send your Procrastination Monster whimpering back to his cave,
And defuse all your creative blocks.

To schedule a free 30-minute telephone creativity coaching session with me, or for more information, click here.

Are You the Genius, or Is the Genius Working Through You?

I don’t share videos often, because I know many of us don’t have time to watch them. But this talk by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, touches on some fascinating ideas about the origin of creativity. Gilbert discusses the concept of the individual as a creative genius versus the notion of the artist as a conduit through which creativity flows. She links the end of the historical belief in an outside “daemon” or “genius” to the growth of both narcissism and paralyzing self-doubt in contemporary writers.

Highlights for me include her interactions with poet Ruth Stone and musician Tom Waits. Stone told Gilbert about poems barreling down on her while she races to get a piece of paper, only to continue on to be written by another poet if Stone doesn’t catch them in time. Waits shared a significant moment in his creative life with Gilbert, discussing his interaction with a piece of music when it came to him while he was driving down the freeway and unable to capture it.

The video is just under 20 minutes long—well worth a listen if you have the time.

10 Ways to Woo Your Muse

  1. Do something you haven’t done since you were a child. Slide down a slide.  Eat a peanut butter and banana sandwich. Play in a sprinkler. Sing a song you liked when you were a kid.
  2. Keep a notebook next to your bed, and write about whatever wakes you up.
  3. Take a little time to stop “doing” and just “be” for a while.  Meditate. Walk. Stare at the wall. Soak in a bubble bath.
  4. metal sculpture

  5. Spend some time doing anything you consider fun, even if it seems frivolous. Especially if it seems frivolous.
  6. Go for a walk and look at everything in your path as if you’re seeing it for the first time.
  7. Do something creative. Color. Dance. Play with Play-Doh.
  8. Pay attention to your dreams—both the night kind and the day kind.
  9. Rip up your To Do list for the day or for the afternoon and do whatever you feel like doing.
  10. Go outside at night and count the stars. Or waltz in the rain. Or share your secrets with the moon.
  11. Do something silly. Talk in a funny voice. Walk down the street backwards.  See if you can balance a spoon on your nose.

Copyright @ Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Paddle Surfer Wisdom

Last week on Kauai, my husband met a weathered paddle surfer who claims a he’e (octopus) helps him navigate the sometimes treacherous ocean waters.   I love stories like this. Whether you believe it literally, or enjoy it as a colorful myth, the paddle surfer’s story also makes a wonderful metaphor.

paddle surfer

I’ve spent a lot of time here talking about my Muse.  But now I’m thinking about how the inspirational muse and the navigational octopus could work together in the creative process.

My Muse feels like an ethereal guest.  He’s pouty, he has ADD and he owns a perpetually broken watch.  Though he drives me crazy, his dynamic personality and vivid tales color the room with brilliant imagery when he chooses to visit.

But do I have a creative he’e?  And if so, what purpose does she serve?

I imagine an ancient and wise creature living in the deep waters of my subconscious. Always there, silently watching.  Hers is the voice that bubbles up when I berate myself for not working on one of my unfinished novels.  That quietly whispers in my ear:  “No, Sandy.  You’re supposed to be writing about creativity now.”

octopus

My he’e knows which current flows smoothly in the direction I’m headed.  She nudges me away from the dangerous undertow that threatens to sweep me far from my center.  But this insightful octopus speaks softly, watching as I often do the exact opposite of what she’s suggested.

“The animals know things,” the paddle surfer told my husband.  “You just have to listen to them.”

I’d like to believe we all have a creative creature residing in our deep waters and steering us in the right direction.  It’s the voice you hear in those small moments when you stop listening to all the other noise in your head. When you stop thinking and stop doing and allow yourself to simply be.

I’m going to work on tapping into the muse’s amazing bursts of inspiration while still hearing the quiet wisdom of the he’e.  I can imagine that doing this consistently could make it possible to reach amazing creative heights.

Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Write Naked!

Okay, I know I gave this post a provocative title.  Provocative, but not misleading, because I’m going to talk about writing while in the shower—and presumably naked.

shower

In my post Friday, I mentioned dragging my Muse into the shower to sneak in a creative moment. Writing in the shower came up in the comments to that post, too. Since it was on my mind, I did a little Internet research about shower writing. And I found products!

I’ve always written in my head in the shower, repeating a few sentences over and over until I’m finished so I won’t forget them. It never occurred to me to actually physically write in the shower. But apparently it occurred to other people, because you can buy the items below to help with your shower-time creativity.

Links to Shower Writing Tools:

Erasable Shower Note Tablet: Like a small whiteboard, with waterproof crayons, a crayon caddy and suction cup mounts included. (Looks like they’re out of stock at the time of this writing.)

AquaNotes: A pad of waterproof paper with suction cups to attach it to the shower wall. Comes with a water-resistant cedar pencil and a suction cup pencil holder. You can buy the regular AquaNotes or the “LoveNotes” to leave a message for that special someone in the shower!

Underwater Dive Slate: A search for “dive slate” turns up dozens of different dive slates made for scuba divers. But they’ll work fine in the shower, too.

waterfall

These are products designed for construction professionals who need to take notes in all sorts of weather:

Waterproof Bound Book

Waterproof Notepad

All-Weather Pen: A ballpoint pen that “writes on wet paper, and upside down in temperatures from -50 to 400°F.” I think at 400°F, the pen might be fine, but the writer would have melted into a puddle!

I also saw advice to use kids’ washable crayons or old-fashioned grease pencils to write on tile shower walls. I think I’m going to try out the AquaNotes. And I didn’t even know waterproof paper existed until yesterday!

Copyright @ Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com


Download a Free E-Book! Click on the Cover Below for your Creative Bursts Workbook

And get fun 15-minute creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week

About Sandy Ackers

Sandy

Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach and Writer.

To learn more about Sandy, click here: About Sandy

Connect With Me On Facebook:

Meet My Muse

Click here to read the post discussing my relationship with my somewhat pesky male muse.

Inspiration in your inbox:

Blog Archive

Total Hits:

wordpress analytics
wordpress analytics

Share This Blog

Bookmark and Share
Add to Technorati Favorites
Writing Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory

COPYRIGHT NOTICE

Copyright © 2009-2017 Sandy Ackers. All rights reserved, with the following exceptions:

Writers retain all rights to any comments, stories or other original work posted on this blog in the comments sections or the Readers' Sandbox.

Many of the photos on this blog are in the public domain. If you'd like to reproduce a photo, contact Sandy Ackers at the email address listed in the ABOUT section of this blog for information on whether the image is under copyright.

Reproducing, copying or distributing the writing on this blog without the express permission of the author is strictly forbidden.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

%d bloggers like this: