Tag Archives: motivational

Overcoming Writers Block: Tickling the Muse II

In last year’s TED Talk speech the author of Eat, Pray, Love explains how she is able to handle the terrible pressure to make something genius after having a huge breakout bestseller. Her solution is to do as folks did before the Age of Reason, and think of your genius as something outside of yourself (the bonus is a great Tom Waits story).

This has been unbelievably helpful for me lately. If you are a creative person who has been haunted any kind of creative block, I highly recommend you watch it.

Don’t worry, the rest of my post will still be waiting below…

To open in a new tab: Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk on Personifying Your Genius

Finding Your Genius

In short, she suggests that artists need a way to “create a safe distance” between ourselves and the anxiety we feel about our work. Thinking of genius as some kind of separate entity frees us from our fears that our brilliance won’t match our expectations.

It also means I get to have a new imaginary friend, a Puckish deity that hops like an invisible monkey around my computer desk, taunting me with unfinished sentences and half-baked ideas.

After I began to think of my own creativity as this impish being it assumed a greater importance in my life. My art and my creative space was no longer a task to be mastered or even a puzzle to be solved. It was demigod as revered as Dionysus (I suspect they’re cousins). It was also my oldest and dearest friend. In both cases, the measure of time and respect I had to give to the creative process increased dramatically, as it would if the Macy’s window mannequin came to life and offered to be your sweetheart.

So I would like to take a moment to speak to you about your demiurge, the fiery creative beast who lives in your belly, showers you with presents, abandons you for another woman, only to wake you from a dream as if she’d never left.

You know you, your muse. Let’s talk about her.

Have you been treating her right? Or have you been resentful? Avoiding her calls? Talking trash about her to your friends? Putting off quality time so you can watch telly, play Spades, or other trivial nonsense where she’s clearly not invited? Do you really think a Goddess, no matter how lonely, wants to hang out while you update your Facebook page? And if she did, you’d likely be annoyed that she showed up at such an inopportune moment.

Remember, time devoted to your genius need not be a two-way street: she is a demigod, and under no obligation to hang out with the likes of you in the first place. Know that there are many whose shrines to her greatness far surpass yours, that there are those who have devoted whole temples to her—and so many of these devotees with their trinkets and their affirmations have only seen the brightest glimpse of her visage. She owes you nothing, wretch.

Is your shrine tidy and free of cobwebs? Do you offer her gifts? Do you meditate daily on her awesomeness? If you hesitate (as I do!) to offer anything but a resounding “Yes!” to these queries, consider yourself lucky, chump. Lucky that she comes to you at all. Considering your petulance, she probably has a thing for you.

Don’t make that face, I’m sure you’ve had your suspicions. You wouldn’t have gotten into this whole creation thing in the first place if you hadn’t suspected the Muse pays more attention to you. Admit it, she makes you feel special. All those nights facing off with the keyboard to create something that will likely never put a penny in your pocket or a lover between your sheets were only fun when she was there.  And when she didn’t show up you resented her. Who the hell was she, besides a Goddess, besides the very thing that makes humans beautiful and inspirational, who the hell was she besides the reason we have libraries and museums and video games and Cathedrals—so what to all that, you could have gone drinking with your friends, both of them.

No matter that when you’re swilling Cosmos at cocktail parties you slur that her creative spark is your goddamned reason for living.

Here’s what I believe: you like her; she likes you. When you are ready to settle down and put her first in your life, she will be there for you. When you are a monk in your devotion and a lover in your ardor, when each day begins with an act of devotion to your creative urge, she will reward you with all the brilliance of your ego’s fantasies. You know, and I know, she will be waiting.

Who needs high school reunions?

“You can’t be neutral on a moving train.”

 — Howard Zinn

I’ve been websurfing through profiles of people I went to high school with. Though I have changed a lot, people that I thought were cool in high school are still the type of people I want to be friends with. People that were “enh” are still “enh.” Most of the latter now have nice-paying careers working for the man. Or doing something incredibly boring that one would only do to have money. While I’m reaching a place in my life where that sort of thing is more important to me (gee, would be nice to fill some of these cavities before I start to resemble the woman who sleeps at the busstop across from the Amtrak) I still find it unimpressive. I wouldn’t trade places to have that kind of job.

I also noticed that people who have TV, babies or God are only interested in TV, babies and God.

Along the same lines, very few people have any interest in the turmoil that is going on in the world. I’m sure that many are aware and just don’t post about it. This makes me want to be more conscious about posting politics.

Last night I got a phone call from a woman I used to know when I was a teen and she was a child. We’re five years apart. She says that she looks up to me because I went to college and I was involved in politics. She doesn’t know a lot about politics (IE, she didn’t know what fascism is) but she knows enough to be peeved. She said she was confused and I could tell that she was frustrated. I feel like there are many people that would make an impact if only they knew how/what/where to break into it.

This inspires in me a lot of mixed feelings. People are really angered about the paths this administration is taking, even people that live in the suburbs and don’t expose themselves to any kind of news media, let alone non-corporate media. There was a woman on the Diane Rheam Weekend Round-up who was near tears because the president lied about the CIA leak. She said it was getting harder and harder to call this country a democracy. The pundits replied that at least there is transparancy and the people will make change at the ballot box. But I’m with H. D. Thoreau on this one:

“Must we resign our conscious to the legislator? Why has every man a conscious then? We should be men first, and subjects second.”

And that gets right to the heart of it. We know how to vote, but once that’s failed we know not where else to turn. I would go so far as to say that our culture discourages further action.

Ask yourself, what have you done for your country today? And by that I mean, what have you done for the world today? And by that I mean, what have you done for your city today? How are the actions that you take on a daily basis affecting the world at large? Would you even begin to know how to affect the world? Yet you are affecting the world. By choosing not to act, that is impacting history. There are no sidelines, everyone is in the game. I may drop the ball from time to time, but at least I’m out there running.