The Muse Myth: How Doth She Judge?
It is when I return to the road that my habits and routines all fly out the window—thrown into a suitcase for later or simply left behind, abandoned.
They’re recalled, at times—as the wheels cover road or wings cross mountains—with a quick tightness in my chest. Anxiety. The sweet date, ghosted, to whom I should really send a text . . . but later.
Do I punish myself for this ability to wipe the slate clean and move forward? Or do I give myself a squeeze on the shoulder? Say, Hey, you’re doing the best you can.
Or, do I attempt a coup d’état, force myself to stick with routines in the face of benign but persistent commotion? Is that what responsible, focused people do?
Namely, it would mean sticking with my bullet journaling, exercise, morning/night meditation, and a daily writing routine.
Most of the great creatives claim that one must show up at a consistent time and place for the muse. If and when she decides to strike, she must know where to find you.
“I show up in my writing room at approximately 10 A.M. every morning without fail. Sometimes my muse sees fit to join me there and sometimes she doesn’t, but she always knows where I’ll be.”
–Tom Robbins (author extraordinaire)
But how does this work for a nomad?
Last friday, I began preparing to leave the place I’d called home for 40 days. Sunday, I flew to Los Angeles and caught up with friends. Tuesday, packed a rental car with the remnants of my life there, then drove 13 hours to Santa Fe (thanks for the storage space, mom and dad!). Friday, I visit friends in Atlanta. Tuesday, I go back to Italy.
I don’t have a desk. I don’t have an income. Without adapting to the requirements of a maundering lifestyle, I would have to get a “real” job, create structure, say goodbye to wanderliving.
The poeticism of the muse finding you in a predetermined place is lovely. But what if the muse is already here within us?
What if she doesn’t swoop in from the mystic land of creativity to fill minds and hearts with fleeting genius?
What if “being available” is the simple act of listening for her, as often as possible, with that woo-woo inner ear?
Essentially, being present in the moment. Living the observed life.
This past year of vagabonding has taught me that indeed the muse strikes erratically. It is often when I’m making a warm drink in the morning, smack in the middle of an unrelated book, or just as I close my eyes for sleep.
But sometimes, it’s none of those times.
And I’m proud to say that now, whenever it comes, I usually recognize it. A sudden clearness in my brain where a pen tip presses upon a thought, an excitement that bids me rush to the keyboard or record a stream of words on my phone (ah, technology!).
I want to believe in “showing up for the muse,” but maybe this patchwork life of pursuing creativity is just that: a constant arrival, an ever-ready embrace. Perhaps the lifestyle itself is the fuel for my muse.
Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you’re going to be every day from nine ’til noon. Or seven ’til three. If he does know, I assure you that sooner or later he’ll start showing up.”
–Stephen King, On Writing
Then again, I haven’t really had the chance to try Mr. King’s approach. And if we’re being honest, he and Tom Robbins have had a bit more success than myself.
When I have the money+desire to settle, I’ll try it.
I’ll even try when I return to my Italian hermitage next week. There I’ll establish routine. But will three weeks be enough to know if my current style is right or wrong?
Muse, are you listening?
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Sometimes I’m envious of your vagabond lifestyle, but I don’t see myself giving up the one I have. I used to think I needed a muse. I was obsessed with the idea. I even included a muse in my first novel. But I’ve since learned the muse is inside me. To get the best results from your muse you have to create the right conditions otherwise the muse will become disinterested in you. Does that make the muse a myth? Maybe but all that matters is if it works for you.
Yessss, I think the right conditions are sooo important! Mental chatter is my worst enemy. I don’t hear the little whispers of ideas otherwise. I think a lot of people feel envy at *first* toward my lifestyle, but always upon further reflection they’re like, “wait…no.” Ha! Even I feel like that sometimes.