Courting The Muse, Part 1

I put  a picture up on my Facebook wall today that said: Stop Resisting and Start Creating. The reason it is up there is because this is the hardest thing! We all have experienced Resistance, right? Sometimes I feel there is a force field around the door to my studio. It is invisible but definitely present. I love to compose music yet for some reason the force field is pushing me away towards…the laundry, finally finishing BSG, or that great Neil Gaiman book I’m reading.

The creative process is intriguing and even more mysterious is the thing which stops us from creating. Two people that helped me gain some understanding of these issues are Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) and Steven Pressfield (The Legend of Bagger Vance and tons of other good reading & watching).  Part 1 will focus on “The Muse” and Part 2 will cover “Resistance”. Enjoy!

Part 1: The Muse

Elizabeth Gilbert presentated an amazing TED Talk about creativity called Your Elusive Creative Genius. Watch it, PLEASE!

Her interpretation of “The Muse” really impacted me. The concept is an old one, going back to the Greeks who believed that The Muses – the nine daughters of Zeus – brought knowledge, dance, music, art and literature. The great part of this concept is that creativity didn’t come from within individual, it was a gift from a god. Therefore the individual didn’t have all this pressure to create something amazing and pull genius out from within; it was a gift from someone else! If this is the case, then the angst-filled belly-gazing artist is no longer required. What is necessary is  simply showing up.

Gilbert believes in the Muse, but in order to utilize the Muse – to get the good stuff – you have to show up to work every day. The Muse handles the responsibility of showering you with creativity but in order for them to do that you need to be there, in your workspace – whether it be the dining room table, the coffee shop with your laptop or your DIY home studio – ready to take on and run with whatever you are given. Once you have the Muse’s idea, you have to put in the work and keep at it until it is complete.

I am writing about this because I struggle with it the most. I am hoping that if I preach this gospel to you guys, it will stay with me and I will be more motivated to practice what I preach. I have definitely gotten better at showing up in my studio, although this is often a result of a pressing deadline and not my own discipline. I feel I have yet to come up with a great routine that will ensure creative flow.

Steven Pressfield has a lot more to say on this subject and I will share it with you next time. If you want to get a head’s start, read his book “The War of Art” as the next blog will be my personal book report on this, my creative bible.

Both Gilbert and Pressfield thoughts on these matters inspired me to compose the orchestral work “Artist and The Muse”. You can hear an excerpt of my work here on my soundcloud page or purchase the work in entirety on iTunes.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

You can find out more about composer Catherine Grealish on her website.

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One thought on “Courting The Muse, Part 1

  1. I’m liking this new blog approach very much Catherin, and what a great topic you have chosen for any reader to relate to, artist or not.

    I think we all struggle with this – creating a routine, a space and an attitude that will allow the Muse to work… also, allowing the Muse to be imperfectly represented by us, the ongoing and never ending newbies. The tension is huge and it’s always going to be there. If we are creating, we are making something new, something that we often have no prior experience of. De facto, there will be mistakes, imperfections, things we truly do not like about what we have created. Some people, and that unfortunately too frequently includes me, who actually don’t even start things because they hate the feeling of the reality delivering such a pale shadow of the vision in their minds. They hate being crap while they figure it out, and sometimes they never figure it out. A kind of arrogance of wanting to avoid the growing and learning process, rather like coming out of the womb a fully formed adult without having to go through one’s teenage years. It’s arrogance, but it’s also such an understandable and human thing to feel.

    John Jacobsen told us on the THeFilmSchool screenwriting bootcamp in Seattle that he forces himself to sit in front of a blank sheet of paper every day for 4 hours. No computer, no smart phone, no any other kind of phone, no meetings or TV or radio. No distraction is allowed. He said he gives himself a choice. Either wrestle with trying to write something, or simply be accountable for writing nothing. John told us that sometimes it’s excruciating, as well as being frustrating, scary and often hugely boring. After a while, one part of the self says to the other(s): “Bloody write something then, for crying out loud.” He said that some days, he gets up out of his chair after 4 hours and the page is still blank. Other days, he has bloody written something. A thousand mile journey starts with the single step..

    I saw the Elizabeth Gilbert TED talk some long while ago and agree it is excellent.

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