David Crosby as a Modern Day Muse
From a recent NPR interview about his creative process, David Crosby shows he a disciple of the Modern Day Muse, Albert:
“’If you want to talk about something you can't go straight at it,’ he says. ‘It doesn't work that way. If you want to write about the Eiffel Tower you don't say, 'It's big and it's tall and it's made out of iron!' You don't. You look at the Eiffel Tower through somebody's eyes who's watching it in the mist over their lover's head. In Paris. On a quiet night. And then, you see the Eiffel Tower.’”
When the Muses were upgraded to the Nine Modern Day Muses, Albert, the Muse of Thinking Differently became part of the pack, (named after Albert Einstein, one of our most innovative rule breakers).
Albert teaches that thinking differently is easier when contemplating what everyone else sees but using a different perspective, trigger or trick to sacrifice the obvious in the name of the novel. Free associating, modifying what's in existence, deviating from the directions, defying the predictable, combining two unrelated concepts... this is the art of discovering a "different" often brilliant idea.
Test-driving the Powers of the Modern Day Muse, Albert
- What's one way you can think differently about your next creative move?
- Write about your creative project as if you were looking at it through someone else’s eyes: A child’s, an intellectual, a down-to-earth hippie, someone greatly in need of whatever it is you are doing.
Joni Mitchell as a Modern Day Muse
Aha-phrodite inspires mortals to pay attention.
She's a modern day Muse from my first book The Nine Modern Day Muses (and a Bodyguard): 10 Guides to Creative Inspiration which was about ten creative principles personified as nine new and improved Muses and the all-important, Bodyguard. (The Greek Muses were rendered obsolete because they couldn’t keep up with the modern day distractions including Netflix, Facebook, and computer solitaire so a new gaggle of Muses was required to get creative inspiration to mortals. That’s what Muses do.)
In an entertaining fashion, each Muse has a story about how she or he, (yes... he) were part of the new Muse upgrade. Included in each of their chapters is their power to free the modern day mortal’s creative potential, their hobbies, rituals and modes of transportation, quotes from great creative people inspired by her/him, and a treasure trove of creative prompts that demonstrate their prowess and give you an opportunity to test drive their powers as your own.
Despite the whimsical humor, these are ten legitimate and practical ways to go deeper with your creativity and move you through all the blockades to which mortals typically butt heads. When we listen to the voices of fear and ego we get stuck. The modern day Muses are the voices of creativity. Those Muse principles are here.
What brings their principles alive in a way we can relate are stories from people who have been visited by these Muses (whether they know it or not), accompanied by questions that your creative mind will want to ponder in a way that makes someone else’s story a catalyst in your own journey.
I just heard such a story yesterday on NPR’s morning edition where Joni Mitchell was described as David Crosby's Aha-phrodite :
“Crosby says his habit of writing anything and everything down came from a lesson Joni Mitchell taught him.
"I said something to her and she said, 'Write that down,'" he recounts. "I said, 'Huh?' She said, 'Write that down!' I said, 'Why?' 'Because it was good! If you don't write it down, it didn't happen.'"
It seemed like such basic advice, but became an important part of Crosby's creative process.
In fact, he put Mitchell's lesson to use in a song called ‘Sell Me A Diamond.’ Its hook includes the lyric, ‘You said it was conflict free / Such a beautiful concept, that such a thing could be,’ which came from a phrase he heard that caught his ear.”
Writing down what you notice requires PAYING ATTENTION.
How many times do you hear interesting phrases, or say things that have creative potential?
Do you know simple things out of context like Crosby’s example "conflict free" can be great springboards for titles, writings, lyrics, photographs, painting?
Are you aware that you sometimes say and think things that are really “good” maybe even if you don’t think so? And how many times do you write them down? Anne Lamott says, always have paper and pen and if you can’t have paper, at least have a pen because you can write on your hand.
A Frisbee, a Spatula, and the Sun
The other day on a walk, a little roly-poly kid cut through the middle of someone's lawn heading straight toward me. As soon, as SOON as he saw me he held up three quarters of an old ragged Frisbee and announced with great verve, "Look what I found!"
I didn't know this kid, never saw him before in my life. He added, not missing a beat, "And I have a dog!" not doubting for a minute I would know the connection of dog and Frisbee. He was elated about this imperfect booty, I was honored that this kid shared the moment with me but mostly amused.
After that I wanted to connect to my fellow humans with something similar. I imagined myself finding a ratty old Frisbee and LOUDLY announcing at the next random person, "Look what I found!" I couldn't see myself doing that and appearing sane especially because I'm the consummate introvert.
Then I tried to apply it to a more age appropriate acquisition, "Look, I bought a new purse, ... and I have lipstick!!!" Then I realized there are some things kids have license to do that we really DON'T get away with as adults without seeming like we have poor boundaries, have mistaken someone for someone else, or are on drugs. But I went and bought a new purse anyway (and lipstick too!!!).
Enthusiasm is contagious. And it just feels good. We make gratitude lists that often list the obvious but leave off worlds of blessings that a little enthusiasm might turn into treasures ... you know ... it's the simple things that make life grand.
They are medicinal when my spirits sag.
I did whatever I could within my little sphere of making a difference and was still feeling down from the tumult in the world, so I made a strange little enthusiasm list. Maybe you could give it a whirl too.
I could get enthusiastic about:
1. A spatula. A spoon just doesn't perform as well, no offense, spoons.
2. The way my freezer defrosts itself, sometimes I can defrost myself too.
3. Smashed avocado with a little lime infused olive oil and salt. Instant gourmet creation.
4. Plumbing that works without a hitch as often as it does. There used to be outhouses!
5. My automatic timed drip sprinkler system for the roses. Left to me those roses would wilt.
6. A handwritten letter from a friend in my mail box. Rare these days.
7. Wearing headphones and listening to cool jazz in a noisy cafe. Rad.
8. Leaning against the washer as it vibrates during the spin cycle. A massage. :)
9. The way the sun creates a moving design on my wood floor. A sun dance.
10. A kid with a ragged old frisbee. (And he had a dog!)
Share your weird favorite things. It's a litany of diversional relief, a different perspective, and the seeds of creative thought.
Mediocre Ukulele Rockstar Superhero
In addition to wanting to be a super-hero when I was a child, rock star was also on the trajectory. The two work well together, especially if you have back-up singers that can double as hero-side-kicks.
In my imagination there would be an audience of adoring fans, a bass player I fall in love with, and really cool sequined Bermuda shorts with matching cap (geek DNA).
But I failed after only one guitar lesson. I quit because playing like a rock star didn't happen quickly and easily. I thought I just wasn't good at guitar, but really, I wasn't good at perseverance, patience and tolerance of my crappy playing. Perseverance, patience and tolerance are the superhero-superstars of the wildly successful creative person. Crappy playing at the beginning is a requirement of being a rock star - or anyone creative.
Ever give up on something because you weren't immediately good at it?
Ever NOT EVEN attempt something because you didn't think you'd be good at it, or because you tried it and you weren't immediately a natural?
Human figure drawing? Singing? Archery? Writing fiction? Ever have a hard time getting back to something because you used to be good but now need some practice?
When I hear friends say, "I'm just not good at art .. or writing," I have to bite my lip. Nah, just kidding, I'm unable to be quiet. I start blubbering excitedly about the stuff I'm writing here, but unless people are ready or passionate, they can't hear it and I just piss them off.
Not trying something because you're afraid you won't be good or quitting on the first or second try are the ingredients of one of the biggest creative blocks in the universe.
***It's called DELUSIONAL THINKING.***
To think you CAN be immediately good at drawing, playing a musical instrument, painting, writing, really anything is UNREALISTIC. Yes, a handful of people have a KNACK for things, but the majority of people must practice to get better. AND THEY PRACTICE A LOT and endure through the parts where they suck.
And yes, I'm speaking LOUDLY in caps because I know you can be happier if you add more creative meaning to your life. After all, I'm a Creative Freedom Fighter (who plays the ukulele with acute mediocrity). So in a way, I'm a rockstar superhero (without dry cleaning bills for capes or sequined Bermuda shorts.)
To be good at anything in the creative realm you must be able to accept that you're not instantly perfect or even kinda good. If you don't have a tolerance muscle, your mission if you choose to answer your creative call, is to build it before you build the skill you are trying to cultivate.
You need tolerance as someone who may be competent at many things - your work, your role in your family, Words with Friends, a talent you may cultivated - but as you endeavor to try something new, you will come up against your inability to translate an idea to reality fear that you're wasting your time, comparing yourself to others, etc.
This is part of the creative process and enduring these feelings is the only way you will get better.
I purposely took up the ukulele with the intention to learn to strengthen my toleration muscle; specifically to tolerate myself being bad at playing the ukulele before I got a little better, because I know once this muscle is there, I will be able to use it for exploring avenues I would not let myself explore otherwise.
What I didn't count on was how once I practiced, the feeling of triumph over the urge to quit was just as exciting as starting to sound good as I played Irving Berlin's Blue Skies on the ukulele.
1. Be Realistic about Toleration
Don't expect to be 100% tolerant at the start. Try for 5% more tolerant, no need to be perfect at toleration either. Or ask yourself: What would it feel like to be one of those people who is patient and accepting of the awkward part at the beginning of a creative process? Just ask, your subconscious
software will work on the answer while you're daydreaming about chocolate.
2. Breathe and Belong
When you feel the urge to reject doing something creative or quit when you're disgusted with what you've done, feel yourself as a part of the huge creative community that feels the exact same way, but be in the 15% that stays because you know this is just a part of the process. And breathe.
3. Practice Relentlessly
I know you’ve heard it a thousand times before, but it’s true… hard work pays off. If you want to be good, you have to practice, practice, practice. ~Ray Bradbury
Acknowledge yourself for staying true to your creative call when you do.
Celebrate by dancing around the living room. Try not to knock over the
expensive candle holder.
You Can't Tell Me What to Do Part One
You Can't Tell Me What to Do
When I was a mini-muse, I was a wild child. My parents rarely disciplined me to be or do anything in a certain way. Perhaps they were afraid of me because my real mother was Ruler of the Amazons and my dad was Zeus. Oh wait, that’s not me, that’s some woman with spectacular bracelets .
However, I was an imaginative and willful imp who liked to do things my way, which is not rare in the land of creative kids. Maybe you were a wild child too and that’s why we get along so well. My parents kinda gave up, so wolves raised me. Dang, that wasn’t me either, that kid hung-out with a bear. I wish!
The good news is because of the no-supervision thing, I didn’t experience the limitations that came from parental discipline. I had to figure out by myself how life worked and although a little lonely, it made me ruggedly independent, resourceful, and prone to self-acceptance because experiencing the frequent errors involved in the trial and error of trying to figure out how to maneuver through life, either you learn self-acceptance or hide under a bed and eat Twinkies (too many dust bunnies already living under mine).
The bad news is, with no opportunity to develop internalized discipline, the shoulds, have-tos, or directives I used trying to get myself to my creative work were (and still are) met with rebelliousness, because as a wild child I had the words, YOU CAN’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO, tatooed on my forehead. I was my own worse enemy, because I was rebelling against myself telling me what to do. Getting to my creative passions was a battle.
I love what I figured out.
Despite lack of discipline, I
accomplished a bunch of things I’m really proud of including designed my own profession, performed and wrote a full-length play, created lots of art and wrote three books. I'm making a living doing what I love - thank you, creative universe.
How did I do get stuff done given my wild child nature?
It’s what I teach and it’s not about being perfect, because some days I rebel against having to do anything, and I know that’s okay because
acceptance is freedom.
(Happy Independence Day).
I’m presenting this wisdom in three parts in the next three newsletters in hopes that it may help you stop the battle with you and yourself - why can't we just get along with ourselves!
If you’re like me, you have a short attention span and want to go out and play before you’re finished reading a long article. We are still wild children.
Click here for your Rebel Card
"Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger
pull of what you really love."
Rumi is right, as usual, (we have tea together). Letting myself be silently drawn to my creative call really IS a stronger, wiser, more influential pull than trying to discipline myself do things with force.
FOCUS ON WHAT YOU LOVE INSTEAD OF
ON THE PRESSURE TO GET THINGS DONE
“Only love can truly save the world.” ~Wonder Woman said that and here’s how I'll translate that for you because I am a super hero translator in my spare time and I am here for you:
Love will save your creativity.
Practice loving what it is that draws you to your creative call, before, during and after you are in the process.
Make the skill of focusing on love as important as the skill of writing, art, living life creatively or whatever it is that sparks your creative fancy.
What do you love about your creative call? No, really, stop and think about it.
I find focusing on what I love about my creative call makes showing up effortless without the need for discipline or directives. It's magnetic.
- I love the way my subconscious sometimes takes my writing places I hadn't intended.
- I love when I write something I like - I can read it over and over again.
- I love the rhythm of alliteration, luring me lusciously like a likeable litany.
- I love when the watercolor paint creates an unexpected effect.
- I love it when I doodle something and it surprises me what it becomes.
- I love the feeling of completing something I've created that I love.
- I love the self-respect and feeling of resilience that comes from persevering through the hard parts and the things I don't like.
But I have to mindfully keep the love of my craft in my awareness or fears and pressures sneak back in. The trick is to OBSESS about what I love so much that it becomes irresistible and then my subconscious is on-board, (what I focus on becomes my world).
Focus on your procrastination, resistance, and inability to show-up, on what others are doing and you’re NOT doing, or on not feeling good enough, those messages becomes your world too. Ick. That doesn't work very well and it feels like crap. And if that’s been your usual focus, it’s going to take a little gentle practice and lowered expectations to shift over to a more helpful way of thinking, so don't give up if it doesn't happen immediately.
Ask these questions:
- What do I love about my creative passion? Ask: How do I love thee, let me count the ways... and count them as they come to mind. Or just ask the question and let it percolate.
- How can I show up for myself with love? How can I make that easier?
- How does my creative call love me? (suspend logic all you literal thinkers).
- Where can I get some Wonder Woman bracelets?
- Click here to get your own Creative Rebel PDF
Just ask those questions without needing an immediate answer and watch what happens. When we show-up with love not only is the process sweeter, we are more likely stay longer and that benefits the end product.