“It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.” ~ Herman Melville.
The much sought-after and revered word ‘creativity’ has been propelled into super-star status by our elite and money-crazy society. In this day and age winning a slot on television to prove you’ve ‘got what it takes’ has reduced creativity to a caterwauling capitalist market place; with a machine spitting out the next imitation of what was once popular in the hope that investment comes up tops.
Throughout the ages, story has been used as a tool to explain how we deal with the world, obscured beneath layer upon layer of metaphor and symbolism, stories contain guidelines for life, and can be the best way to teach children basic morals through the challenges a character will face.
In fact, if done correctly, the empathy we might feel for certain characters in certain life situations (in each case, those we can relate to; the death of a parent, feeling lost, losing our riches…) is often how we navigate our way through the more complex examples of life’s challenges.
It even has the power to make a huge influence on the way our childhood is shaped, and how we go about pinning down and expressing those feelings and the chaotic webs of ‘fate’ as they weave their way through the years.
In this way then, it is the writer’s job – no, their responsibility – not only to master the more apparent forms of shaping story; of plot, brushstroke and melody, but to also tap into something inexplicable.
It is the difference between creating that empathy, and not – a threadbare story with no believability or a song with no heart has no influence or anything to offer at all – so how does one achieve such heights?
‘Capturing life’ is a job worthy of the Gods, for who are we mere mortals to think we can ever begin to get our heads around such complexity? As wonderful as words are, they are also limited. How the mind creates meaning will never be pinned down in a text book or understood by a movie producer… it can only be handed down from the heavens.
In mythology, the nine muses were experts of knowledge and aesthetics and the daughters of Zeus, invoked throughout time to inspire and aid the poet in periods of creative despair… otherwise known as writer’s block. They often came in the form of beautiful women that might frequent the author’s bed, supposedly a Goddess incarnate, or at least a worthy excuse to sleep around in the name of art.
But what does this ancient practice actually tell us about the nature of creativity? The final ingredient, the missing link between the mundane and the divine in works of art has always been that leap from formula and foundation to capturing a slice of truth; integrity and all.
An appeal to God, the angels or the muses, though perhaps voiced in a slightly different fashion still goes on today. Delving into the Source, manifesting the right intention or simply swimming in the true nature of reality could be other ways of explaining this ‘phenomenon’.
For anyone who has ever experienced even a few minutes of complete involvement in a task is familiar with the sensation, the level of sophistication and quality of what they manage to produce is another matter. A decision made by energies we can’t see or communicate directly with? Or simply chance and creative ‘luck’?
In this way, could the nature of story – a distraction from the present moment – actually be an unhealthy or outdated form of understanding life? Has the time come to put aside the coveted forms of storytelling to lessen the distance and close the gap between ourselves and God? Perhaps we need to remember, as we evolve as a human race, that there is not so much difference between us and the writer.
That we in fact hold more ‘power’ and control over life than we have been led to believe. That simple twists of fate are not at the root of the inexplicable, but plausible, easy-to-understand intuitive visions of inner knowledge. The external and internal reunited. The voice from within and the Source speaking in harmony.
Making life an expression of personal, if not communal creativity is the root of all ritual and religious fortitude. “Life is the art of drawing without an eraser.” According to John W. Gardner. So why don’t artists use this as a means to squeeze out the darkest utricles of their creative sponge; that which soaks up every last drop of observation and transforms it into pure gold.
The act of being in the moment, as Eckhart Tolle points out in The Power of Now, can actually lead to greater creativity and purer expression of the inner voice, having uncovered it in the first place through meditation and living in truth.
Tips for finding your muse
1. Have a noble reason for creating. Lost in desire; status, money, influence… OK so you may get lucky, but actually sustaining and building up a solid body of work that makes you proud will first require a good long hard look in the mirror.
Why do you really want to create? To please your parents expectations of you or to help others who are struggling to understand something you’ve already gone through? As Buddha included in the Noble Eightfold Path – right livelihood should in no way harm.
2. Steam of consciousness. Watch your dreams. Keep a dream diary. Be off the wall and drum out some old karma/patterns for a while to cleanse your quill.
Dynamic meditation may be the way forward. Speaking gibberish to cleanse yourself of cliché and chaos. This may take years. The act of becoming a writer may take ten years of regular writing to wade through all the excess sludge floating around your subconscious. It’s dedication, not a day job!
3. Become aware. Inner voice/inner monologue. Analyze your self and uncover your weaknesses. See yourself as a character in a story. Make it an ongoing practice. Strengths of your ‘beast’ – what is it that makes you unique? Are you funny? Honest?
4. Scare yourself, push yourself to the boundaries, in life and in your quest for the Source (do something that scares you everyday and it will reflect itself in your art)
5. Get into the habit of playing. A child at play becomes an adult at work. Do what you love.
6. Ask the universe. Be sincere and trust that if you clearly state your purpose that something will move through you. Respect it but see it as plentiful, never-ending. Lend it the reverence it deserves.
In these ways, we can make art more and more about building a dialogue with each other. Rather than the artist being revered and the ‘winning ticket’ coveted, we can use our creativity to become closer to the Whole, therefore detaching from the ego and the rat race that is leaving our world in tatters.
In this way we may also soften the curve as we experience a new paradigm and build bridges between continents, viewing creative expression as something of equality, rather than money. The East and West divide still rings in our music, film and fiction and are still so firmly attached to making the artist into a star rather than a visionary, or a poet with dignity.
The ego’s fear of death means that we want to ‘make an impact’ and create a legacy in our work; the vessel where we express our uniqueness, yet the point of art is surely to heal and create bonds where there were none before.
As long as this is done with detachment from wealth and status, then surely there will be an endless supply of it, accessible for all to tap into and a way to get on a global wavelength, rather than the narrative our governments want us to believe.
“He who binds to himself a Joy, Does the winged life destroy; He who kisses the Joy as it flies, Lives in Eternity’s sunrise.” ~ William Blake
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