So here it is probably the most creative time of the year, or at least you would like to think that this is the most creative time of the year, and you’ve had all these ideas about what to do, and now that time is here and suddenly…..poof….just like that….where are those ideas?….what happened to all those creative thoughts? They were just on the tip of your memory and now they’re gone!
This isn’t anything new for artists. As a matter of fact, it’s something artists have fought and wrestled with since the beginning of time. Since mankind has created anything, those creative thoughts seem to come and go with the wind. And since that time, artists have tried to learn how to keep their creative thoughts coraled or at the least, remembered long enough to keep themselves occupied.
The Greeks thought that ideas came and went when the muse came to visit. This sounded totally logical, cause these creative ideas came and went with such irregularity, it made more sense than anything else. They had names for them in an effort to possibly help call the muse or at the least somehow to qualify and quantify this whole abstract concept. When the muse came to visit, then an epic piece of poetry or tale was imparted to the rest of us. When the muse came to visit, then an exceptionally moving piece of music was created. All an artist needed was some training and then the muse would come to visit. If she never came, woe be unto that artist.
And that’s how a lot of artists feel today. The great news is that after only 30+ centuries we’ve learned enough about the process of creating that we actually know quite a lot about the muse, and more importantly more about how the creative process works, although most of it is still a mystery. Artists don’t so much need to know that much about how it works, more that it does work. And most importantly how to corral all those ideas and pull them up on demand.
What scientists have discovered about the creative process is that the artist has to be trained in his/her field. So that if an artist wishes to paint in oils, then he/she has to be trained on how to work with that medium; if an artist wants to dance, then she/he has to learn dance steps and how to move; if an artist wants to sing then she/he has to learn how to carry a tune and control her/his voice; and if the artist wants to design and sew clothes, she/he must have a good set of sewing and designing skills to make that happen. This also includes things like the elements of design and the elements of composition. So once the artists learn all this, a lot of artists feel, “OK I know all this, now what?!” And if they simply sit around waiting for the spirit to move them, it ain’t gerna happen. So what do they do?
A lot of artists feel they have to suffer to make really great art. I’m not sure if this is something that they do because they are waiting on that muse or creative spirit to hit them and that when the spirit does hit them, it’s supposed to hurt or what’s going on there. But there is a huge following of folks who think that you must suffer in order to create beautiful things. And from my own point of view, it has been at times of suffering in my life that I have created beautiful things. But I’ve also created exceptionally beautiful things when I wasn’t suffering. So that really doesn’t work, which is nice cause it doesn’t necessarily follow that creativity and suffering go hand in hand.
I mean how many times have we sat in front of our stash (and this is a real stash from Diary of a Sewing Fanatic – click the photo for her blog), and thought, “There’s something I was meaning to do with each of these pieces of fabric and now I’ve forgotten it totally!” At this point, fortunately, sewists aren’t into suffering in order to discover what we want to do with fabric. Sometimes there’s suffering in the making of the garment, but not when we’re deciding on what to do! OK – I couldn’t resist that – actually solving the puzzle isn’t suffering, sometimes society wants us to think it is!
So if suffering doesn’t work, if we’re trained and willing and able doesn’t bring the muse, what in the world does? What does work is so simple that it seems unreal, too easy and most of all not very probable. As a matter of fact, when I tell you what does work (and I know it works cause I use it every day), you’re going to think, “Uh, no Claire. I know better. It has to be more complicated than that!” But it really isn’t. What works is the doing, and in the doing, the muse comes right down and sits next to you and starts chatting away – and sometimes you can’t shut her up!!!
So how do I call my muse? By working. It’s that easy. By starting something – a simple knit tee; cutting out and making something I’ve made again and again but like it. I have a basic knit sloper that I use for almost anything that is a knit top. I love it and can use one in every color. Best way to call my muse, is to cut one of these out in a color I don’t have and BOOM – just like that, my muse comes calling. And she sits next to me while I’m doing some busy work, and yack, yack, yack! Honestly, sometimes I wish she would stop for at least a moment. Why? Because (and this is the next secret that’s so simple you’ll cry), I’m writing down everything she says.
So here’s the deal. Work on something you’ve had – anything, or start a new simple, easy project – anything. Once you’re working away, suddenly you’ll start getting all these ideas and here’s the muse yacking away in your head. Get out your pencil and paper and start writing it down. And here’s the kicker – it doesn’t have to be totally complete. Something like: “That little blue dress with the stripe in the middle,” is often all it takes to remember what the muse was talking about. When the muse gets started like this she usually takes off in tangents and then in complete other thoughts and comes back to the original one. I write it all down.
I keep a little compact spiral notebook and pencil beside my machine, writing area, in the car, in my purse (or use my notepad on my smartphone) and beside my bed, so that anytime the muse wants to come calling, I’m ready to write down her words of wisdom. Now, not everything you write down you will use, and that’s OK because sometimes the muse is yacking to get to something important and getting to that something important is what’s key here. These are the notebooks I use from Staples (click on the photo for more info) but you can use anything you like – simply WRITE IT DOWN!
Because this is simple and simple-sounding, it’s very serious. This is all a very sacred and special process. I do NOT abuse it. One thing you learn about your own muse is that she’s a gift from God. This is something you don’t mess with. Don’t rework it to try and make her something she’s not, and don’t even think of transforming her. Her job is to transform you not the other way around. Messing with the muse, discounting it, and especially treating it frivolously or foolishly won’t harm her one bit, but it will harm you. Developing an ongoing relationship with her will cause her to open up more and more, and it will get spooky how often she will come to visit you. Sometimes, merely sitting in my sewing chair can bring her on. It’s like she’s there and been wanting to tell you lots of stuff, it’s like we haven’t been listening. And when we start listening and start paying attention and writing down her magic words, she can not stop.
Someone long ago gave me a pin of St. Clare of Assisi who is the patron said of needleworkers and embroiders. I made this little frame for it, and it hangs in a place I can always see it but is obscure in my fitting and sewing room. This the serious business of having your mind and spirit in the right place for your best work. Like the muse, this isn’t something to mess with. Treat her seriously and she can seriously reward you.
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