A month ago I wrote a post about Repetition: How do you know it isn't a bad habit? In a way I was skirting around a deeper topic - does your creativity evolve through conscious work or does it flow through you from a subconscious source?
As an artist I have experienced both sources of inspiration - and the flip side, that of finding myself burned out because of workaholic ambition, and passively depressed due to the absence of an internal muse.
I find the subject fascinating.
If I had my back against the wall and threatened with bodily harm I would tell you that I do believe there is God/Creator force responsible for the highest and greatest moments of my creativity. I also believe that you must be ready for the muse when he or she appears, and that often means things like "repetition" and "showing up regularly" or whatever catch phrase works for you.
And this, in spite of what life throws at you.
For instance, in August, within a two week period, I learned my youngest daughter has cancer, I lost my job, and I received a notice of acceptance into the OPA Western Regional - one of those goals I'd set for myself with the "safety net" of believing I would never get in. The only thing missing was "the dog just ate the painting you accepted."
Now if that isn't life telling you that you aren't really in control I don't know what is.
One of the advantages of age is that you can step back a bit and keep things in perspective. My daughter has one of the most curable forms of cancer, although the treatment is devastating. But if she can shave off her hair rather than see it fall out in bits then I guess I can take the loss of a job as an inconvenience that allows for more studio time. And that OPA acceptance - I am thrilled, and honored, no doubt about it. My ego is frustrated because I'm not dancing around the studio. But I'm not paralyzed by achieving this Peak of the Mountain goal, either. I was the 1 in 10 this time. Next time it will be another deserving artist. If the muse came to me and I was faithful in my efforts to communicate what was communicated to me, she will return again and again. My job is to show up. And to be courageous.
I've been reading quite a few blog posts recently about this idea of Muse as expressed by Elizabeth Gilbert in her 2009 TED talk. That this subject is again heating up the internet may have a lot to do with the economic situation and the difficulty so many creatives have in digging deep for their inspirations in the face of apathy. But it's worthwhile to continue the discussion.
The Lateral Action blog has a post by Matt Cardin, which is one of the more insightful discussions on the muse/genius debate. And if you read the comments on the "repetition" post, you might have seen one submitted by "David" talking about "Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience" by Dr Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. I went looking for more information and found another interesting article from Lateral Action by Justine Musk that discusses this idea of "being in the flow" and how it affects creativity.
Let me know what you think. Join the discussion by commenting to this post.