Andrew Smith, consciousness, creative writing, Elizabeth Fais, Gretchen McNeil, Jessica Brody, Mariko Tamaki, muse, myth, Neal Shusterman, On Writing, On Writing - A Memoir of the Craft, Robert Frost, science of creativity, Stacey Lee, Stephen King, Story, writer, Writing
The Myth of the Muse
Muse ~ a person, or personified force, who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist.
For centuries, there have been accounts of writers and artists who looked to muses to spark imagination and fuel creativity. I hate to throw shade on anyone’s creative process, but creativity and imagination are not something you can get from something or someone else. The truth is…
There’s No Magic Feather … or Genie
That’s the bad news. Nothing, and no one, can magically imbue you with creativity. Grow up. It’s just not going to happen.
In Stephen King‘s book, On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft, he says just that: “There’s no magic feather” that will make you a good writer (or artist). It takes a certain amount of innate talent combined with a serious amount of hard work.
The good news is, you don’t need anything outside of yourself to be amazingly creative. You have a vast storehouse of creativity inside you. You just have to know how to access the limitless supply of ideas and raw imagination.
It’s like having your very own Idea Store…inside your head. You just might have temporarily misplaced the key that unlocks the door. Studies of consciousness and the science of creativity (yes, it’s a thing) show there is a Fort-Knox treasure of creativity inside us…just waiting to be tapped.
Activating Your Inner Muse
It’s great knowing you have a wealth of creativity at your beck and call, but you have to know the number. Here’s a few ways to find yours.
I’ve used the following methods, and (from my personal experience) they activate my inner muse. These approaches to unleashing creativity are also listed in the Forbes magazine article Science Continues to Show Us How to Be More Creative.
- Performing routine tasks, such as housework or walking, allow the mind to wander so creative ideas flow in.
- Being painfully bored also opens the floodgates of creative thinking. For example, having to wait for long stretches of time, like long airplane flights without a book to read or waiting in line at the DMV.
- Having a regular meditation practice has shown to improve creativity. Meditation helps slow down the mind, which in turn opens the creative centers of the brain.
At a recent YA (young adult) novel conference, a young writer asked the panel of published authors how they get their creative ideas. Here’s how a few of the authors responded:
- Gretchen McNeil — blow drying her hair
- Stacey Lee — walking or dancing
- Jessica Brody — staying off the internet and meditating before writing
- Mariko Tamaki — listening to music or running
- Andrew Smith — running
- Neal Shusterman — traveling
Inspiration is Contagious
Why is inspired creativity important for writers? Because a writer’s emotions are woven throughout the tapestry of their stories. As Robert Frost said so succinctly:
No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.
When a story is infused with imagination, the reader is swept up in the fictional world and carried away. I think we’ve all had that magnificent feeling when reading a good book, becoming the characters and our real world drops away. That quality of writing can create a lifetime love of reading. And to me, that is an author’s true measure of success.