What do you do when you have all of the answers on how to maximize your personal creativity–and you’re an inspiration for others in this regard–and yet you don’t fully practice that advice in your own life?
It’s an age-old problem. We know what we should eat in moderation (bacon) and yet, there we are, eating it again. We know we should sleep more, drink less, exercise more, and so on. And yet.
In writing my work-in-progress–a travel memoir about my cross-country U.S. road trip and the artists I interviewed along the way–I occasionally will review my materials from that trip, such as the audio diary I kept, and other audio and video. An artist I “revisited” this past week in my review epitomized this disconnect we’re prone to between awareness and action.
Here were her lessons for embracing your muse:
- Tell your story. This was the artist’s mantra. “Three words,” she said. “Tell your story. Don’t be afraid of exposing yourself. Someone else has probably been through it, and putting it out there will help you get past it. If you’re a songwriter, write music. If you’re a poet, write a poem. If you’re a painter, paint a picture. But tell your story.” Yet in listening to her marvelous music, and talking with her in person, it was clear she wasn’t telling her story. She was rendering the struggles of others in her life with power, but still she kept herself out of her music. To her credit, she recognized this fact, and was working to correct it.
- Take creative risks. This musician works with young people, and encourages them to explore the outer edges of creativity. “And I’ll say, ‘Have you ever hit your guitar, really smacked it?’ And they’ll say no. And I’ll say, ‘See what happens. Use mine if you’re worried your parents will get upset.’ And you should see the look on their faces when they let themselves loose like that.” But she confessed that she is spending more time playing backup in other bands with others’ music than with exploring the edges of writing and performing her own music.
- Recognize your gift and share it.This musician spent five years away from her muse, off of the art-committed path. Then she had an encounter with an old friend: “She gave me a very loving chewing out, and said not everybody comes into this world with the gift of creating. She pretty much told me it was my duty to share that gift, and if it was my job that was stifling me, I could mix it up and find a different job. She said I was wasting my life, and that was probably true.” To her credit, this musician left that stifling job and found one better paired with her muse. But while she is playing again, as the bullets above note, she is not fully sharing her gift with the world. Yet.
In many respects the question I am asking here is pivotal to my own creative quest. This blog celebrates my return to an art-committed life. I knew that path was a difficult one; after all, I had left it years earlier. I don’t think I fully appreciated how difficult it was to stay on it.
Life has a way of wanting to pull me off. It’s only for a little bit, the voice will say, as it highlights that latest challenge at work or home. You’ll get back there soon enough. But will I? Each return is harder than the previous one.
This artist inspired me with her perfect messaging on embracing my muse. And she inspired me as an example of what I could be if I didn’t completely follow her advice. I know today she’s still trying to live by these rules, and that helps me in my struggle as well.
Do you sometimes find yourself understanding what you need to do to be creative and yet not following your own advice? How do you turn that around?