Inspiration. It’s a fickle thing. A long time ago I wrote a poem about a muse who was held captive by her artist, it was like something out of Greek mythology. Somehow the artist managed to capture her and wouldn’t let her go. The inspiration she had once freely given to him he was now taking from her by force, and therefore the energy was not the same. The work was not the same, and so the muse was slowly dying, because her gift was not used properly.
I wrote that poem when I was 17, and I didn’t realise how prophetic it would be until I got older, and found myself fresh out of art school, tired, and more than a little burnt-out by the experience. I felt an immense amount of pressure to hit the ground running with my artistic career, but I knew it was important after such a long period of creativity and stress to rest and recharge. However, no matter what I have been doing since then, I have continued to think about my work, about art and about what I should be doing. Should should should should should.
This website is about helping people, about providing helpful solutions, but it’s also about providing support and sometimes support comes in the form of knowing you are not alone in dealing with something. Lately, my main problem has been that I haven’t felt inspired. At all. I remember as a teen being inspired to make work, to write, a lot of the time. Emotions would get pent up, and I would write or draw or sing as a way of releasing the pain. I was the typical embodiment of what an artist should (there’s that word again, it’s gonna show up a lot in this paper so bear with me) be, tortured, withdrawn, depressed and constantly making work.
As I got older though, I started to become more spiritual. As a result, actually dealing with my shadow side, slowly integrating my pain, establishing clearer boundaries, becoming wise to the matrix of life, diminished the difficulties I was dealing with, but it also depleted my muse. You could say that I needed the pain to make work. Now by no means make the mistake of thinking that I have resolved all my inner turmoil. As most of us in the spiritual community know, that is a lifelong process. But, I am happy to say I have gotten better at dealing with my stuff. However, the result of this seems to be a loss of inspiration.
You don’t have to be an artist to experience a loss of inspiration. Creativity is all around us, and is in small acts that we do every day that at some point we realise we have just lost our passion for. Perhaps you’re someone who used to love to cook but has now lost the desire to make a feast fit for a king. Maybe you used to love to dress well, and then suddenly found yourself sticking to the same outfit day in, day out. A passion for decorating or home improvements that has slowly fallen by the wayside? Even cleaning is an act of creation (I swear).
With all that said, if you’re feeling flat, you need a shot of MUSE. MUSE stands for Meditate Understand Simplify Explore and it’s going to help you to reconnect with your inner creative again. As I am writing this, I am realising myself that I have been neglecting my own MUSE practice, and so I will be reinstating it right after I finish telling you what it is!
Step 1: Meditate
I am going to speculate that part of the reason you’ve had an inspiration burn out is that, like me, you haven’t had the time to be creative. One thing that many people who think they’re not creative don’t understand is that creativity takes time. In truth, we are all beings of creativity, and that means that when we don’t make the time to be inspired, we don’t get inspired.
It’s hard though. You wake up in the morning, you’re late for work, you skip meditation, you skip breakfast, and you high-tail it to the nearest train station. That is me most mornings. This is neglect of the self, and it stops today. If you don’t even have time for breakfast, you’re not going to have time for inspiration. It’s a cycle that will just keep on happening if we don’t stop it. The irony is, I find that once I get into the habit of meditation I’m late less. The problem is, that when something breaks my pattern it’s hard for me to get back into it. Since I know I am probably not the only one, let’s try and do this together and see how it goes. If you miss one or two, don’t give yourself a hard time. You’re human, and sometimes you’d rather have 40 extra winks rather than 20 minutes of meditation. It does help though, so try it.
If you’re a beginner, Brendan Burchard has a great video on YouTube on what he calls the release technique that will help you get into the swing of things. It’s simple, it’s effective and it’s a no nonsense approach.
Step 2: Understand
Understanding the drains on your time and energy that prevent you from being inspired will go a long way to helping you reconnect with your inner muse. I’m going to go out on a limb here and make the generalisation that most people who are conventionally creative aren’t exactly the most organised. Even if you do manage to organise every moment of the day (*eyebrow raise*), stuff comes up. There’s that pesky human thing again. So, let’s try and help ourselves out a bit here. A time journal. For 3 days keep a log of what you do, and how long it takes you to do it. What can you cut back on? What is a priority?
Step 3: Simplify
Once you have established that, figure out what little acts of creation you have time for. Keep it simple! Writing a haiku on the train to work? Doodles of passengers? Origami napkin folding at lunchtime at the local café? Whatever works for you. Take a picture on your phone, and keep a log of it. Sometimes a big idea can come from a small act! Often, the biggest barrier to creativity is that we think we need all this stuff to make it happen. You can waste a lot of time and energy that way, when really all you need to do is make something. Doesn’t have to be perfect. Doesn’t even have to be finished. Just the act of doing something will free up that block you have, and the more you do it, the less clogged up you’ll feel.
Step 4: Explore
Try and explore the limits of your creativity. Challenge yourself. If you’re a painter and have never once thought of trying clay, go for it. If you’re a poet but have never read any of your stuff aloud, try recording yourself reading your work on your phone. Maybe even send the audio to a friend you trust if you feel comfortable. Whatever it is, if it’s a small act that takes you a little outside the box you’ve built for yourself, it will help you to develop creatively. Remember though, no need to cannonball into the water when just a toe will do. Baby steps are key here!
The other side of this is of course exploring hot spots of creativity. Here is a friendly warning, if you’re anything like me, along with the excitement and inspiration you’ll get at seeing some new work you might also get an attach of the shoulds (I told you they’d be back). I should be doing this, I should get my work into this gallery, my work should be up to a certain standard before I read it aloud. All of that is normal. But it’s also not true. There are no shoulds in museland. Everyone creates at their own pace, and pushing yourself too hard and beating yourself up are two things that will not help you to unleash your creativity. Give yourself a break. Your circumstances are unique to you, and if you want it, you’ll get there.
I hope this helps you to get inspired! For once I will be taking my own advice and taking these steps right along with you. Be sure to write in to me and let me know how it goes.