Over the last year and a half, I have interviewed a variety of artists – from painters and novelists to photographers and metal sculptors – about their creative lives. Each time I speak with an artist I come away with a new insight about living a life open to the creative spirit, the Muse, if you will.
I have learned that the Muse comes in many forms. She (the Muse feels feminine to me, but surely yours could be masculine) is playful and rewards curiosity, fearlessness and persistence.
As someone who has spent her fair share of time in a cubicle and – although I am now fully immersed in a creative field – still gets bogged down in the minutiae of the business day, I wondered: How can I invite the Muse into my work day?
To that end, I’d like to share with you some of the things I have learned in speaking with artists, for they each have established a long-term relationship with the Muse.
Artists understand that creativity comes in many forms and oftentimes it is simply found in the way you approach a situation. Rather than assuming you have the answer, open your mind. Allow yourself to be curious. Time and time again, each artist I talk with touts the benefits of curiosity – the idea of playing with their material in a new way.
Perhaps you have heard people talk of approaching something with “the mind of a child” or “a beginner’s mind.” The idea behind that is to forget what you think you know about your business or widget and look at it with all preconception left behind.
Let’s face it, in business we are often surrounded by others who are in the same field. We all speak the same language and understand the same analogies and acronyms. It can be useful to act like we are new to the table – a child, a beginner – to see things with fresh eyes and an open curiosity we have likely abandoned along the way.
Curiosity can lead to new questions, sure, but it can also lead to a deeper appreciation of the work you do and perhaps how far you have come. Be brave enough to step out of your comfort zone and take the time to look at what and why you do things the way you do.
Perhaps this idea of curiosity scares you a little. It’s different and opens you up to the potential realization that the path or project or product you have spent so much time on needs significant reiteration.
But guess what? Fearlessness is another Muse magnet – she loves bravery! I’ve learned that true artists grow accustomed to putting their work out in the world, despite the possibility of criticism. None of them, no matter how many bestsellers or pieces sold, takes their work for granted. They each know that with great risk comes the possibility of even greater reward.
One of the most interesting things I have learned is that the artist is not afraid of downtime. I always ask if they get dry spells, times when the pen just doesn’t seem to flow, the words and the paint and the inspiration all dry up. What do you do? I ask. How do you get out of it?
The simple answer is: They don’t. They are not that concerned about not feeling inspired.
This is a chance to daydream. To walk in the woods or along the seashore. This is the time to read, or meet a friend for coffee, to sketch instead of write, to work on another project previously set aside. To nap, to prepare a meal. Artists are not afraid to follow a different rhythm.
I know, many of you are thinking that’s all well and good for artists, but you have deadlines and project goals that need to be hit on time. I get it.
But what if you tried that approach on a smaller scale?
Can you take a walking meeting? Artists swear by the healing and inspiring qualities of fresh air, nature and motion.
Can you put that proposal aside for half an hour and work on another project? Sometimes all you need is to step away for a while to gain clarity.
Or, can you take your fingers off the keyboard and draft that meeting agenda on paper first – with a pen? Try writing it in cursive to fire up different areas of your brain.
I invite you to approach these ideas the way an artist might – with a sense of curiosity. Choose just one thing to try – be fearless! Try one that scares you just a little. Give it a shot.
And after you have tried it for an hour or a day or a week, sit back and think about it.
Let the experience soak into your bones.
How was it? Did it make you uncomfortable? Did anything click for you? If it did, great! If it didn’t, that’s great too. You tried.
Now, try something new again.
Jessica Johnson is a freelance writer, blogger, and poet who writes for and about passionate people following their dreams. She offers writing “fun shops” that use the written word as a tool for transformation, understanding, and connection to ourselves, one another and the world. Currently, she is on a quest to write a short poem every day. She believes in the healing powers of disco music and foot rubs, just not at the same time!