A muse.

 

Knowing your muse is a tricky thing. A small army of us are wrestling with art and creativity over at Elora Nicole’s blog and within the Story Unfolding Community.

Ideas and creativity feel like precious commodities to those of us who need them to survive. If we are not careful, we will choose ideas over people, sparks over hearts. Here is one way I balance motherhood, friendship, lifelong marriage and the wild drive to create.

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Artists are wild women – willing to brave inescapable adventure.

Some men trek around the world to discover their courage.

Some find it at home between their two ears.

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Artists find adventure in their bathroom and discover their courage with every new thought. They go on safari in a beige living room at 7am. They hike in the Himalayas while sitting in bed next to a sick child. Artists fight bears, climb cliffs, go to the playoffs in overtime, every single day – all within their minds.

Please understand, I do not mean they make up these types of stories. To be terribly clear, they live these realities and terrors and struggles and triumphs within their psyches and through the experience of creating their art.

While other human beings can turn off their minds, go buy donut holes and have a nice, numb day. Artists, as so many of us in this community are, must turn around and face the beasts – slay them – every single minute of every single day.

Fight or flight choices all-day-long.

If your artistic muse – the one who brings the wild wonder and the call to danger into your life – is anything like mine, she does not enjoy being categorized or limited. To lock her in is a crime. She is fierce and untamable.

A muse is a wild thing. A hard thing. A loving thing. A soft thing. A brilliant, brighter-than-the-sun lover. She is Spirit. Ruach. Breath. Wind.

So… With fear and trembling, I attempt to paint one type of experience with the muse –

 

The Wind Box.

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Thrill

I step in and close the door. Take three more steps in. Turn counter-clockwise to force my face to the front and to the audience. Stand up straight. Shoulders back. Head up. I don’t know where to look. Just look straight ahead. Relax your face. Relax. You can’t do this if you tense up. Breathe.

I jump a little to loosen tight muscles. Tips of toes and down. Tips of toes and down. A nervous smile creeps into the muscles next to my mouth – pulling a smile onto my face. Pulling it like a satin sheet off a bed… off a girl on a bed.

Okay, now I feel exposed. I’m too nervous. My mind is wandering. I can’t do this. Alone in a glass box. I wish I was really alone, but the audience is watching. Skin pricks and tingles. It’s starting. Any second.

I hear the motor kick on before I see the effects. A whirring vibration covers me, like being underwater but remaining completely dry. The sensation is so strong, I expect my arms to feel heavy with the weight of the invisible water surrounding me. I lift them, just to see, and they move freely in the air. Shake it out. Shoulders and biceps flex. Ready. One last look through the glass, out to the audience. I smile for real. It’s my turn.

whoosh. thousands.

there must be thousands in the wind.

Flitting. Twisting. Flying. Brushing my face, my arms, my fingers. Coaxing me to action and back to life. Thousands fly around me in my own private wind box. All my treasure!

Was I ever alive before this? Before I stepped into the wind box, was I really alive?

My head whips and my eyes dart, connecting their will to my hands. I grab the little objects flying around me; as many as possible. In the back of my mind, I know there is a time limit. A giant countdown clock reminds me to hurry. This won’t last forever. You only have a short time to get all you can. Make the most of it. Hurry!

I grab and I stuff. Filling my pockets. Filling my bra. Using my skirt like a child at a park or a mother from the prairie – my skirts full of the things I need.

As many as I can touch, I grab. I don’t even look at them anymore. My hands open and close, hoping to lock down on something, anything but air. My eyes try to help, they try to look around this windy box as fast as possible, but blind hands move on their own too. The will of eyes cannot travel down to fingers before the flying objects change their locations.

The wind takes them on random, wild paths. They are wild things.

It is not money that flies around this game show wind box with me, but the most precious objects in existence: Creative Sparks. Ideas. Words. Worlds.

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Panic

They are so precious, more precious than money, the ideas, and I don’t have enough. I need to grab more. Please, wind, help me!

Overflowing hands drop more than they hold. Somewhere along the way, my skirt falls loose and everything escapes back to the air. How did this happen? I stuck some words in my bra, a few in my pockets, but they are not enough. This is my chance to claim creative worlds as my own and I’m blowing it.

Fool. Incompetent fool. Time is running out.

The countdown clock looms large. The audience sneers out “10, 9, 8…” All the voices yelling.

The panicked temptation to stuff every crack and crevice with the flying worlds is immense. As many as possible, get as many as possible. Time is almost up!

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Focus

A shortness of breath from deep in my lungs burns and I gasp. Sharp.

And I am smacked. Smacked so hard I get angry. With a sweaty palm I reach up to grab the insultingly violent little bugger now stuck to my cheek. I pull him into view and my eyes focus on this one world. It feels good to focus so intently on one thing after the furious, blind collection of the last few moments.

Eyes focus hard. Wind still blows. Words and worlds dart around me, but I keep my eyes on just this one. Hold it gently, firmly, in one hand, and with the other, I trace. Anger turns to curiosity as I trace the paths and lines, exploring the life in this wild, little world.

When my fingers and eyes and heart have fully soaked in the beauty and grandeur of this one, rather than stuffing it into my pocket, I release it back into the air. Free.

Plucking another, I hear the countdown, “10, 9, 8…”

Just one more. And I take one more in my palm and begin to really look.

One at a time – Catch and release.

Instead of panicked pocket-stuffing, I enjoy peaceful exploration of one.

In the back of my mind, I hear the countdown again, “10, 9, 8…” and a laugh bubbles up in my gut that pulls me to the floor as giggles pop out.

The countdown clock is an illusion, an empty threat. “10, 9, 8…”

The clock will always be near its end. The audience will always cheer and sneer. But, the truth is, I actually have all the time in eternity to explore every idea as it flies by.

And at that moment, I set them all free. Pulling every last idea and word from every dark pocket, I release them into the air where they belong – trusting the wind will bring me the next right world to explore.

 

Knowing your muse…

A muse is a wild thing. A hard thing. A loving thing. A soft thing. A brilliant, brighter-than-the-sun lover. She is Wind. Ruach. Breath. Spirit – the Spirit of the Great Creator.

Every day that I am brave enough to step back into my wind box, meaning the place I am a Creator, is an adventure. Facing the monsters and liars between my own ears takes more courage than I can gather some days.

And some days, the inspirations – actually, no, not the inspirations… the feelings of competition and scarcity come so fast and furious, and the liar in my head sounds so smooth and believable that I panic. Each idea looks better than the next. Quantity becomes paramount. I never actually create, I just procure more pieces. And the imaginary countdown clock in my head fills my heart with dread that I’m too slow and I’m too late.

But, when I pick up just one world at a time, everything changes. When I let the wind bring me just the right idea to explore, I feel safe. I realize that I have all the time in eternity to create.

Knowing your muse is complex and beautiful, and for today, my friends, when you bravely step into your wind box, pick one tiny world and explore it completely. Let it grow big and important with your help, Artist, and then let it fly free. Trust that another one will come along, just as beautiful as the first. Trust that there is time. Trust that you are not alone in feeling crazy or panicked, inspired or powerful.

This girl in a wind box, with my hair flying everywhere and a great big smile on my face is waving to you and cheering you on.

 

-Nicole

And, go check out Elora’s blog!  This was written as a post for her blog. Mine sits alongside some amazing other writers’ contributions. If you are an artist or a writer or just like reading, you will love her place.