Daughters of the Dirt / Sarah Higdon

20 Ways to Seduce Your Muse: Stoke Your Creative Passion
by Rebekah Shardy

I live with a mad woman. Lucky for me, she is also my Muse and an endless source of juicy plots, provocative articles and sensual poetry.

Swiss psychoanalyst and modern mystic, Carl Jung, articulated the concept: if we put the seemingly shadowy character lurking in our murky subconscious to work, we may discover amazing gifts. A Trojan Horse, if you will, that is eventually revealed as a giant piŮata.

Case in point: although my Muse is childishly selfish and adroitly cynical (think of a cross between Scarlett OíHara and Dorothy Parker), she has saved me many times from enslavement by petty tyrants. Any Muse worth her leafed crown will not let your head be inhabited by anotherís opinions or whims, no matter how eloquent or coercive they may be. In the face of domineering demagogues, she will confidently sneer and liberate your deepest and throatiest laugh. She belongs only to herself and thinks you should be just as free. She abhors blind convention, saying Ďyesí when you mean Ďnoí, excessive responsibility and over-work, worry, and television. At times like those, she gets the hell out of Dodge.

Two years ago, a friend and I facilitated the "BeMused Women Writerís Retreat." While my friend revealed the inside skinny on getting published, I guided participants in communicating with their Muse. What did our Muse need from us? Unsurprisingly, the group reported that she demanded the attention they had not given their fledgling creative lives, insisting they buy the denied printer or create the indulgent writing space or perform other self-serving pleasures that make for the making of beauty.

Without my Muse, I would never take a second look at that ridiculous beret or buy those gaudy earrings. Life would gravitate toward shades of gray instead of lavenders and lush greens. If she had her way, I would always be in love and traveling to interesting places while deeply rested from frequent naps. In those happy moments, I swear I can feel her arms around me as she coos a French chanson. Her flowing images surging through me, transmuting senseless pain into radiant prose, make me agree with Greek poet Hesiod: "Happy the one whom the Muses love, the one from whose lips language flows sweet."

Forget the Inner Drudge today. Whether you are a closet writer, artist, musician or performer, do something for your Muse. Iíve forgiven mine for keeping me up late on a literary goose chase and then kicking me out of bed at 4 a.m. to stumble, bleary-eyed, to the computer for a dribble of haiku. (Since sheís eternally young and beautiful - being a daughter of Zeus and all that - Iím sure she gets a kick out of the baroque lines it etches in the fine skin beneath my eyes.)

Try these suggestions and see if she doesnít appear from your heartís hiding place to whisper an image of loveliness. Your job is to just listen. And take good notes.

1. Take naps. Often. For as long as you need.

2. Spend a day at your favorite art gallery or bookstore and donít buy anything. Instead, visualize where your book or painting will be displayed.

3. Walk the moors. . .uh, a park. . .and romantically call out the name of your Muse. (It helps if its name is "Heathcliff" or "Kathy".)

4. Read the lyrical poetry of Rumi, Dylan Thomas or Gerard Manley Hopkins aloud until you feel drunk on beauty.

5. Play moody Edith Piaf or Leonard Cohen songs while sipping a complex Pinot Noir.

6. Rent videos from the foreign film section and read emotions rather than subtitles. Make up your own dialogue.

7. Paint, draw or sculpt your soulís portrait. Use medium that is symbolic of your personal state (red lipstick for a sensual mood, Crayolas for the inner child, tears mixed with watercolors if youíre depressed, etc.)

8. Eat a meal of only one thing but of the highest quality whether olives, truffles or Popsicles. Write a poem or series of haiku about it.

9. Fall in love frequently and unrequitedly. Donít tell the other person. Drive yourself crazy.

10. Lie in a field and divine your future by the shapes of clouds.

11. For an entire day, believe everything you feel and nothing you think. Trust your heart to the point of danger.

12. Make mud pies with your favorite four or five-year-old. (Take a tiny taste.)

13. Consider a major source of unhappiness (a sense of inferiority you silently obsess about all day). Realize itís an utter lie.

14. Read fairy tales to a lover. Act one out together.

15. Regularly observe silence in a quiet corner of nature.

16. Sit as close to the orchestra as possible at a noisy Mahler or Beethoven concert. Close your eyes and imagine the music is the only reality. Let you mind suggest images or a story.

17. Remember that the greatest use of creativity is changing our thoughts, choosing our emotions and reforming our lives.

18. Give up a person or habit that drains your heart energy.

19. Refuse to be afraid of the unspeakable thing. Whisper it to the earth and thank Her for taking our used-up, misused and abused energies into her infinitely creative heart where She recycles them into new songs, new visions, new dreams.

20. Go and do likewise.

Rebekah Shardy is a freelance writer who is personally vexed by a Muse that enjoys downloading perfect, irretrievable dialogue into her brain when she is in the shower or hiking miles from pen and paper.