Brandi Willis Schreiber

Sensual, Southern Romance

Filtering by Tag: Inspiration

Visiting the Muse

"I don't believe the muse visits you. I believe that you visit the muse." - Michael Lewis

Not long ago, I reevaluated my writing routine.  

As in, I didn't have one.  

I waited until inspiration hit me and then hoped that I had a pen and some kind of paper to scribble on.  Most of the times I did not.  Most of the time my best thoughts, ideas, or scenes came to me when I was sweating on the treadmill, getting ready for work, singing my way through traffic, in between emails, or collapsing into bed at night - when I was too tired to pick up a pen anyway. 

When I did have an open space of time (usually on the weekends) and I sat down dutifully at my computer, I held up my hands and said, "OK, inspiration, come to me now!" like a khol-eyed magician with a mustache and long purple cape.  And I waited.  And the blank screen and I stared back at each other. And I decided to go do laundry.

The muse, it seems, liked to tell me things when it was convenient for her.

Well, how rude.   

Of me.
Asking inspiration to come to me, only when I was ready for it, was like asking a butterfly to alight on my hand.  It was all demand and no patience; a self-centered approach to putting thoughts on a page that negated the Love and Mystery associated with creativity.

The idea of the muse dates back to c. 700 B.C., when the Greek poet Hesiod wrote his Theogony (literally, the birth of the gods), an account of how all things began in the world. Hesiod writes of an encounter he had on Mount Helicon with the Muses - the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, who were believed to be the inspirers of all things artistic and skilled.  In his epic poem, Hesiod asks each of the Muses to inspire him.  But they have their own requests, as well:

" ... and from a laurel in full bloom they plucked a branch,
 ... and then breathed into me
divine song, that I might spread the fame of past and future,
and commanded me to hymn the race of the deathless gods,
but always begin and end my song with them."

It seems in this ancient tradition that the Muses expected reciprocity in this relationship.  I will give to you if you will give to me in return.

Waiting for my muse to visit me - as with waiting for any hope, any change, any dream - will only result in frustration, disappointment, and lost opportunities.

Instead, I'm adopting a new approach:  I'm visiting my muse.  I'm asking first if I may visit, and when I do, I bring along the good manners, small gifts, and gratitude that any good house guest would.  I don't demand anymore; I ask.  I spend time with my muse.  I listen to what she has to say.  I am reveling in the relationship that is slowly starting to develop.

And it turns out that my muse is quite happy to have company.

Filling the Void

"We become aware of the void as we fill it." - Antonio Porchia

The times in our lives when we have had something taken away from us are often the most difficult.  This could be the loss of a thing (real or imagined), a person or relationship, a dream, an opportunity - the list goes on.

Each time I lose something, I am always surprised by the physical pain that the loss inflicts.  The person, or relationship, or thing, or hope has mass - mass which holds up my ribs and the walls of my chest.  Mass which keeps my lungs affixed and holds my heart in place.  I know these things have mass because when they are gone, the void they leave behind - that emptiness - hurts.  It is like the removal of an organ; the neighboring tissues lose their surety.  The sudden trauma radiates outward.  It is hard to breathe.

On a recent trip I walked along a beach that was littered with shells.  Millions of empty shells washed ashore, some so long empty that only the spiral of their heart remained, tumbled smooth.  Other shells were nearly pristine and newly abandoned, attached still with the delicate ligament that held their halves together.  For miles you could walk along this shore and see nothing but empty shells.  So many empty shells covered the shore that they cut your feet. 

I was struck by this pastel shoreline of so much emptiness.  But this is what emptiness reminds me:  it is a physical realization not only of what we love and why, but of how we must grow, with or without it.  I have learned (rather reluctantly) that recognizing what can be the value of that emptiness and then working to fill that void are two wonderful gifts that can propel me forward (if only I will embrace it!).

A shell that is abandoned will either be inhabited by new life, filled with ocean water, or washed over with sand until every particle is so tightly packed you don't feel it beneath your feet.  A well you dig in the sand will soon be filled with the tide.  Even particles move in to fill the spaces where stars explode or collapse.  Looking at it this way, no void truly exists.

So when I feel the pain of emptiness, I ask God to fill it, and I am always amazed at what He provides.  Sometimes it is an exciting new idea which gives me energy and clarity.  Other times it is a friend, offering support in unexpected ways.  Other times it is simply a quiet assurance that I don't normally have in an anxious time.

What fills the void is not always the same thing or shape as my original loss, and so, I still feel a lingering pain.  But the discomfort changes:  my perspective shifts, my energy and creativity are redirected, ever so slightly, onto new trajectories, and my friendships and faith develop a richer hue than they had before.

The question, then, has become not "Why does this loss, this emptiness, have to happen to me?" but rather, "How can I fill the void when the emptiness comes?"  It will come, and it will come often.  But it doesn't have to be so painful.  It can be a blessing, in fact, if we just let it.