I used to wonder if they called them muses because that’s what you did when you were desperately trying to come up with an idea: sit somewhere (ideally with musing drink in hand) and mull and muse on ideas. The key to this always seemed to be curating the ‘just-thoughtful-enough’ look.
Ideas are tricky wee buggers though. The harder you try to catch one the more likely they are to bound away into a puff of ether. Softly, softly seems to be the better approach. For me, inspiration has always come in one of two places: bed, in the middle of the night when I’m desperately trying to sleep, or outside. Even when I’m exhausted (from trying to get to sleep after I had an idea) I always go for a walk the next day. We’ve got a pretty spectacular backyard down here and it never fails to inspire.
Beyond walking though, it’s the wilderness, the great untouched that has always been the most inspiring. The mountains. Big mountains, with snowcapped peaks and sweeping glaciers down to bush-filled valleys. They’re rather imposing, always impressive and never fail to revitalise the spirit even as they’re draining all my physical energy. That space, the sense of being small, is often enough to spur me on, send me back to the keyboard to write a new chapter or start another story. If I can’t get out myself then reading about grand exploits, or seeing amazing adventure films can often inspire me to do what I can, and be thankful. All too often, it’s the beginning that is the really daunting part. Once you’ve started, well, you might as well finish it off - worry about the quality later.
We need more than exterior situations to help inspire the artistic sensibilities, we need experiences and memories that help shape us. There’s the precious few who can produce great works at a young age but for many of us, it is the pain and joy of living that provides the best fodder.
One of the best quotes I’ve come across that encapsulates this is by Bohemian-Austrian poet and novelist Rainer Maria Rilke. He said:
For the sake of a few lines one must see many cities, men and things. One must know the animals, one must feel how the birds fly and know the gesture with which the small flowers open in the morning. One must be able to think back to roads in unknown regions, to unexpected meetings and to partings which one has long seen coming; to days of childhood that are still unexplained, to parents that one had to hurt when they brought one some joy and one did not grasp it (it was a joy for someone else); to childhood illness that so strangely began with a number of profound and grave transformations, to days in rooms withdrawn and quiet and to mornings by the sea, to the sea itself, to seas, to nights of travel that rushed along on high and flew with all the stars — and it is not yet enough if one may think of all of this. One must have memories of many nights of love, none of which was like the others, of the screams of women in labor, and of light, white, sleeping women in childbed, closing again. But one must also have been beside the dying, one must have sat beside the dead in the room with the open window and the fitful noises.
Often we’re so busy seeking inspiration we forget to reflect on it. What is it that inspires your art, your life, your creativity? Have you drunk from that well lately? Maybe it’s time to recharge and get creative.