This week I’m all about loving the muse.
It’s like any important relationship I think. We have our times of stunning immersion, wild fire creating, where we burn through the night in a blaze of words and artistic revelation and know the power of devotion to doing the work. And we have moments of tension, of wondering when we will find one another again, of not being able to locate the places and spaces where we might connect and make meaning and love, and so we both start blaming one another and then go take some space and remember. And then the most amazing thing happens. We show up. Again and again and again, we show up. And I remember all over again why it is one of the longest and most beautiful love relationships I have ever known and will ever have.
The muse can mean many things for people. It can be part inspiration, part real life or imagined person, part relationship with our creativity as a life force, part love of living with its endless wonder. It is what lights us up, and turns us on, and makes us work harder than we thought possible, and shows us the way not all at once but step by step. Maybe this is why we fall in love.
My own muse happens to look a whole lot Eddie Izzard wearing eyeliner. He sits there smoking a cigarette in a chair close to mine, and he smells like red vines and absinthe and old paper in old libraries, and when I get stuck and impatient, he says inappropriate things and reminds me of what matters and then we’re back into the hum of the typewriter and the words and the smoke and melting ice cubes, and I wouldn’t want to write anything without him there.
He/she shows up. I show up. And we fight and fall in love and somehow words happen. Writing happens. Art happens. Life happens. And over the years, I’ve learned a little bit about how to court the muse, call out to the muse, set things up so as to make it a welcome space, and we teach each other about trust.
Loving the muse
1. Love the curiosity.
The things that keep showing up in your sleep thinking and your day dreams. The way certain colors call out to you, and how you can’t hear the sounds of trains without wanting to tell stories, and the flight pattern of birds in migration, and the need to know what crossed wires mean and what happens when there is no more water and what shapes shells make when they are spilling secret messages. Love the obsessions and the compulsions of following the trail of endless fascination. Love the pieces that don’t connect but still appear and reappear, because it is you. You are the connection, the lines that moves from one thing to the next, mending isolation into art. Love that which will not leave you alone, and that which speaks your name, and that which feels as old and new as your own breath pulsing in and out.
2. Love the world.
Go outside. Get up from the desk or the bed or the oh so comfortable couch or the work room. For just an hour or a day or a week or sometimes three years if you are lucky, leave behind what it is you do and create, and go be in the world. Fall in love with the world. Change the world. Embrace the world. Let it run over you like water and let it burn you up like desperate destruction and let it sing you to sleep while you stare at mountains and say unorthodox prayers in the hospital room where you remember again that you have her hands. See things. Taste things. Listen. Try things out without the expectation of mastery or success or achievement by someone else’s standards. Just try things. See how it feels to know and not know. Fall asleep in a different bed and climb trees and pour rose water over your wounds. Eat by the ocean and watch your skin find its home and go learn everything you can about botany and about hummingbirds and about labor rights. Get up. Go outside. The world is a waiting lover. And the muse speaks the language of the living.
3. Love the revelation.
Be bare. Allow yourself to slip outside of perceptions and assumptions and all those things you’ve always told yourself about who you can and cannot be and do and love. Risk being smashed and risk being whole. Let yourself be moved, be affected, be human, be touchable, be hurt, be healed, be split open with wonder and be stitched together with the stream of smoke that spills from the muse’s mouth as you write late into the night, the room still smelling like violets. The muse has a hard time getting in with all that armor and need to be cool and work to be right. So be bare, and let it change you.
4. Love the work. Show up. We have to show up if we want to invite the muse in, make a seat for him at the table, ask for her offerings at our altar. We have to show up and do the work. We have to show up and sit at an empty page and write anyway. We have to make art and not know where it is going or what comes next or why. We have to have imaginary conversations that call in the wisdom of our own innate knowing and set us free. We have to show up and let it unfold and unfurl. We have to show up and stay with ourselves, and trust that the muse is not a demanding tyrant insisting on standards of perfection, but is our own great guide. And when we show up, the muse will too, storming in while the heat lightening glows in dark sky, and whispering wisdoms in the shapes sheets make when tossed aside after waking, and reminding you that it is simply one word after the next and here you are, creating. So show up. Write the muse, your muse, a love letter. Tell him what you always wanted. Ask her to leave you alone and never leave you. Remember what it was like when you first met. Tell each other everything. Say I love you. I love you. I love you.
Isabel Abbott is a writer and activist; embodiment artist and speaker; and a doula in birth and death and love of life. Her doors are open to sanctuary and raw reality and creative liberation at www.isabelabbott.com, where she leads courses on writing, the body and desire. She writes regularly at www.listsandletters.com.