Ideas are in abundance everywhere. Every minute of every day. And they’re waiting for you to snag them.
All you have to do is give them permission to happen to you. To make yourself available to their offerings. After all, art is learning to listen your world – then rendering whatever you feel.
Let’s examine ten secrets to becoming your own Muse:
1. Begin by bowing. Humility grants you an all access pass to where your ideas might take you. But only if you recognize that it’s not you coming up with these ideas. Because they’re coming through you – not from you. My suggestion is to invoke the Muse before you officially begin your day’s work. Say a prayer. Light a candle. Recite an invocation. Whatever ignites your soul.
The secret is to ritualize it. To establish a practice that’s an official, consistent and necessary component to your artistic process. Approached in this humble fashion, there are no limits to where your creativity may lead. What are you doing to set your creativity on FIRE right now?
2. Write what comes up immediately. Honor your first waking thoughts. After all, if you don’t write it down – it never happened. The first suggestion is to begin writing Morning Pages. I guarantee you this practice will change your creative life forever. Even if you’re not a writer.
Secondly, remember what Nancy Slonim suggested in Writing from the Heart:
“As writers, we must go with our instant ideas, our immediate poetry, our first thoughts. We cannot take the time to rethink, reconsider, reedit, restrain. Go with what comes up. Don’t make time for your inner editor to happily announce, ‘They’ll really think you’re suck if you write that.’”
Are you willing to capture and express the truth, even if someone you know reads it and thinks you’re crazy?
3. Escape structure. Stop creating Top 40 music. Annihilate the box. Give yourself permission to write and accumulate and share a bunch of totally random thoughts. They don’t have to make sense. They don’t have to be organized. They don’t have to be brilliant. They just have to be written.
You can use them later. You can stretch and grow and expand them later. You can go back and add dimensions to and improve on those ideas in the future. Have you given yourself permission to buck the creative system?
4. Start with one true thing. That’s what Hemingway did: One sheet of paper, one true thing, and off he wrote. Doesn’t get simpler than that. Here’s an example. I remember the first time I read Emerson’s quotation, “Make yourself necessary to the world, and mankind will give you bread.” And I immediately thought to myself, “Cool. Now I’m wondering what action items people could take make themselves necessary to the world.”
The result was a module called 9 Must-Dos to Make Yourself Necessary to the World. Came out great. People retweeted the hell out of it. So, that’s the secret: Instead of reading something and saying, “What is wrong with this?” start wondering, “How could this be democratized and actionized?” What questions do you ask yourself to light a fire under the Muse’s ass?
5. Stay home. Write what you know about, run into, have a passion for and obsess over. It makes the artistic process a billion times easier, more efficient and less stressful. Don’t write about baseball if you’ve never been to a game in your life. Don’t sing country songs if you grew up listening to hip-hop.
Stay home. Do YOU. Otherwise, every minute of your creative workday will feel like you’re traversing the artistic rapids without a life jacket and an oar the size of a toothbrush. Are you creating from core?
6. Find a place to shape your thoughts. When George Carlin died in 2008, long-time friend and comedian colleague, Jerry Seinfeld, wrote the following in an op-ed for the New York Times:
“George didn’t just ‘do’ material. He worked over an idea like a diamond cutter with facets and angles and refractions of light. He made you sorry you ever thought you wanted to be a comedian. He was like a train hobo with a chicken bone. When he was done there was nothing left for anybody else.”
In order to accomplish this, you need to double your patience. To hang around words and see what they have to say. To allow them to hatch and come alive, right there on the page in front of your eyes. How far down the rabbit hole are you willing to go?
7. Search for meaning constantly and aggressively. Never allow your intellectual curiosity to waver. Be on a quest. An idea hunt. And not to the point where you’re always on, always working, perpetually existing in a contracted position.
Rather, becoming able to move swiftly from complete relaxation to complete exertion (back to complete relaxation again) on a moment’s notice. Have you made it your responsibility to go out and find things?
8. Treat all ideas with deep democracy. In the phenomenal book, Unintentional Music, Lane Arye suggests you value everything you write whether it was intended or not. “Let all the different parts express themselves and influence your artistic decisions. If you are deeply democratic, you listen to and value all parts.”
Therefore, don’t overlook the serendipity of adjacent ideas. Fringe thoughts are your friends. Follow your unintentionals. Let your mind cycle through unrelated facts. Allow unanticipated insight to enter and allow nothing to be meaningless in your sight.
Who knows? Maybe you’ll find exactly what you’re not looking for. What would happen if you regarded no idea as pointless?
9. Don’t just sit in bed thinking. Get up and go think on paper. This kinesthetic process allows you to notice patterns, structures, questions and assumptions connected to your idea that were previously unavailable to an unmoving mind. What’s more, the simple act of experiencing your idea three-dimensionally moves you lightyears beyond where your brain could have taken it unassisted.
So, whether your capture device is a journal, whiteboard, sketchbook, audio recorder or video camera, just get it down. Puke it out. Otherwise your thoughts are going to find a home in your body. And there’s no way you’re going to get any sleep when that happens. What is rising up from within your depths?
10. Build a solid mental reservoir of ideas. Always be collecting words, phrases, paragraphs and lines you enjoy. Allow them to self-organize within your mental matrix. Then, every day when it’s time to clock in, plunge headfirst into that reservoir without expectation or outcome. Soften your eyes and allow the words to come alive on the page.
And, as you watch them do their dance, don’t ask yourself what you “feel” like writing about – ask yourself what wants to be written. You will be amazed, guaranteed. How can you create more than enough of what you need so that you NEVER need to worry about running out?
REMEMBER: Opportunity doesn’t stop knocking – only YOU stop listening.
Execute these strategies to become your own Muse today.
And you’ll never complain that you can’t find any good ideas again.
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What’s your system for inspiring yourself?
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That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Coach, Entrepreneur
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