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Nurturing your muse

October 17th, 2009 by Nikki Smith

Where do your ideas and inspirations come from?  Do they come to you in the shower or when you’re in that halfway state between wakefulness and sleep?  Do you wake up in the morning with a solution to yesterday’s challenge?

museMany well known authors say that when they are writing it is as if the words and ideas that flow from their pen are not their own — they come from somewhere else, not the author’s conscious mind.  It’s as if they are merely the instrument for conveying the idea to the world and not the originator.  I’ve always been fascinated by this concept, and I’ve found that it is true for other types of artists as well, myself included.

I have been blessed with a talented and creative muse who shows me possibilities and glimpses of the fantastic.  Late at night when I’m lying in bed and close my eyes she extrapolates from the place where my conscious mind left off.  My muse is visual and the ideas she presents to me are fully formed snap-shots of finished projects, often in rapid-fire and without the road map for creating them.

Why do I speak about my muse in the third person?  Because the ideas she presents seem to come out of the ether fully formed and without my conscious input or control.  They’re my ideas, and yet…it sometimes feels as if there’s a separate creative soul sharing these glimpses with me.  The ideas are often truly wonderful but gone in the blink of an eye before I can capture them on paper.  I can’t “decide” to be inspired and my muse is sometimes silent.  I can only lay the groundwork, create a fertile, nurturing mental environment and then be receptive.

So how do you nurture your muse?  Here’s a great strategy:

Immerse yourself in eye-candy art!
This is one of the best ways I’ve found to encourage my muse.  Just before bed I’ll read an art magazine or browse through an online gallery or two.  The more visual inspiration I give my muse, the more likely she is to inspire me in turn.

Channel your dreams.
Have you ever had one of those nights when your dreams are all about work?  That’s often because you were focused on (or worried about) work when you went to bed.  I admit, I’ve solved some problems this way.  However, I’ve also done some tedious bill-paying and dish-washing in my dreams.  (What a waste!)  Wouldn’t it be more fun to dream about creating art?  And wake up with some great ideas to try out?  Just be sure to be thinking about your art as you drift off to sleep.  Keep a pen (or crayons!) and notebook handy by your bedside table to jot down those great ideas when you first wake up and before the dreams fade away.

Explore different concepts and apply them to your art.
Sometimes I’ll explore an unrelated idea and then challenge my muse to apply that concept to my art.  For example, after reading a great magazine on “softies” (artist’s dolls and stuffed creations), I went to bed thinking about the ideas I had seen and how they might be applied to handmade books.  I (or I should say my muse) came up with several creative ideas for softies as book covers on journals, or softies with pouches to hold a small book.  The “characters,” closures, colors and materials were all there just waiting for me to bring them to life.

Give your muse a steady diet of inspiration and you’ll be amazed at the results!

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