"The age of miracles is here." —Thomas Carlyle
On a warm, still day in the reverie of a café near the ocean, I sat sipping a latte' as the bougainvillea felt inspired to throw purple petals on my writing notebook. I was recuperating from a job chosen by my fears not my heart. Once again, I had ignored my creative passions due to something silly … like security. Recently, I had started paying attention to my odd reactions the jobs which led me away from the genuine creative expression I believe I was meant to share during my stay on planet earth. When I take a job simply for financial security, and disregard the skills that bring me joy — writing, teaching, art or performance — I basically become a complete moron. I become incapable of anything but a series of blunders. It is as if I intentionally sabotage myself so that I can't work in such situations. I think this is the message: I'M SUPPOSED TO BE USING MY CREATIVE TALENTS …(pronounce caps in a loud voice).
My last job took me so far off my path of creative expression (into, of all things, middle management, ahhhhh!), that the spell of stupidity I fell under made the need for public flogging the only acceptable outcome I was creating. I was constantly losing little things — like entire mailing lists, keys and paychecks. I would regularly trip over furniture, computer equipment and the occasional client. My shoulder pads would end up on the outside of my dress by the day's end…a sure sign one is in the wrong place. Obviously, I was not really there…mentally. I was a masquerading blockhead trying to fit into a round slot.
Reaching my threshold of humiliation, I finally took the leap out of the job, without any support waiting for me, (at least in the form that I had been accustomed), and looked up into the fluff of the clouds and asked "HELLO…..? JUST WHAT IS IT THAT I'M SUPPOSED TO DO? …I KNOW IT HAS SOMETHING TO DO WITH CREATIVITY, BUT COULD YOU GET A LITTLE MORE SPECIFIC?" I could use a miracle at that point. I knew what was next had to be something creative, because my soul was pestering me on a regular basis to release my inner creative-related rumbles. What I soon found out was that all sorts of people seem to be experiencing just about the same thing. Maybe you're one of them
While musing about what truly motivated me, I realized that it was my 20-year anniversary of being a creative-junkie. I had written, starred in and produced a one woman show; been a magazine columnist, a multi-media storyteller, a greeting card artist, a watercolor painter, a cartoonist, an improv comedienne, a marketing consultant, a public speaker, and I was deepening my passion for teaching and coaching people how to find and follow their creative passion. "I think it's time to write a book," I thought… "If only I could get over the resistance to starting, the fear that it will be no good, the possibility that there is already enough books on the subject, the responsibility it implies, and the feeling that I did not know what I was doing, (i.e. if only I could use what I was teaching)."
I looked up from my latte's snowy foam to see nine Muses sideling up to my table with expressions of suppressed laughter, and the kind of raised eyebrows that foretell impending surprise. These Muses, however, were not of ancient Greece. They were a new and improved, updated variety; colorful, hip, full of chutzpa AND they had a bodyguard with them. They pulled chairs up to my table and stared directly into my bewilderment. Well, nine of them did. One of them refused to sit because she was trying out a new dance-step.
Another one, who introduced herself as Aha-phrodite, seemed to be the spokes-muse. She informed me that it was time for the mortal public to learn about the Modern Day Muses. "It is especially important now, at the start of a new century," she explained "when a powerful sense of new beginning prevails, and when so many mortals are unfulfilled because they have strayed away from the expression of creative gifts and inclinations, into places of unfulfilling routine." So, a more relevant and savvy breed of Muses was now required to meet the challenge of inspiring ideas, follow-through and fulfillment for these misguided modern day mortals. And here they were … in all their glory, at my table in the sun.
They introduced themselves one at a time: Aha-phrodite, Muse of Paying Attention and Possibilities; Albert, Muse of Imagination and New Thinking; Marge, Muse of Okay-Now-Let's-Get-Started; Bea Silly Muse of Child-like Play; Spills the Imp, Muse of Practice, Process and Imperfection; Audacity, Muse of Courage and Uninhibited Uniqueness; Lull, Muse of Pause, Diversion and Gratitude; The Shadow Muse, Muse of the Gifts of the Dark Side; Muse Song, Muse of Encouragement, Nurturing and Good Company; and Arnold, The Body Guard who protects us from blocks, fears, and abandonment.
I admit, I was bewildered by their presence and a little afraid they would want me to buy them all coffee and bagels. Existing on savings and newly developing free lance work, (since the allure of working for someone else was beyond resuscitation), I was a bit prudent with expenditures. Marge, the Muse of Okay-Now-Let's-Just-Get-Started, assured me that, yes indeed, they did want me to buy them all coffee but to worry about income when an experience of such flow and fascination was about to be unveiled was just plain silly. The Muses were here to inspire a book which would not only introduce them to the masses of individuals interested in giving voice to the soul's creative authenticity, but would also provide practical exercises to make these concepts absorbable and effective. So I bought them all double mocha cappuccinos and a variety of scones. Except for Bea Silly, she wanted a cupcake with a small rotating flowerpot on top. Do they make those yet?
All nine new Muses were there … in the spirit of my imagination. I started toying with the idea of turning creative concepts into personas of Muses just for the fun of it, or perhaps because I was spending too much time alone. Anyway, I was telling one of my friends, Jennifer, about the Muses and she got excited. She happened to be in the middle of creatively starting her own business and was tickled by how my Muses could help her. Coming up against an obstacle or a stumbling block, she would call me up and ask me which Muse is was that would help:
"Who will help me create a clever price sheet to display my services?" I told her about Albert. "Who will get me to a place where I don't fear what people think when I make public presentations?" Audacity seemed to fit the bill. "Who will help focus me when I seem to do everything except the thing I'm supposed to do?" That would be Marge. "I'm not enjoying doing my work right now." Bea Silly and Lull then helped her out. "How do I deal with these voices inside my head that are ridiculing me and trying to sabotage everything I'm doing?" Muse Song would soothe the savage voices and Arnold would defend and reinforce her moves forward.
Jennifer would call me back with enthusiastic success, talking about the Muses as if I had dispatched them over to her home like doctors making house calls. The Muses, of course, were only concepts to ignite her own strengths. They just made it clear what energy it was that she could draw upon from inside of herself. And pretending that they were actual entities made it fun. Fun and play are what we engage in as children to lure us to the experiences that successfully serve us as adults. Let's get wise and use fun as adults to make the validating human experience of creativity more accessible.
Creativity gives us the optimal experience of what Mihaly Csikzentimihalyi has described as a state in which creative energy flows freely and effortlessly. He writes, "The process of discovery involved in creating something new appears to be one of the most enjoyable activities any human can be involved in." He explains that creativity is a central source of meaning in our lives. We bring something new, needed or novel into existence and the experience in the process is one of timeless flowing, as a release from stress and of peak experiences.
Abraham Maslow describes self-actualization as a person's need to be, and do, that which the person was "born to do." When we feel something missing in our lives, many times it is because we are not expressing that which we were born to do.
My mission in life is to deepen my own creativity and teach others to do the same. If there is something that can make creativity fun and easier, hey, I'm for it! •
©2001 Jill Badonsky. All rights reserved.
Based on Jill Badonsky's The Nine Modern Day Muses (and a Bodyguard)
Jill Badonsky is a creativity coaching pioneer, inspirational humorist, artist, and founder of Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coaching™. More
The Nine Modern Day Muses (and a Bodyguard)
The Awe-Manac: A Daily Dose of Wonder
Body Blissmas: Creativity & Wellness
Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coaching Stories
Owner's Manual for Your Creativity
Dear Muse Column