Throughout my life, I’ve pondered the muse. Even my brand name includes a play on the word “muse” (as well as music, for, now, present moment, and so on). Yet, once in a while I need to be called back to unravel the mystery of why I create.
Recently, I’ve had a number of conversations on social networks about songwriting and other creative processes. I’m inspired by these interactions to ponder my muse.
With this thread, I am hoping we might help each other develop something of a mission statement” that fuels them. A succinct way to define why they write songs or play music. Something that is so deeply known and understood that nothing or no one can dissuade them from from it.
— Michael Nero (@MikelNero) March 8, 2018
A few days ago, my wife asked if we could have a greater balance in terms of my time in the recording studio and our life together. I get that. She’s right that it’s easy for me to fall into the trap of spending too much of my time on the muse. And when that is too prevalent, it becomes like “the other lover”.
Simultaneously, the sense of how whole (or fulfilled, embodied, etc.) I am is so important to my primary relationship and friendships. In other words, when I am connected to my creative spirit, I am also able to be more present to my human connections.
So, these flip sides of the coin of my being mean that I am always seeking balance between my personal/relational loves and my creative expressions. Though this sounds simple enough, it isn’t always so easy in practice.
In fact, when my creative soul is fed — if you will — I don’t hunger for other kinds of (metaphorical) food. However, if I am avoiding my muse, I find myself pulled in negative ways towards stuff that draws me away from my center. If I’m not composing, improvising, writing, and songwriting, I will be grumpy and bratty. When I fail to attend to my creative heart, I turn to additions. They numb my sense of calling, that pull towards the wholeness I find in creativity. A sideways, spoiled me comes out when I’m not allowing the influence of the muse to pour out in my creative expressions.
There are times when I simply cannot silence my muse. If I do not create, I may become anything ranging from frustrated to depressed. In other words, the impulse for creativity becomes a core experience that is best followed. Trying to avoid it will only lead to a downward slide.
Alternately, when I am attentive to writing poetry and songs or composing either musical suites or improvisational music, I’m a happier person. Thus, being “composed” for me is both about composing (or improvising) music and keeping myself together.
Obviously, things can swing too far in the direction of creating. Since the creative process can be a solo process for an introvert like me, there is some danger of isolation.
Magnets are a great metaphor for the muse. On the one hand, magnets draw other magnets and metals to them. On the other hand, they repel the part of another magnet that is most like them. Yes, that’s ironic. Other creative people may be repelled from us when we are the most creative.
Muse as Divine Inspiration
One of my mentors in musical improvisation, Amar Khalsa, had a profound influence on me. (We performed in many improvisational circles, primarily through InterPlay and WingIt! Performance Ensemble.)
At one point, I asked how he always came up with improvised music. He said very simply that he opened himself up to allow the divine inspiration to come through him. You cannot get much more connected to the muse than that. I think of this image of that divine flow many times during improvised performances.
This seems like a great moment for me to go back to composing my creative mission statement. It feels odd and a little challenging, but here I go.
I create spontaneously because there are times when the muse is strong in my core. Sometimes, this means that I must follow the inspiration. To do otherwise would mean death of one kind or another. Even the draw of this powerful muse must not come between me and my loved ones.
I create intentionally because there are times when connecting my creative juices with a particular goal or wish are in the best interests of myself and my relationships. Said more simply, I write and compose because that is what is best for me and the people I love.
I create relationally because that is how the beauty of harmony and contrapuntalism are made.
My creative output ranges from instrumental compositions to improvised poems. In between, there is songwriting, piano improvisations, vocal improv, and so on. For now, all of these fit into my creative mission statement. Thanks to you all for the inspiration!
4 thoughts on “Muse As Magnet – Why I Compose and Write”
Inspiring thoughts Stan. Comforting in many ways. Thanks.
Thanks, Gary! I’m so intrigued that you said “comforting”…
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