courting creativity

my seven fail-safe strategies

Agnes Martin's studio

In my playground, immanent creativity – often referred to as ‘the muse’ – is decidedly She.  For millennia She has been portrayed in dozens of cultures and lands as the Great Mother, a goddess with a thousand names.  In our modern intellectual era it seems anachronistic to ascribe gender to this ineffable dynamic.   No problem – however we choose to conceive of It and refer to It makes no difference whatsoever.  It couldn’t care less.   It’s totally unmoved by expectation, ever wild and utterly untameable. 

That said, something responds to our acknowledgement and appreciation;
something responds to courtship…  

1          Set up space – a salon befitting a regal muse.  For me, that implies quiet, beauty, order.  Have somewhere to sit in silence, as well as areas in which to play.  We need a place where we can take time to be silent, to receive inspiration without pressure or distraction.  She will come.

2          Show up – commit.  Let Her know you’re serious.  Showing up isn’t specific to the studio.  Creativity is responsive to our attention, curiosity and presence – wherever we are, and whatever we’re doing.  Everything weaves itself into our work.

3          Resist the familiar – it’s the same-old, same-old.  She doesn’t do old or habitual.  She isn’t a follower of fashion or fad.  She’s always at the cutting edge.  Actually, She IS the cutting edge.

4          Question everything – especially your reflexive reactions.  She’s a jealous lover.  She won’t show up if you’re in bed with your beliefs.

5          Befriend risk.  No risk, no encounter.  She enjoys a hearty joust with the dragon called Doubt, but it usually makes itself scarce when she shows up.

6          Play with chance – i.e., ways of sabotaging self-certainty and fostering an innocent mind.  She seems particularly fond of this little strategy.

7          When tired, lie down; rest.  She’ll often drop in with clarity and inspiration when you’re in a heap of weariness, frustration or confusion.  Have a notebook handy.

– mls


NB:  Although I have personified creativity as a ‘muse’, and as ‘she’, this is only for poetic purposes.  Creativity is not an object.  It’s not something ‘outside’ of us.  At the deepest level, spontaneous creativity is a quality of the Life force that lives us.  To court creativity is to make a conscious, open, orientation towards that unknowable force, Life’s infinite capacity – which we’ve never been separate from.  We’ve just been hoodwinked by assumptions of separation that have hardened into beliefs.


[This is an extract from a broader essay on the topic of Courting Creativity, which I hope to finish and post here soon.] 


Image – the inner sanctum of Agnes Martin‘s studio.