What is it about an attractive or intriguing person (typically woman) that turns an ordinary being into a creative whirlwind? What magical process enables him to invent, to sculpt, to paint, to write or to compose a masterpiece out of thin air simply by having a stimulating interaction with a free-spirited breath of fresh air? According to Greek mythology, Zeus’ and Mnemosyne’s nine daughters were the original muses whose one being in heart, spirit and thought was dedicated to the arts, they inspired creativity and imagination in artists. They were the goddesses poets prayed to, all seeking the gift of divine inspiration. Modern muses don’t have to be beautiful deities, but they still have to have an ethereal, uninhibited quality that ignites creativity and draws out an artist’s most original work. If you want to be a muse, someone else’s or your own, make openness and freedom your values to live by. Fundamentally, a muse’s job is to provide inspiration, not direction. A muse makes an artist want to create, long to create – madly, passionately! And then, she gets out of the way so they can get to it.
In my opinion, the world can benefit greatly by having more muse’s among us. There is a fun, lighthearted spirit in their presence and it spreads like wildfires through conversations and magical moments that quickly pass but last for a lifetime.
I’ve read countless articles on the subject and witnessed first-hand, both by being the muse and receiving inspiration from one, how beneficial the interaction can be. I’ve compiled guidelines from different sources as well as from my own insight, so here it is!
7 Steps To Becoming A Muse:
- Spend Time With Artists. Not every artist needs a muse, but throughout time many painters, inventors, writers, filmmakers and musicians have attributed their best work to inspiration from someone special, often a fellow creator. Whether or not you make art yourself, if your social circle is full of creative types, you may end up becoming someone’s muse or finding artistic inspiration yourself.
For example, the actress Edie Sedgwick hung around with Andy Warhol at his studio, The Factory, and they became very close friends. He was so struck by her beauty and presence that he created a series of films for her to star in and dubbed her his “superstar”. Choreographers also often speak of choreographing their work “off” an individual dancer, and the expression is apt. George Balanchine invented some of his greatest ballets for Suzanne Farrell, the dancer he called “my alabaster princess.” For her he created “Mozartiana” and “Don Quixote,” with Ms. Farrell representing Balanchine’s own unrecoverable youth and beauty.
- Discuss Original Ideas & Allow Yourself to Be Affected. Although there are examples of muses whose beauty alone served as inspiration (Vermeer’s anonymous Girl with the Pearl Earring, for example), muses are often just as creative as the artists they inspire. The best muse relationships involve motivation on mental, emotional and spiritual levels, spurring him or her to run with creative ideas that someone else wouldn’t really understand. To be a muse, encourage the artist to explore more deeply, rather than pulling back. No discussion should be off-limits. In your presence, artists should feel there’s magic and electricity in everything they do and say. Let them make you laugh, and have the experience of truly delighting you. Most creative types find this very inspiring.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono were each other’s muses in part because they were intellectually in sync. They had the same political goals and they believed the best way to reach people and change the world was through art. Thanks in part to their relationship, they gave the world some of the most innovative music, performance and visual art it had ever seen.
- Be Uninhibited. Rules, restrictions, and social norms can put a damper on creativity. It’s impossible to think outside the box when you’re constantly reminded of its perimeters. A muse helps the artist think beyond the confines of everyday life. When an artist is with his or her muse, things like financial constraints and social obligations are gone with the wind, because what matters is living in the moment and creating something new. If you want to be a muse, you must receive everything with relaxed enjoyment and enthusiasm. Your feedback should keep the juices flowing – not make people question their own instincts. Many muses throughout history have had a carefree, wild spirit that captivates those around them. This was the case with Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe, another pair of mutual muses who lived together in the East Village during the tumultuous 1970s. Smith’s music and performance art and Mapplethorpe’s photography changed the cultural landscape. I highly recommend reading “Just Kids” written by Patti Smith, it remains one of my favorite books this year.
- Exude Raw Sensual Energy. Though anyone can be a muse, the classic muse archetype is a flirtatious beauty, a feminine spirit who is fearless in the pursuit of what sets her soul on fire. She is confident with her body despite her flaws and isn’t consumed with what society says is “appropriate”. Sensuality can help spur creativity, since it lowers inhibitions and charges the body and brain with erotic energy, which is very intertwined with creative energy, they have a tendency to feed off of each other. Being in touch with your own sensuality, and really simmering in it is an important aspect of being a muse. By the way, it’s not necessary for you to be a specific “look”, you just need to be an embodiment of some unique flavor of a lustful delicacy. From Gala Dali to Georgia O’Keefe, countless muses have used the power of their sensuality to drive artists wild and inspire some of their most beautiful work.
- Have Your Own Style. You can be a muse without having a perfectly-proportioned body and a pretty face. Whatever it is that makes you different, play it up! An artist’s quest is to create something the world has never seen, something truly original. An artist’s muse is not just a model or mannequin, but a source of original energy and life. For example, Pablo Picasso’s series of muses, including Dora Maar and Marie-Therese Walter, helped him see the human body in a new way and inspired him to share his insights with the world.
Pablo Picasso may have been the poster child for the idea of muse driven art. He had torrid, and eventually tragic relationships with many women who were the inspiration for and were featured in his art. He had as many as nine muses from whom he drew incredible energy and each were intensely attached to him. He was a prodigious, fearless and innovative artist producing as many as 50,000 wide-ranging pieces. When questioned about his non-stop pace, he said: “Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.”
- Make Art. If you create your own art, you know what it means to harness an idea or feeling and express it through painting, words, dance, and so on. You understand the emptiness that comes with having a creative block, and the release when it’s lifted and you can finally create again with the help of outside inspiration. When you’re intimately familiar with how creativity ebbs and flows you can help someone else who is struggling.
Emilie Floge is remembered for her relationship with Gustave Klimt, the artist best known for “The Kiss” and one of those most influential in elevating Vienna to the cultural status of a Paris or Rome at the turn of the century. Klimt’s participation in this “golden age” of art was fueled by beautiful women, particularly Emilie. She in turn, used his influence and creativity to help her become one of Vienna’s most exclusive fashion salon couturiers. Klimt personally designed dresses for her. Note the loose fitting style worn by her in the “Portrait of Emilie Floge”. Her wide range of textile patterns echoed the colorful, abstracted patterns found in his paintings.
- Don’t Try To Take Over. If you could do a better job yourself, then you might make a very nice role model. A teacher perhaps, a creative partner or critic. But you will make a horrible muse. Let’s briefly compare these different job descriptions:
- Muse vs. Mentor. A mentor offers guidance based on her own past experience or area of expertise. A muse offers her total trust: “Everything you need is already within you. Go ahead, you can do this.”
- Muse vs. Teacher. A teacher says, “Let me explain this to you a different way.” A muse asks, “Could you explain this to me a different way?”
- Muse vs. Creative Partne A creative partner jumps in excitedly with a new idea or a new angle on the working concept. A muse listens intently, and then invites the artist to explore the most intriguing parts in more depth.
- Muse vs. Critic. A critic analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of a particular creative work. A muse describes how the work makes her feel.
The relationship can offer a creative artist both inspiration and a means to express that inspiration. It is almost as if the creative artist need hardly finish a thought, so completely and intuitively does the muse grasp it and find ways to express it. The relationship can be so strong that one can hardly separate the roles of the participants; it is impossible to tell the dancer from the dance.
Are you a person who needs a muse to get you going?
It might be helpful to make a list of the things that motivate you. These are the things that are really important to you, that you care deeply about. Try to visualize what or who you adore, cling to, hold dear, treasure and love. Include those you hold in high esteem, idolize, revere or worship and write it down.
The ideal is to fit the things that drive you in with the purposes of your life, the basic tenants or personal rules of character that define who you are.
What makes you feel vital and alive?
What inspires or lifts you?
What drives, enthuses and excites you?
What provokes you or makes you mad enough to act?
What helps you define and achieve your goals?
Now write down what actually drives or inspires you on a daily basis. Whether or not you admit it, we are all a little like Homer Simpson: “Today I am going to concentrate on the important things of life–oh look, a donut!” We are moved by the lower drives on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Values, but each of us aspire to a higher motivation such as esteem or self-actualization. If a muse can lift you to the higher levels of motivation and allow you to be the best you can be, then go for it.
More on Becoming Your Own Muse later 😉