This Monday morning when the muse again felt so many miles away all my inspiration might as well have taken off to Mars, I finally quit banging my head and — miracle — mercy dropped in. An entire stream of thought, from nowhere I could have seen coming.
On reflection, this development shouldn’t be surprising. Yet an old truth, newly rediscovered, certainly feels like revelation. Writers have long known that the muse, like happiness, tends to flee direct pursuit. There is a part of my conscious brain that knows this. And yet. And yet…still and again, I need to discover this truth anew.
As I read in a post by Misty Massey years ago, the best course of action is to remember that the best bait for inspiration is to “… lure it out into the open by pretending you don’t care. Before you know it, it’s curling up at your feet.”
At one level that doesn’t make much sense, does it? Pretending you don’t care about your creative product can feel dangerous. And sometimes, you may be so emotionally invested in the work that you cannot see anything but frustration at what you perceive as failures.
Every now and again, though, I can get just exhausted enough to learn something new—by finally letting go of the struggle.
Turns out, all ll I needed this morning was to tell myself I had no time for the project that’s recently been frustrating me, to sort of turn my back on it, and—sneaky, padded cat feet— it crept up behind me, purring to make its presence known, in a way I’d have killed for days ago. Between its teeth was a tasty morsel; oh, sure, stolen from something else. But I’ve got no scruples when it comes to such treasures. I’ll take them however they arrive. I simply need to remember that the arrival is more likely to happen when I can turn my back on my anxious, demanding mind and instead settle quietly, entering a gentle waiting-that-is-not-quite-doing-nothing; entering an expectant interlude, a sympathetic distraction.
It was Kafka who famously said: “You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet” (from his translated Reflections on sin, pain, hope and the true way).
Here’s to finding ways, always, to welcome the world, and then, to finding it rolling in ecstasy at our feet.