Caring for the Muse – Part II

I am a list-maker. Every day I have a To Do list, and if I do something that isn’t on the list, I have been known to write it on the list and then immediately cross it off. It’s very satisfying.

So I’m going to continue yesterday’s theme with a slightly expanded list of “How to Care for Your Muse in Troubled Times.” (I suppose these might also work in non-troubled times, if there are such things. The present times seems especially troubled, however, so those are the conditions I have in mind for this list of artistic self-care.)

  • Check out Sarah Urist Green’s fun, inspiring, & educational YouTube Channel, The Art Assignment. Her series is filled with ideas for making art whether you are an artist or not, and whether you have art supplies or not.
  • Watch this dated (yes, the language is entirely masculine, and yes the people are mostly white) but still awesome short film: Why Man Creates.
  • Take your smartphone or camera and take some pictures. Take anything. Make it silly or documentary or sexy or weird or whatever you want. Try out some of the strangest filters on your phone, or on an app like Instagram.
  • Try journalling. Sometimes this helps me, but other times it can actually make me feel worse if I fall into a tailspin of self-pitying introspection. Jude for yourself how it’s making you feel.
  • If there is a certain movie that inspires you, watch it! For me it’s (don’t laugh) 1985’s Desperately Seeking Susan.
  • Move! I don’t mean load all of your belongings onto a truck and move across the country, but physically get your body moving. Run. Dance (this one terrifies me, which is one reason I should probably do it). Exercise. Go for a walk or a bike ride. Play a sport. Move!
  • Make a thwinting sound. I’ll explain what I mean by this later. Or not. In the meantime, do whatever YOU think it means!

The Pressure’s On…Or Off

One of the hardest things for me when it comes to writing is just getting myself to sit down and do it. No. Wrong. It’s not “one of the hardest things”; it is far and away the hardest thing. But here’s the funny part (funny strange or funny ha-ha?): I love sitting down to write in my journal. In that situation there is no pressure; it’s just me writing for myself and my own enjoyment. As soon as I put an audience into the equation, it becomes a chore. I feel the pressure of performing.

There is an additional demotivating aspect to writing these blog posts. Ironically, it is the fear that no one will read them. Wait…WHAT?? I just said I enjoy writing in my journal because that writing is for me and no one else, but it’s demotivating to write blog posts because I fear no one will read them? Yes.

It’s not as crazy as it sounds. Journals are supposed to be private. (As an aside: What’s the difference between a journal and a diary?) If no one reads my journal, then all is as expected. But a blog is for public consumption. If no one reads my blog posts, it feels like I have failed. The journal has met expectations; the blog has not.

YouTube boasts that over 400 hours of video are uploaded to the site every minute. There are over 600 million blogs on the web. According to Forbes, “There are 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created each day at our current pace, but that pace is only accelerating…” (Bernard Marr, May 21, 2018). It’s unreasonable for me to expect anyone to find and read my little blog posts, and yet a few people do. And some people are able to make a good living by vlogging and/or blogging.

So maybe that’s the problem—the ol’ comparing myself to other people mistake (and it’s almost always a mistake). I would love to reach a wider audience with my blog, but that won’t happen unless I write and post consistently, constantly improving my writing and posting skills. It’s okay to have a desire to be heard, and it’s okay to be aware of what others online are saying. It might also be healthy to bring some of the joy of journalling to the table, though.

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I tried several blog ideas on for size, each relating to an interest of mine: Art, Music, Religion, Running, Theatre, Cats, etc. But there are existing blogs about all of those things—really good blogs, better than anything I could come up with. So I decided to write about the one thing no one else is blogging bout: Me!

Morning Pages and Evening Pages and In-Between Pages

journals

Many people are familiar with the practice of writing Morning Pages thanks to Julia Cameron’s wildly popular and influential book The Artist’s Way. I first heard of them via a YouTube video from Lavendaire. The truth is, I had already been doing something similar for many years before I heard the term “Morning Pages.” I always just thought I was writing in my journal. Now there are subtle differences between journaling and Morning Pages which I won’t get into here, but suffice to say I am seldom without a notebook of some sort and a pen or pencil. (I actually prefer the latter; I’m a bit of a Charlie Brown with a pen. Peanuts readers will understand what I mean.)

The first journal entry I remember making was sometime when I was in junior high. (Middle school hadn’t been invented yet, at least not in Des Moines.) I had a dream about Agnetha Fältskog, the beautiful blonde singer in Abba, upon whom I had a boyhood crush. But this dream wasn’t about me having a torrid pre-pubescent affair with Agnetha. In this dream I actually BECAME Agnetha. (Details not forthcoming.) Upon awakening, it seemed odd enough to warrant writing down. That was the start of my “dream journal,” and for a long while recounting the previous night’s dreams made up the bulk of my journal entries.

After I started writing songs in earnest, lyrics began to take up more and more pages. The real flowering of my journal writing happened after I moved to Boston when I was 19. Favorite writing spots included the Reflection Pool at Christian Science Plaza late at night, the Charles River Esplanade while tanning in the afternoon, and Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park, watching planes take-off and land at Logan Airport just across the Channel. Ideas from journals of that time found their way into letters to friends, elaborate plans for musicals and other large-scale projects that never happened, and above all: songs. Lots and lots of songs. Those journals are long gone now, and I very much wish I had them back.

So. Morning Pages. It was 3 or 4 years ago when I first watched Lavendaire’s video about them. Formalizing the journal writing routine has its plusses and minuses, but on balance I’d say the plusses win out. Making a deliberate habit of Morning Pages forces me to write even when I don’t feel like it. That’s important these days, when my creative spark doesn’t light as easily as it once did. Even though I write these blog posts (mostly) on computer, my Morning Pages (and I now call them that no matter what time of day it is when I write them) are always written by hand in notebooks with weird titles. And for the record, my favorite pencils are Blackwing Pearls by Palomino.