A different view on Muses

For hundreds of years people have talked about artists having inspiration, but often, some persons would say, write us a symphony or write us a song, on commission. The artists would come up with a masterpiece without waiting to have their muse inspire them.
Tom Glazer

A while ago I wrote a posting about Muses, arguing that muses — real persons or imagined ones — can be used as a reason for creating things. After all, sometimes people suck and it’s nice to imagine doing a creative work for a specific person you like very much. And I still think that is true, after all, I dedicated the second version of “Organizing Creativity”

dedication oc 2

While this dedication has raised eyebrows, is not a real person I dedicated this book to, it’s an idea, an abstract representation of all that is good in humanity. It’s a bit like this quotation:

If you see a whole thing – it seems that it’s always beautiful. Planets, lives. … But up close a world’s all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life’s a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern.
Ursula Le Guin

I needed that believe in an abstract representation to keep going.

But while this view might be motivating, I think there is another crucial aspect: A muse — or any living person — can lend you support. Creative projects are new and useful, thus frequently, other people cannot understand them easily. Even worse, if you create something that will turn out to be creative, it is sometimes impossible to see the finished work from the parts you are working on. People just do not understand. This can produce a lot of anxiety.

Thus, a major function of a muse can be to provide support to the realization of ideas, and not to help in generating them. The person already has an idea, but he or she needs support to dare to implement it.

Seen this way, a muse is a publicly accepted security blanket — and a very effective one. After all, a single person doing something strange raises eyebrows, especially if this person sees something others do not see (the hallmark of a creative mind). But two people acting strange — I think that somehow, many people find it more easy to accept “strange” behavior in this context.

Thus, muses can not only stimulate ideas or provide the motivation in doing so, they can also support people in taking the risk to be creative.

Provided that you find a person who is comfortable in that role and whom you also trust well enough to adopt that role.