Thursday, January 29, 2009

Germaine Greer Lost Her Muse

Black Thong © J. Licsko 02 oil on canvas

Muse for full or part time work.  No experience required.  Must be able to inspire on a moment's notice, show up on time, stay late, must have something unique to offer.  Minimal wage, but immortality promised to the successful applicant.

                                                                                                                                                                          Fifteen Rules for  
Courting The Artist's Muse
Before I was an artist, I was a muse.  I had hoped to be a muse for my first artist/musician husband.  I was drawn like a moth to a flame.  My wings melted after seven years.  No song ever left his lips on my account.  My relationship to my second artist, painter, husband was a different story.  The energy was different from the beginning, and soon, I was the subject of hundreds of canvases spanning a period of twenty years or so.

A muse is defined as a woman, or a force personified as a woman, who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist.  Check out an article by Germaine Greer writing for The Guardian, on the subject very obviously without the assistance of a muse of any kind.

The muse (as woman) must eventually retire.  Perhaps the relationship between artist and muse becomes tired, or the flames burn out.  I, as muse, eventually showed more value administrating the artist's career, and other, less lofty domestic duties.  My artist moved on to landscapes and abstracts.  I started the search for my own muse.  One would think I would have had inside knowledge or connections.  I didn't. It took many years.

The first indication that I was in the presence of my own muse (as force) came while hanging my hand-washing of delicates on a line.  As I used the clothes pegs to secure a simple black thong to the white line, I noticed how the intense blue July morning sky showed through the varying layers of the cloth.  The overall image was abstract; black, blue, and a crisp white line cutting across the image.  I felt something.  Definitely, a feeling, not a thought.  My mind wandered, recalling all the clothes lines I could remember.  Vivid, visual memories from childhood when the lines were filled with the underwear of my mother, myself, and three younger sisters illustrated varying stages of maturity, all in white cotton.   I thought of all the style changes women's underwear have gone through till the present day  The realization that this was a statement (admittedly, a minor one), not only of the stages one passes through in a single life (consider, from diapers to diapers), but at the same time, how women's under garments offer opportunities for self expression.  One can read a lot about the daily moods of a woman from the lingerie she chooses.  My muse and I had connected.

Today, I have more inspiration than I have time for.  However, many wonderful intelligent people tell me that they are not creative. They may think that it is true, but I will offer two simple arguments why it is not.
For the faith based - "as above, so below". 
For the factually based - you are probably allowing your left brain to dominate.

Our personal muse should be drawn toward us the way one tries to tame a wild bird.   Carefully.  Watch it's habits.  Notice when it comes of it's own will.  Extend a hand, be patient.

The rules for attracting your muse:
  1. Never look it directly in the eye.  Know it is there, but be still, and trust that it will come.
  2. In your heart, promise to listen, promise to be true to what is given.
  3. Act immediately, write it down, make a quick sketch.  It rarely comes back on demand.
  4. Write or draw as it comes.  No censoring.  No judgement.  No spell checks.  Refining should be done after one has exhausted the inspiration.  Take a break, then edit.  Usually, the next wave of ideas will come.
  5. Don't listen to negatives, internal or external.
  6. Be silly sometimes.
  7. Say yes more often.
  8. Work to please yourself, trust your own voice.  Nurture your own voice.
  9. Don't talk about it, unless you have exhausted your insight.
  10. Don't answer the phone.  Forget what else you think you should be doing, within reason.
  11. Know what turns you on.  For the writer, in may be silence, for the painter, it may be music, for the musician, it may be visual.  Know your self.
  12. If new ideas come while tuned into your muse, make a note, but stay with the first idea.
  13. Feel the fear, and do it anyway.
  14. Give yourself the gift of selfishness.  Art required intimate understanding of your inner world. It requires total commitment and immersion while one is creating.  Respect it. 
  15. Last, there are no rules.


  1. As a songwriter, I stumbled head-first into many of these chosen inner rules to avoid staying in the box or missing the moment. One in particular always gets me. A song only comes once. When inspiration collides with the right chemical blend of emotion, experience, focus, exhaustion, emptiness, and humility...a song is born. I can't formulate it, duplcate it, or revisit it. But i can stifle it if I allow distractions to dilute the precious chemical reaction. I have learned to drop everything (within reason) and allow those reactions to fully develop whenever and wherever they happen. Because only in this do I feel most alive and most close to those and that which I love.

  2. Hi Joanne, I'm glad to find your blog. You're a source of inspiration , a great and wonderful artist. All the best for you!

  3. Joanne, Thank you for articulating your rules for attracting a muse. Anyone with a passion for art accepts that there is a spiritual component here. I recently heard an artist I admire say that when he feels a hint of concern or even embarrassment about an idea, that is often where he finds his greatest creativity (his muse?). I try to remember that when I am trust my own instincts (muse). Regards.

  4. Very colorful, evocative work. I like the ones I've seen, and the case for the muse I relate to. As a writer and poet, she drops into my dreams on occasion, planting seeds of poems that can take months to gestate.
    I have a poetry site as well as the journal site.
    I've enjoyed my visit to your Living of Art.

  5. I recommend visiting Linda's blog Sagewind Voices to read an exquisitely written Night Muse.

  6. Loved the thong, and your rules for courting a muse.

  7. Hi Joanne,

    Thanks for the 15 'rules' - exactly what I needed to hear today!

    Someone once said that the artist's job is to take care of the quantity and the muse's job is to take care of the quality.

    I find that very heartening - especially when my muse seems to have run away from home (usually because I've been arguing with her).

    Thanks again,
    Gail Sauter

  8. Joanne, glad you're in the blogosphere--what a welcome addition. I came to your blog from Sheila Vaughn's message board. Love your rules for attracting a muse. Happy painting, happy blogging!

  9. Hi Joanne: I've visited your blog before, but only briefly:) This posting caught my eye. Your list is very inspiring. It's funny how you learn something one day, then forget it soon after (unless you apply it on a daily basis.) So, when something jumps out at me, I know I needed to read/hear it. By the way, I lived in Paso Robles when I was a very little girl. Many lifetimes ago. I didn't think anyone else did:)

    Be well.