A Well-Tended Muse

Did you know I have not one muse, but several?!?

Okay, why are we talking about muses?

It’s because I get stressed about all the fun things I can do with my life. Sometimes it’s overwhelming, you know?

I’m writing poetry, learning to play the ukulele, cooking, baking, doing preschool science experiments, gardening, planning an epic, layered-rug configuration for my bedroom floor, and I love all of these things. But I’m also writing a book and I try to show up here on the blog with regularity and I work and I’m a mom and often it feels like there are not enough hours in the day.

This is how muses came on the scene. 

You see, I was talking to my therapist about how I get noise in my head that I’m not giving enough attention to each thing. It gets really heavy sometimes.

Barbara, in her brilliance, informed me that I have several muses. (Muses are the 9 goddesses of the arts and sciences, who are tasked with providing humans with inspiration for their given theme.)

“One for poetry, one for music, one for visual art, one for cooking, one for writing…” et cetera, et cetera! And they are like kids, where they get a little jealous when you spend more time with one of the siblings. “But you just have to learn how to talk to them, so they know you love them and will make time for them,” she said. 

At first this felt like relief. Okay, I’m not a bad parent to my muses, I just can’t dedicate myself to all of them simultaneously. But as I’ve thought about it more, it’s morphed into this really fun thing.  

Liz Gilbert writes about muses in Big Magic. She explains that often our muses are standing in the corner, waiting for us to sober up, wake up, clean up and get back to work. Inspiration isn’t being stingy with us, rather WE are the ones who are stingy with inspiration. And the basic premise of her book is that the healthiest life for you, is the life that will produce the most creative existence. So take care of yourself in all the ways and treat your muse like a hot date. Put on make up, wear something nice, eat a good meal and get busy with creativity. 

Ever since that little insight, I have been having so much fun with my sweetheart muses.  I would add that there is one for motherhood, one for work, one for housework—all of those kinds of things too, because those things, though they are less self-indulgent, still require inspiration and enthusiasm—or at least they are SOOOO much more fun that way. 

So, I have this little family of muses around me excited to engage with me! And I’ve been thinking about what they like. What they don’t like. What are their favorite foods, activities, times of day? What’s the best way to hang out? Where do they like to go? And here’s what I’ve got so far:

Poetry Muse: 

Likes nighttime, sometimes early morning too. She’s sexy and fun and laughs a lot. She can get into those intense brooding moods too. She likes nature, likes alcohol. And caffeine—I remembered this because one of my most prolific episodes as a poet occurred when I was camping with my family as a teenager. I drank a Coke with dinner and laid awake with my sleeping sisters in the tent until the middle of the night writing poem after poem. They were completely silly—but I remember that night all these years later—and that’s significant.

Music Muse: 

This muse is responsible for dancing and singing and playing musical instruments. She likes freedom. I think the best gift I gave her was the years I spent studying piano, not because I became a ridiculously mediocre pianist, but I gave her a way to express herself. Leaning into playing by chords came so naturally to her. And now if I can train my fingers to crimp around that tiny ukulele neck, she will have another medium to work in. Music muse works more for the joy of the experience than my others. She is less concerned about perfection. More about the experience. How does it FEEL to dance and play and sing? That’s much more important to her than the executed product. 

Work Muse: 

Likes caffeine. She does her best in the morning and everything kind of falls off after that. She lives for feeling competent and does not like being told what to do unless she asks.  She’s like a well-functioning assembly line. Yes to productivity and efficiency and effectiveness! She hates waste, likes big ideas. She hates getting bogged down with details unless she is moving through them like an assassin. 

Mother Muse: 

She loves home because it’s the best place to relax and putter. She likes the presence of child and little dog. She sounds like happy playing, dancing in the kitchen, food on the stove, clean laundry in the dryer. She likes to say yes and talking about important things, like first crushes and big feelings and airplanes. She wants kisses and cuddles and teeth brushed and toys picked up.

Visual Art Muse:

She’s got eyes! Inspired by faces, color, simple lines. Willing to experiment. She has taste. She lives for the flow state. Which seems to occur most often when seated at a table with some music, paper and color. She likes working alongside of friends. She likes challenge.

Cooking Muse:

Says, “I can do that.” She’s got a lot of confidence because she got used a lot in my last decade of life. So she’s in a kind of semi retirement. I’m happy to see her when she’s here. I’m equally happy to give her the night off and order take out. Same goes for my crafting, sewing, knitting muse.

Garden Muse:

Likes pretty flowers, soil, cool, shady vibes, power tools and big-idea thinking. Hates weeding (my neighbors are like…uh yeah—can you do something about that?). Hates getting poked by thorns. She reminds me of my mama (who just became jealous the other day when I told her about all the good weeding I have to do!).

Okay! so you get the idea and now you can go make your own list of muses. But not because it will make you more efficient or proficient. This is about fun! This is a tool for when hobbies feel heavy. Please don’t belabor them with things like efficiency. 

Once you know your muses, then you get to enjoy them. For some reason it’s easier to care for external creatures than it is for myself, so here’s how I look at it:

I get to hang out with these awesome muses. I take them shopping, we get food, we exercise, we watch TV in addition to all of the things I listed above. 

It’s completely lightened up the responsibility I take very seriously, to live an extraordinary life.

I have helpers.

I take care of them and they take care of me.

This is the beauty of a well-tended muse.