Muse: Drawing Inspiration

It’s a vocab lesson this week, folks. ūüėČ

Muse v. to think about something in a deep and serious or dreamy and abstracted way; to say something in a thoughtful or questioning way; to gaze at somebody or something thoughtfully or abstractedly.

Muse n. someone who is a source of inspiration for an artist, especially a poet; the inspiration that supposedly visits, leaves, and suggests things to an artist, especially a poet; the particular gift or talent of an artist.

The concept of muse originates in Greek mythology.¬† The muses were the nine daughters of Zeus and the goddess of memory, Mnemosyne: Calliope, muse of epic poetry; Clio, muse of history; Erato, muse of tragedy; Polyhymnia, muse of sacred poetry (yes, that’s where we get our word “hymn”); Terpsichore, muse of dance; Thalia, muse of comedy; and Urania, muse of astronomy. Clearly, muse has been associated with art from the beginning (or very close to the beginning). Through the ages, it has come to be known as an artist’s inspiration, and now holds connotations of deep thought, meditation, and reflection.

Muse is what we as artists are dwelling on as we create.  Muse can take the form of another artist, a piece of art, a lover or love affair, a life circumstance, or any combination of these.  Muse can be ever-changing or perpetually-constant.  Regardless of the form it takes, muse represents the deep connection on the part of the artist to who or what is being thought about.

Muse is personal, perhaps even private to some.  You can see the product of muse and the artist in the art, but you may never know what is behind the art.

Many times the¬†muse relationship¬†fluctuates through auras of painful and joyful. I can think of about twenty break-up songs that illustrate the painful side of muse: a relationship that once caused happiness has been shattered, and the artist draws from that experience.¬†Gotye’s Somebody That I Used To Know is in between on the muse front:¬†it’s good that the¬†romantic relationship is over, but when the friendship and civility disappear, it’s painful.¬†In sheer joy, a poet can exclaim, “My heart is overflowing with a good theme; I recite my composition concerning the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer” (Psalm 45). In Psalm 45, dwelling on God inspires art of praise. Muse can dictate the outcome of art.

Artists should be inspired by the pain and joy in their relationships and circumstances. The art this produces resonates with art-observers. But if the fluctuations of life are all there is to our art, I am afraid it will be detrimental to us as artists. Think about it: if I look only to myself and my experiences, what happens when there is nothing left to draw from? What if my art only ever reflects my feelings and my circumstances? Emptiness is the product of self-centered and victimized (others-centered, circumstance-centered) muse. (Trust me).

I write poetry (although I would not call myself a poet). When I was around fifteen or sixteen, I wrote a poem called Journey to Nowhere.¬† It reflects much of the emptiness and nothingness I felt at the time. I was pretty much numb to life. My muse was nothing tangible, just an enemy I’d wrestled with (and still wrestle with sometimes) – but an enemy I’d kept close. That was undoubtedly one of the darkest periods of my life.¬†¬†I’ve never shared¬†the poem¬†with anyone, and I’m not planning on sharing it now, but I do keep it around.

I was lacking something when my art was dictated only by feelings, circumstances, relationships. I had no personal relationship with God or His Son Jesus, and had wrong conceptions of Him. My God-view affects my world-view and art-view, and believe me, how you view God also affects you and your art. 

I recently wrote another poem. (I should qualify that I have written many poems during the interim). It’s about how I view myself, and God’s answers to my views – how He views me. It stems from things God has been growing me in since the beginning of my senior year in college. It deals with painful things, it asks hard questions. While I still have an imperfect view of God, dwelling on Him and how He sees me based on His Word, sets this poem volumes apart from Journey to Nowhere.

When writing it, I was not necessarily dwelling on my feelings, circumstances, and relationships, but I acknowledged them. They’re important. More important, however, is what God has done and is doing through these feelings, circumstances, and relationships. In order for my art to have right perspective, He has to come first in the muse process.

So my challenge is to artists. Will you think about what you’re thinking about when creating art this week? I mean, seriously engage. What is it that’s fueling your creativity?

***

Lydia holds a Bachelor of Arts in Radio, Television, and Film. She is also a prolific writer and the facilitator of FortyOne20 Ministries. She desires to see artists come to know Jesus and be as artists committed to knowing Jesus and making Him known through art.

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2 Comments to “Muse: Drawing Inspiration”

  1. Thank you for commenting and following. I definitely understand what you’re saying. Unfortunately, self-inspiration (which is rooted in humanism) is the direction many arts programs are directing students towards. It’s easy to get caught up in that identity which says the artist finds him-or-herself in what he or she creates. Certainly listening to others and ministering to them through art is important, and that comes from a right relationship with Jesus. (Lydia)

  2. I used to stress over my creative inspiration, I felt I had to create my own inspiration to create an ultimate visual product, cycling back to finding inspiration to inspire my inspiration! Quite the dilemma. What I’ve realized is I had my focus off, I do not create in order to inspire myself, I create to inspire others. Now I listen to people more than myself, the stories and questions of friends and strangers inspire my creativity to create something that speaks to them or their situation. In return, I am inspired to create more by their response to my work.

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