Dancing with the muse

Plus some scenes from around the studio.

Dancing with The Muse: Finding our creative genius

I spent most of the weekend in the studio – painting, writing, creating. Completely engrossed in the paintings and projects before me. Flowing between paintings and projects and journaling and enquiry.

Not every weekend is like this, though I wish it was! Not every painting session goes so beautifully. And that got me to wondering.

Where do our ideas come from?

I was listening to one of Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talks last week, where she spoke on a similar topic. On artists and writers and creatives and the pressure they feel when it comes to finding their creative ideas. Their creative genius.

After the mega success of her memoir Eat, Pray, Love, Gilbert went looking for models and ideas that different cultures and societies use to help creatives manage the inherent emotional risks of creativity.

And what she found was that:

“People believed that creativity was this divine attendant spirit that came to human beings from some distant and unknowable source, for distant and unknowable reasons. The Greeks famously called these divine attendant spirits of creativity “daemons.” Socrates, famously, believed that he had a daemon who spoke wisdom to him from afar.

The Romans had the same idea, but they called that sort of disembodied creative spirit a genius. Which is great, because the Romans did not actually think that a genius was a particularly clever individual. They believed that a genius was this, sort of magical divine entity, who was believed to literally live in the walls of an artist’s studio, kind of like Dobby the house elf, and who would come out and sort of invisibly assist the artist with their work and would shape the outcome of that work.” (Source: Ted.com)

This is an idea she’s alluded to in Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear as well. And it’s an idea that does seem to make a lot of sense, you know?

Click on the image to view the story 😉

Dancing with The Muse

Think about it. As creatives, most of us do believe in The Muse. Writers and singers often wait for inspiration from their muse, artists find their muse in people and places.

All of these are outside of the self – outside of the artist. A person or a place that inspires the artist to pick up her paints and create; an idea that seems to come into our head, fully formed, and if we aren’t quick enough to catch it, disappears like the mists of Avalon.

I should know. It’s happened to me more times than I can count. Fully formed paragraphs of luminous beauty that disappear if I’m not quick enough to catch them.

So why, then, do we put all the pressure of creativity on ourselves?

Maybe all that we need to do is show up. To put butt in chair and work. Some days will be disastrous. Some days we may wrangle something beautiful. And then, one day, our genius….our Muse…our daemon….may catch us while we are working, and we may dance together!

Have you ever danced with The Muse?

Posted in On My Art Table.

I’m an artist and art educator, podcaster, tarot reader, and writer. I share my discoveries along the path to inspire you to live a more creative, soul-centered life. Receive my love letters for more of my musings on life and creativity. P.S. I love Instagram - join me there?


  1. Absolutely, Shinjini. I agree with you, word for word. I trust that process of showing up, unfailingly. I also trust the process of creating something, be it writing or art, and the belief that drives us all from self-doubt to contentment when we’re done with whatever we’ve been working at, for days or weeks or months.

    In my case, most days are meant for learning through mistakes, self-doubts and experimentations. That smug sense of satisfaction is saved for the rarest of rare days when things do work and fall in place. 🙂

    • Yes! Actually showing up everyday – or almost everyday – is when the real magic of creativity has a chance to unfold and transform your life also, in so many ways!

  2. As a poet I know one thing for sure – no poetry appears in front of me when I constantly doubt my creative process. Sometimes it appears when I wash dishes. But it came to me consistently when I sat in front of my journal with the intention of writing. Of course, I struggled on some days. I wrote bad poetry on most days. On some days, I was rewarded with better ones too. Showing up is what matters in the long run. Dacning with the muse what a fabulous notion! I hear the footsteps of a poem somewhere there. Thanks Shinj! 🧡🧡

    • Yes – putting butt in chair regularly is what is important. Some days creativity flows, other days its a struggle, and then there are those rare days when the angels seem to sing! But if we don’t show up regularly, the angels will go elsewhere 😉 And if you do write (and share) a poem inspired by the title of the post, do tag me – would love to read it!

  3. I am yet to find my muse. I think when we become consistent with our work and have reached a point where we have passed the “basic” stage , we automatically start improvising and improving. I guess it does take a muse for the ideas to keep flowing and the work to progress well.

    • I do think it does! I know there are times when ideas just come fully formed in my head, and if I don’t catch them, they disappear. I do think the muse comes visiting when we are still in the basic stage too; we probably just don’t recognize her. 😉

  4. I think that I have an imp. A mischievous little imp with no real work ethic. Nothing so lofty as a “Muse,” but when he’s in a playful mood, it all clicks. If I try to tell him what to do, he shuffles around on my mental “stage” and acts as wooden and boring as he possibly can. If I apply butt to chair – if I SHOW UP – and just let him dictate, it works. Most of the time. 😉

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