There is a Picasso quote that says, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how does he remain an artist once he grows up.” I’m thinking, Picasso had the right idea!
As children, creativity just seemed to ooze from us—and well, naps and snacks didn’t hurt either. We felt free to explore color, sound, and expression. But as we grew older, the weight of the world and navigating the issues of the day seemed to move us further and further from our source of creativity.
So why is this concept of creativity so important?
For me, being tapped into my creativity—my muse—allows me to see things differently, apply improvisation as I navigate my day, and generally helps me to consider different ways of doing things. My muse is music. When I make room for it, it energizes me, frees me, and gives me a vehicle to express myself freely. You want to know what I believe, what’s important to me, or how I feel—just “listen” to my songs’ lyrics.
And what does the term “muse” mean anyway?
In Greek mythology, it’s written that Zeus fathered nine daughters with the Goddess Mnemosyne (pronounced: “Nem-Mo-Zine”). The Greeks believed that these nine daughters—known as the Nine Muses, presided over all artistic creativity and were known as the goddesses of artistic expression.
Today though, the term “muse” refers to that thing that sparks your creativity. It’s that place where you can be your true self. It’s that one thing that lifts you or inspires you. It could be a person, a place, or a thing. For you, it could be music—like it is for me, or puzzles—like it is for my wife Roz, or a place—like a beach or even a simple quote! But be warned, it will also challenge you and nag at you when you ignore it for too long, and it will want to engage you at times when you don’t feel like it. But in the end, however, it’s all for something beautiful. There is not a more satisfying feeling when someone says to me, “Man Wil, your lyrics in that song moved me or spoke to me.” It’s like right at that moment; you know you are doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing!
How do you find your muse?
I truly believe that in each of us, we possess a creative gift. It’s just a matter of finding it and tapping into it. For some, it might come easy and early on in life, but it is a struggle for others and may not show up until later in life.
While growing up, music seemed to be ever-present in my life. From the humming of my mother while she was doing daily tasks, to the visits from my Uncle George who traveled the east coast performing with his gospel singing group, or even my mischievous acts of sneaking and listening for hours to my older brother’s vinyl records – music just struck a chord in me. But as I started to lean into it in junior high school, sports took charge and became what I thought was my muse. It would not be until after graduating from college that I rediscovered music and fully leaned into it by joining my church choir.
For you, I would suggest doing a little self-evaluation if you haven’t quite yet found your muse. What inspires you, what’s important to you, what makes you feel alive? Or perhaps you could reflect on your past and the times when you felt energized, empowered, or simply your authentic self. My guess is that once you do, you’ll find evidence that your muse was right there all along.
How do you honor your muse?
Once I discovered music was the framework for my creativity, I had to learn to honor it. I had to learn to recognize when it was calling me. There were times I would have very vivid dreams of performing songs or hearing songs in a dream only to realize later it was my muse using my subconscious mind to push through. Or as I’m going about my day and I hear a song, a phrase, or a thought that moves, I’ve learned to take the time to jot it down and revisit it later. The key is to give your creativity room to breathe and permit it to show up when it needs to.
I’m reminded of the story of how my song “Live A Life of Love” came about. As my wife and I were unpacking in our new home in early December 2020, I came across a porcelain cross with the inscription, “Live | Life | Love,” and underneath that, it read, “Ephesians 5:2,” which is a biblical scripture. It was a piece that we’ve had on our wall for about 10-15 years, but I hadn’t paid much attention to it previously. But with all the social unrest happening around the country, and I was in a place thinking about songs for my “Covid Chronicles 2” record, that “Live | Life | Love” expression struck a chord with me. I paused our unpacking, went in my office, and jotted down the phrase and a few other ideas for a song, and it ended up being a fantastic song that will be on the record when it’s released later this summer. The lyrics evolved to, “We need to live a life of love. Because hate is a burden that’s just too great to bear. If we could all just learn to love each other for what each has inside; What a day, oh what a day…that would be.”
Creativity is critical to living a whole and well-rounded life. I know… I’m a living witness. It can initiate different ways of thinking, disrupt old habits of doing things, and connect to our true selves. But that gift—that muse—must be honored and cultivated. When appropriately engaged, beautiful stories are written and told, and innovative ideas can be realized. In the end, it’s not just good for us as individuals, but it’s good for all, as the ideas and concepts put forward possess the power to heal, inspire, and even motivate others to find their muse!