Oh Muse, Where Art Thou?

Photo courtesy Nicole N

Inspiration.

Imagination.

Creativity.

All three are words attributed to the occasionally elusive creature called the Muse.

While us artist-types rely on the Muse to inspire our current artistic endeavors, we aren’t the only people with muses.  Everyone has creativity, and needs creativity to solve problems.

Through the creative process, we move through the mundane to come up with unique and original ideas.  We use this process every day, from when we determine an alternate route when our traditional route to work is blocked, to deciding what to have for dinner.

How creative we are is influenced by our intelligence, memory, personality, attitude, mental health, and physical health, among others.  While some of these factors are beyond our control, many of them aren’t.  By altering those over which we have control, we can sharpen and develop our creativity.  We can grow our muses.

Exercise

Exercise is one of the fastest ways to influence creativity, for several reasons.  First, exercise decreases the effects of stress by releasing endorphins which positively affect our mental health.  Positive mental health leads to a positive attitude.  A positive attitude leads to increased mental flexibility, which makes it easier to be creative.

Exercise improves every aspect of cognition, including creativity.  There is something about activating the right side of the brain that enhances creativity, and instead of trying to explain it, I’m giving you the link to a fascinating article about it here.

Work on Your Working Memory

Working memory is also called short-term memory.  It is the part of our brain that stores information for short periods of time so that we can manipulate the information to understand and reason what we saw, learned, etc…  Exercising your brain, whether through brain games, chess, word puzzles, etc… you can increase your working memory.

Become a Brainstorming Genius

In the article “How to Get Mindpopping Ideas,”  Michael Michalko likens creativity to the universe, and creative ideas to the subatomic particles found throughout.   He gives three ways to harvest all those millions of ideas and thoughts while brainstorming.

Photo by Free Digital Photos

Observe and record each thought as a possibility.  The key word here is observe.  Don’t place judgment or value to anything your subconscious brain puts forth.  When we judge the value of our thoughts, we snuff out creativity.

Become inclusive.  When brainstorming, accept every thought as important and potentially valuable, no matter how crazy or random it seems. Creativity is the combining of elements in new and unusual ways.

Keep a written record.  Writing down our thoughts and ideas moves them into long-term memory.  Even if we aren’t consciously thinking of the idea, our subconscious is, and will create more and more ideas.

What are some ways you increase communication with your muse?

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29 responses to “Oh Muse, Where Art Thou?

  1. Hey Lara,

    Another great and interesting post, but you do worry me on one point… IF “how creative we are is influenced by our intelligence…” I am in SO. Much. Trouble 😉

  2. I had a case of “EEE!, I do that!” self-indulgent behavior until I got to your third point. I always envisioned brain storming as a team sport; something done with a minimum of two players hashing out a problem.

    I have to reinvent my visual. My brain is one team member, my hands a second. Our workout gear requires a pen and paper. So many whirling dervish ideas storm through my brain. I have full sentences and visuals when I think of them. Then, poof, they’re gone when I need them. Most often, this happens with blog ideas.

    Your fellow LLC member, Sherry, can attest to the number of wonky humor-inducing ideas we’ve shared on chat that have not yet made it to the net.

    Donald Maass in Writing the Breakout Novel recommends a similar strategy for plot and character development. Make a list of 10 (20?) things your character would not do. Then, pick the last one listed and make them do it.

    Thanks for the links, Lara.

    • Thanks for commenting, Gloria! I can’t remember if it is in one of the posts I linked to, or another I read, but the article talked about if brainstorming as a group is better than brainstorming individually. Interestingly enough, they found that people who brainstormed individually came up with similar and as many ideas as brainstorming groups!

      I love lists for encouraging creativity. There is a book about brainstorming a novel, or something like that, and the author suggests just like Donald Maass. Write a long list to come up with creative solutions to writing problems. The longer the list the better, because writing a long list takes us out of the mundane!

  3. Good points, Lara. Exercise definitely increases productivity. It induces naps, which create dreams – and they can be very creative. Not necessarily helpful, but creative.

    • I wish I was one of those people whose dreams inspired a bestseller! I do dream in color, and remember my dreams, but they’re usually so bizarre and/or mundane that they are not terribly inspiring. I like naps, though!

  4. Hey, Lara. I don’t believe in the whimsical, flighty, elusive muse. I believe in the muse more as you write about her (him?). Creativity is work, like anything else. If mathematicians waited for the formula to come to them instead of pounding it out on the chalkboard, we’d still be living in the stone age.

    Yes, I have big, ugly Fred Flintstone feet, but I like indoor plumbing and internet.

    • Long live indoor plumbing!! 😉

      I am uncomfortable with the whimsical muse myself, but then the superstitious part of me gets all nervous when I relegate that creative creature to a controllable personality trait! My dual nature at work, I guess!

      I am convinced that the muse is more scheduled than we all think, though. 😉

  5. karenselliott

    After a good long walk, I usually do feel inspired. A good time to sit down and write is after a brisk walk. I jot down every little idea I have, on whatever is available! Instead of taking my laptop with me when I go out, I take a tablet and a pen – I often write pages and pages! A different medium can spark imagination.

    • That’s a great technique! After reading the article about “write it all down,” I decided I need to pay better attention to all those little, wispy thoughts that cross through my mind. The only problem is that I think all the time – it’s very noisy in my head.

  6. Physical activity helps me get my conscious mind out of the way and allows my subconscious to go to work. This is where my best ideas hide. Brainstorming is how I start every writing project otherwise I have writer’s block and can’t come up with anything.

    You and I are definitely of a mind on this, Lara. Thanks for sharing.

    • I loved running on my treadmill, because I’d get into the rhythm of running and my mind could just roam where it wanted to. Now I don’t run anymore, but I’m thinking about making walking a habit every day before writing!

  7. I’m with Karen. I am more creative and more focused with a pen and paper than I am with my laptop. And even if I’m writing inside, I try as much as possible to sit by a window. Something about nature really does help clear the mind…and the trees don’t judge me when I talk to myself. 😉

    • I wonder if the physical act of writing with pen and paper trigger the right side of the brain, which stimulates creativity? Also, another article I read said that spending time in front of a “screen” inhibits creativity.

      I have noticed that writing with pen and paper slows me down, which helps me keep my thoughts in check. I sometimes trip over myself when I write on the computer, and end up resorting to a pad and paper to get my thoughts sorted out.

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  9. Daydreaming and brainstorming with my husband sparks my imagination. I had never thought of myself as imaginative until I met him. My lifestyle changed completely and I think those changes were responsible for my new found creative thoughts. Great post, Lara!

  10. Stacy S. Jensen

    Lara, Great post! When I worked on my vomit draft of my manuscript, I found it best to open my manuscript file first — no emails, no Twitter, no Facebook, no other blogs. This way, I poured my energy into my story. Once I exhausted that, I turned to comments, responses and posts.

    • I need to focus like that! I often let myself avoid getting started by responding to e-mail, checking facebook, etc… While it’s important to maintain a web presence, what is really important is to actually write!

  11. Lara, very nice job on thois post. You toughed upon one of the most important principles which I live by, daily. That is: the power of observation. Rather than throwing ourselves in the mix, learning to observe the beauty of this world will plunge us deep into the rainbow caves of creativity.

  12. Good job, Lara. I never thought of myself as creative until I realized I was playing a game of semantics. Long story but once I got over my negative feelings about the word, all sorts of wondrous things in my life meet that definition and leave me knowing how creative I am. I love artist’s dates and morning pages (when I do them) for tugging loose my creative process.

  13. Awesome tips on brainstorming. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  14. Love this! This is very timely for me. A few weeks ago, my muse felt in top form but recently she’s been a little sluggish. Going to give these ideas try.

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