Over the years, I have made a lot of excuses for not creating more—my muse not aligning with my window of time to create being one of them. While I absolutely believe in the inspiration of a spontaneous and whimsical muse, I have come to realize that a muse can also be cultivated authentically.
Given that my primary and focused intention for 2018 is to invest in my creative vision, I thought it might be helpful for me—and hopefully you—to curate a list of ways to find creative inspiration.
- Travel somewhere that will inspire your inner artist. Some places will ignite more introspection while others will encourage more creation. Both are beneficial to our creative practice. And since our memory of the details is often ephemeral, be sure to keep a travel journal so you can continue to be inspired by your experience long after returning home. Of all the cities I visited in Europe during my recent travels, I was most inspired by Milan and Venice. Every corner of these cities was magical to me—Milan with its sophisticated fashion, design, and culture, and Venice with its winding corridors, foggy mornings, and storybook buildings.
- Visit an art museum, gallery, fair, or walk. By viewing the work of others, we naturally become inspired to develop and even experiment with our own craft. Document the works that inspire you most and keep a digital or print collection of photos to peruse when your muse is missing. Art galleries and art walks are always free; art fairs can be anywhere from free to pricey; and art museums almost always offer free days or evenings and are sometimes completely free or donation-only. If you’re a writer, you might even try an exercise in ekphrasis. Some of my favorite museums include: The Guggenheim, The Museum of Modern Art, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, The Center for Creative Photography, Phoenix Art Museum, and The Getty.
- Attend an art performance. Even if movement, drama, or music is not your creative medium, attending a performance will fuel your muse in some way. It might even encourage you to think outside the box with your own medium or consider a unique collaboration. One of the most memorable and evocative moments for me was over a decade ago when I attended Macbeth at the Seattle Opera. Everything on stage was pure white, and when Lady Macbeth began to sing about the blood on her hands, a deep red fluid slowly seeped down the walls that encompassed the stage until, by the end of the song, no white remained. There was a profound simplicity to this scene that continues to remind me of the value of essentialism in artistic expression.
- Learn about artists, art movements, or current events in the arts. Depending on your media preference, you could listen to a podcast, like The Jealous Curator or Artsy (both of which also have a written presence); watch a show, like Art21 or The Art Assignment; or read a magazine, like Art in America, ARTnews, or Creative Nonfiction. You could also read a book about an artist who inspires you or is within your medium. Or you could relax and watch a biographical or fictional movie, like Coco Before Chanel, Frida, Pollock, Midnight in Paris, Words and Pictures, Hemingway and Gellhorn, The Door in the Floor, The Words, and many more.
- Wander an art supply or stationery shop. While this can be a dangerous pastime, I have gotten better about only buying materials I will actually (rather than hopefully) use. When in Venice a couple months ago, I weaved through the corridors and campos in search of Arcobaleno Pigmenti, an authentic natural pigment shop I discovered online. The richness and earthiness of the pigments were both inspiring and grounding. And during my seven-week backpacking trip across Europe last summer, I joyfully discovered stationery shops in nearly every city and swooned over the elegant, minimalist, and contemporary designs. If I were not already a lover of handwritten letters, these stationery shops would surely have inspired my inner writer.
All too often, I have felt hopeless without the inspiration of my muse, misunderstanding that sometimes our muse is within us and sometimes it just needs a little nudge.
How do you cultivate your muse?