Recently I’ve been encouraged to get in contact with my Muse – to discover the way she speaks to me, in what language, and what she has to say. In the process of doing this, I’ve made an astonishing discovery.
Years ago, I decided to ‘stop writing until I knew something about life’. Directly after this decision, in the same few days, I was compulsed to write, with my left hand in tiny, tiny writing, (I’m a right hander by nature), “I’m small and very, very smart”. Indeed.
Shortly after this, I developed a compulsive inner voice. It led me on a merry dance.
My Muse was not happy about being silenced – and reasonably so. I had for the previous three years pursued my writing and knew that it was my vocational calling. (My mum gave me a Parker pen and a dictionary for my 8th birthday. I think it was pretty clear for a long time.) I had a writing desk set up, I was sending stuff out. I was even thinking in tax terms. My life was a mess, personally, but I was writing. And then I just QUIT. So.
She devised methods to show herself to me.
(I have never until now, correctly attributed the following behaviours, feelings or events to a supressed and angry muse, but in hind sight, I’m gob smacked.)
She had me physically compulsed to do things, like cross street crossings 20 metres apart like I was walking around and around the block. In broad daylight, on a work day, lunch time. She had me spinning like a dervish under the moon. My dog and I trawled the streets and parks and shore line of my home town together, following her inner compulsions to “Walk here!”, “Go there!”, “Pick this up!”, “Go swimming!”, “Say this!”, and so on. She was never polite – there was always the imperative command of “NOW!” and the threat of “Or else…” attached to what she ‘suggested’.
She even tried to convince me once that I could breathe underwater – that one did not override my common sense. It wasn’t a suicidal urge. It was just an urge. My whole life was run by urges.
Around this time I also started drawing (I always thought I couldn’t draw). I worked a lot as an artist model. I pursued acting and performance and danced. I joined a band, I learnt to play guitar a little, I took singing lessons. Somehow though, none of it generated any passion in me, although I was dedicated, and did modestly well.
For a short while, I moved out to the suburbs, stopped all performing and art, and just allowed myself to write. It coincided with a particularly bad personal patch, where my emotional world just crashed around me. I had privacy and space to crumble. I’m reminded here of that Christian quote or story where a person complains to Christ that there’s a point on the beach where there’s only one set of footprints, and asks why he was abandoned. My Muse too, was carrying me.
Then I moved again and threw myself back into acting. I got myself a studio, tried out for things, worked – and she turned up the gears.
Now she actually forced me to write – stream of consciousness and also poetry. One time, I was dragged by her into my favourite cafe to sit down (and shut up), while she scrawled out a poem called “I’m tired of waiting”. Ironically, the last line of the poem is “And for fuck’s sake, there must be more moments when I am alive.” I don’t think a muse can speak any clearer than that.
And yet I bumbled along, depressed, a bit mad, not knowing how to ‘fix me’, not connecting with my creativity, even though my life was a continuous stream of creativity and there was some writing going on.
Then I decided to get my life really in order. I moved to a bigger city. I went to uni to study performance – I made my own show to graduate, the whole shebang. My muse showed up this time, as a mermaid.
I felt her overwhelming grief at being misunderstood, at being ignored. I played her physically on stage. She even sang through me in her voice, the haunting, wordless, high voice of a siren. I felt her longing every single waking moment of my life, and still, I didn’t see her. I thought I was pining for love.
In the four years I was in Melbourne, I wrote two poems, and little else other than stuff I generated for uni. At the end of my degree, I graduated with a flatness inside that I couldn’t find any relief for. I haven’t performed since. That was nearly seven years ago.
A few weeks after I finished my degree I found a lump in my breast and discovered that I had early breast cancer. Sometimes life just needs to kick you in the pants when you are too overwhelmingly stupid to see the warning signs. I had pushed my Muse so far away from what she loved to do that in order to survive she had to conspire with my body.
I stopped all extraneous creativity.
I undertook medical treatment and had to trust people with my body that I never would have before. I faced how lonely my life really was. I stopped distracting myself with useless and soul sapping love affairs.
I stopped running away. I stopped chasing illusions.
It took about a year to wake up to her. I moved out of the city to a place that my Muse loves, where she told me to go. I let myself swim in the ocean and walk barefoot in wild forest. It all fell away. For the first time in years, too many years, I felt genuinely happy, every day. I met and fell in love with the man who is now my husband.
And then the poems started flowing again. A thin stream of life, a soft trickle of what my Muse needed to say. It’s beautiful. She loves Life. She loves to celebrate what’s alive and good.
I told myself, “Ok, now, it’s time to write. You know enough now”. Thirteen years after I told my muse to shut up, I finally, formally, told her she could talk again.
I gave myself full permission to find out what my passion in life was, starting with allowing myself to take time out, to experience life without domestic distractions. I went to see the world, to follow love, and to be me.
I have a lot of making up to do. She has had ideas but I have had no idea how to develop them, how to ask the right questions. I’m learning. I have to wait, and listen, and look without expecting, until she realises that I’m waiting on her.
When she comes, I have to wade into the shallows to her, to show her that I’m willing to dive down deep, to see this wonderful ocean of ours, all the treasures of the deep seas of our mind. She’s a mermaid. She lives under the sea.
40 miles out to sea, I see, I see – I see a new direction through the waves.
She’s powerful and I trust what she knows.
It’s time to follow my calling.