How to Feed the Muse
Three methods that have permeated the lives of the most creative writers and artists.
Creativity is not about anything specific. But if there is something that prepares the ground so that it can flourish it is the condition in which we live. Our daily life is, let us say, the petri dish of our imagination. If we are therefore surrounded by the appropriate references, in the same way that a child is surrounded by its choice of fantasies, it is natural that we would tune into them. Arvo Pärt said something interesting regarding this: “the advice and the methods to foment creativity proliferate so much because they have such a valuable end: they help us to be ourselves, more genuine than we would be if we didn’t let ourselves explore that creative part. And we all have it.”
But yes, the muse must be fed. A precise balance must be drawn between all the information that we consume, because the simple fact of choosing between which sensibilities and references we use for our lives makes us part of them. Information inhabits us like a ghost that haunts a house.
Each artist has ‘discovered’ their own method (or anti-method, as the case may be) and the majority have shared it with the world. But among them there are those that recur. These three activities appear to work well without discrimination. So, in order to surround ourselves with things that inspire us, we also have to practice what is tried and tested by time. We recommend the following three activities:
The cut-up technique, used by the likes of William Burroughs, Bob Dylan and David Bowie, consists of taking a written text and editing it to your fancy. Deconstructing a text, irrespective of what it is about, via the random cutting up of words and forming new statements. The motor of this process is chaotic, almost surrealist, intuition, in which a work becomes another.
Thoreau believed that a morning walk was the best way of preparing one for work. This, added to the creative delights of getting up early, generates an imminent change in our perception of the world. One that is cleaner and fresher, and that prepares the ground for creation. One of the things that we can ask ourselves while we take a morning walk is “what would happen if…?” This speculation is the start of great stories, and one of the methods that the great Neil Gaiman uses to write his novels.
Ray Bradbury and Susan Sontag used to make lists. The former His method was to put down on paper the nouns that his brain used and then, by free association, put together a jigsaw that would make a story. Sontag, for her part, drew up lists of her “favorite things” and then added why they were her favorites. The flow of these lists should be as unconscious as possible. A kind of unarticulated automatic writing that ends up forming a marvelous monster of all its parts.
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