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Working and would-be writers, photographers, painters, journal keepers, sculptors, musicians, poets, and creative folk in every field will find inspiration and practical suggestions in this joyous book. This complete course in creative expression is based on Jan Phillips' smash "Marry Your Muse" workshops, and was chosen a Ben Franklin Award gold medal winner for 1997.
In Part One, the stirring affirmations of The Artist's Creed empower us to become more confident and productive. In Part Two, anecdotes, photographs, quotations to ponder, fun and effective exercises help us discover a deep and satisfying form of self-expression. In Part Three, the heartful stories of working artists inspire us to fall in love with the artist within
Committing to the Creative Journal
Whenever I talk to groups of people about creativity, they always share long lists of reasons why they aren't being as creative as they want to be. No time, no space to work in, no privacy in their lives; and deeper, more troublesome issues like feeling isolated, not believing in the value of their work, doubting their abilities in the face of rejection.
Committing to our creativity is an act of faith, a promise that we will keep at it despite our fears and failings and despite whatever obstacles we find in our paths. It is a promise to believe in ourselves, to honor the creative process, and to open our lives to the gifts of the Muse.
This section of the book is based on a prayer of commitment, "The Artist's Creed," and its intention is to keep us mindful of the sacredness of our work and the value of our creations.
The Artist's Creed
I believe I am worth the time it takes to create
whatever I feel called to create.
I believe that my work is worthy of its own space,
which is worthy of the name Sacred.
I believe that, when I enter this space, I have the right
to work in silence, uninterrupted, for as long as I choose.
I believe that the moment I open myself to the gifts of the Muse,
I open myself to the Source of All Creation
and become One with the Mother of Life Itself.
I believe that my work is joyful, useful, and constantly changing,
flowing through me like a river with no beginning and no end.
I believe that what it is I am called to do
will make itself known when I have made myself ready.
I believe that the time I spend creating my art
is as precious as the time I spend giving to others.
I believe that what truly matters in the making of art is
not what the final piece looks like or sounds like,
not what it is worth or not worth, but what newness gets added
to the universe in the process of the piece itself becoming.
I believe that I am not alone in my attempts to create,
and that once I begin the work, settle into the strangeness,
the words will take shape, the form find life, and the spirit take flight.
I believe that as the Muse gives to me,
so does she deserve from me:
faith, mindfulness, and enduring commitment.
I believe I am worth the time it takes
to create whatever I feel called to create.
You Are Worth the Time
We have a funny concept of time in this culture. We revere it as we revere money, yet we rarely spend any of it on ourselves. We complain that we can't make what time we have go around, yet day after day we spend our allotment doing things we don't really want to be doing.
As I look back on what I have written, I can see that the very persons who have taken away my time are those who have given me something to say. —Katherine Paterson
The other day I was talking with an artist whose full-time job left her little time to devote to her fine art projects. When I asked what she would like to be working on, she said she was so stressed out she couldn't even imagine what she would do if she had the time. The voice that once called her to creative work is being drowned out by the din of the daily grind, and I suspect a day will come when she forgets she ever heard it.
I couldn't find anything that truly reflected what I thought was my reality and the reality of other women my age. Since I couldn't find it, the only responsible recourse was to write some myself. —Ntozake Shange
In The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, Buddhist meditation master Sogyal Rinpoche writes of our tendency to fill up our whole lives with petty projects and never get to the real questions, like Why are we here? and What are we doing with our lives? He calls it "active laziness" and describes both Eastern and Western manifestations of it. In the East, it consists of lounging around all day in the sun, drinking tea, gossiping with friends, and listening to music blaring on the radio. In the West, he writes, it consists of "cramming our lives with compulsive activity, so that there is no time at all to confront the real issues."
Other than about the weather, at least here in the northeast, there is no complaint as constant as the one about time. It used to be that one couple could arrange a dinner date with another couple by deciding on an evening and making a single phone call. These days it's four people checking their Day-Timers, one fax after another of possible dates weeks into the future, then endless games of phone tag to nail down a designated evening.
Poetry and mysticism both derive from a common source, the ground or depth of the soul, where the Mystery of Being is experienced. —Bede Griffiths
When it comes to making time for creative projects—projects that are fun, imaginative, life affirming, mood altering, and spiritually nourishing—we are hard pressed to justify our choices. Time has become a synonym for money in this culture, and the use of it is often measured by its profit potential. If the work makes money, it is time well spent. If the work is not profitable, it is a waste of our time.
Our lives seem to live us, to possess their own bizarre momentum, to carry us away; in the end we feel we have no choice or control over them. —Sogyal Rinpoche
We have come to define ourselves by what we do to pay the bills. The question "What do you do?" generally means "How do you make your living?" It rarely has anything to do with the calling in one's heart or the time we spend on work that has nothing to do with money. In Corita Kent's book, Learning by Heart, she writes that in Balinese culture, "when you ask a person what he does, he will proudly answer that he is a mask maker or a dancer. And if you persist and ask again, No, I mean how do you get your rice? He loses interest, his voice drops, and he may turn away, deciding this is a pretty boring conversation. 'Oh that.' he will say."
Just as you began to feel that you could make good use of time, there was no time left to you. —Lisa Alther
Having been raised in a country where time equals money and profits are more safeguarded than the welfare of people, I was surprised to experience an environment where people came first. It was in southern India at a Gandhian ashram. The community was in the process of building a new barn. Eighty people had gathered to help out. We met at the edge of a stream, about a quarter of a mile from the building site. Though no one in particular issued any orders, the group quietly formed into a long line from the stream, up a hill, up a ladder against a small cliff, through a meadow and to the site of the new barn, where young women were hauling rocks on their heads for the foundation. It was monsoon season. Though it was still early morning the temperature was already 100 degrees and the air was heavy with humidity.
Our job was to pass tin bowls of sand, stones, and water from the stream to be used as mortar. From one person to the other, hand to hand, the bowls were passed along the snaking line. Hour after hot, heavy hour went by, yet not one person complained. Women wrapped in six yards of sari were giggling and gossiping as they passed the bowls effortlessly. Teenage boys, gracing the ladder on every third rung, outdid each other in showy panache. By midmorning, I was soaking wet and losing steam. At one point, I squinted into the wavy heat and scanned the landscape for signs of relief. My eyes hit on two tractors in a nearby meadow. Then I spotted two idle carts on the side of the road. Moments later, a group of ashram kids passed by leading a team of oxen to the river. It suddenly appeared ridiculous that all this people power was being used to pass bowls of mortar when the job could get done much more efficiently using oxen, tractors, and carts.
Art can only be truly art by presenting an adequate outward symbol of some fact in the interior life. —Margaret Fuller
"This is stupid!" I shouted to Nayan Bala, an English-speaking woman from Delhi who stood next to me in line. "We've got forty people here wasting a whole morning in this heat, passing buckets like there's no tomorrow. Why don't we hook up the carts to those tractors and oxen and let them do the dirty work in half the time? Don't you know time is money?"
What was any art but an effort to make a sheath, a mold in which to imprison for a moment the shining, elusive element which is life itself—life hurrying past us and running away, too strong to stop, too sweet to lose? —Willa Cather
I knew, even as those final words tumbled out of my mouth, that every one of them was a mistake, but they were traveling too fast to stop. Nayan Bala put her bucket down and walked over to my side. Gently, she put her hand on my sweaty arm and whispered in my ear, "These people are proud to be building this barn with their own hands. One day they will bring their children and grandchildren here and tell them how they helped build it, rock by rock. Perhaps you have more to learn about India if you think this is a waste of time."
To survive we must begin to know sacredness. The pace at which most of us live prevents this. —Chrystos
I was ashamed of myself, ashamed of ever buying into the time-is-money myth and ashamed of criticizing a process that was more about people than profit or time. It wasn't just India I had more to learn about. It was the whole notion of time, of the time it takes to create, and of how such time can never be wasted.
In the process of creating, time is one of the essential ingredients. If art is a result of the encounter between Muse and artist, then time is the medium of the relationship. Time is what we bring as an offering, a sign of our commitment. Without this, there is no creating.
Whatever we attempt to create, if we come to the work with the intention of producing something original, something that only we could make given who we are and what we have experienced, then we are engaging in an artistic activity that is worthy of whatever time it takes.
Making time for creative work is like making time for prayer. It is a holistic activity, involving the visible and invisible, the known and unknown. To create is to make something whole from the pieces of our lives and, in the process, to become more whole ourselves, seeing with more clarity each of those pieces, understanding where they fit, how they matter. It is a healing act, a leave-taking from the chaos as one moves from the choppy surface toward the stillness of the center.
The greatest productions of art, whether painting, music, sculpture or poetry, have invariably this quality—something approaching the work of God. —D. T. Suzuki
To be an artist it is not necessary to make a living from our creations. Nor is it necessary to have work hanging in fine museums or the praise of critics. It is not necessary that we are published or that famous people own our work. To be an artist it is necessary to live with our eyes wide open, to breathe in the colors of mountain and sky, to know the sound of leaves rustling, the smell of snow, the texture of bark. It is necessary to rub our hands all over life, to sing when and where we want, to take in every detail, and to jump when we get to the edge of the cliff. To be an artist is to notice every beautiful and tragic thing, to cry freely, to collect experience and shape it into forms that others can share.
I am a dancer. I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. In each it is the performance of a dedicated precise set of acts, physical or intellectual, from which come shape of achievement, a sense of one's being, a satisfaction of spirit. One becomes in some area an athlete of God. —Martha Graham
It is not to whine about not having time, but to be creative with every moment. To be an artist is not to wait for others to define us, but to define ourselves, claim our lives, create for love, not money. It is to know the joy of collaboration with the Muse, to become familiar with the magic of how it works: we hear a voice, feel a nudge, and start the work. We keep on, not knowing where we're going, and some clues come, and then they don't, and we keep on, and one day it is finished and we know it is ours but not ours alone, so we offer thanks and bow our heads. This is what is to be an artist.
Our cities and towns are full of poets, playwrights, composers, and painters who drive buses, work in offices, wait on tables to pay the rent. Few of us are paid much for our creative work, so we squeeze it into the hours we have left after working other jobs. We write our novels in the wee hours of the morning, work in our darkrooms through the night, write poetry on subway cars, finish essays in waiting rooms and parking lots. We rarely think of ourselves as artists, though it is our creative work that brings us to life, feeds our spirits, and sees us through the dark. We may feel alone, but we are not alone. There are hundreds, thousands in the night doing as we do, trading this sacred time for the bliss of creating.
There are a lot of things we don't have in life, but time is not one of them. Time is all we have. One lifetime under this name to produce a body of work that says, "This is how I saw the world." Your work is worthy of whatever time it takes.
I call your name.
Will you come to my side
and stir the visions that lie within?
If I offer my time, my hands,
my deepest desire
to make a thing that matters,
will you help make a whole
from the pieces I've gathered?
I long to create
but am hushed by doubt,
silenced by fear
that I haven't the wisdom or wherewithal
to bring to art what art demands.
Will you come to my side
and whisper what's true
when I forget what gifts I have to give?
When I think my words have nothing to add,
will you help me remember
what I've learned from others
who thought the same
but dared to speak?
O Muse, I need you,
I call out your name.
Will you please call mine,
call me back,
call me home.
Your name is on the breeze
blowing ever round you
and you are wrapped in the light
though your eyes are closed.
You have forgotten
and must once again remember:
the way to create
is to let what is in you
come forth as it will.
You give your time to doubt and fear
when no value comes of that.
Better to give time to the journey inward,
to that voice that needs you
to sound its truth.
Turn your ear
to the stories that call you,
the memories that linger
and wait for reclaiming.
Your desire to create
is the calling of these tales.
It is the tales that stir you,
the tales that hold all the words
you will ever need.
Just listen now and remember.
I believe that my work is worthy of its own space,
which is worthy of the name Sacred.
Your Work Is Worthy
As important as time is to the creative process, so too is the space in which we work. If we are committed to collaborating with the Muse, then we must set the stage for the piece to unfold. It may not be that we have a studio or a whole room to devote to our art. It is more likely that we will carve out of a larger space something smaller, defined as sacred by what is missing as much as by what is present.
Women have always been poor, not for two hundred years merely, but from the beginning of time.... Women, then, have not had a dog's chance of writing poetry. That's why I have laid so much stress on money and a room of one's own. —Virginia Woolf
To create the sacred space, we start from nothing. We define its parameters, clear it of accoutrements, and bless the emptiness. Then we bring to the space only that which leads us into harmony with our own center, fortifies us, reflects our intention, reminds us of the reason we are there. Our sacred space should be defined in such a way that everything in it becomes a metaphor for the journey out of the secular realm and into the spiritual, where we disengage from the limits of time and temporal concerns.
When half-gods go, the gods arrive. —Ralph Waldo Emerson
This is a place where our consciousness is transformed, where we light the candle and announce our presence to the Muse. This is where we say, "I have come to do the work, and all my attention is upon it." Here we open ourselves to the joy and mystery of creation itself. It is within this sacred space that we unite with the One we have longed for, reaching no longer but reveling in the found.
Sacred space is a playground for the soul. It is a place of refuge and newness, a place where we ourselves define the limits or lack of them. Here we set out on a journey of our own making to a destination that is finally determined by the journey itself. It is a place of rendezvous with the great love of our lives; a secret, sacred meeting ground where life is conceived, renewed, embraced, and enchanted.
Poetry is the voice of the soul. —Carolyn Forche
The sacred space is made holy by the purity of our intention. The Muse, as always, awaits us and the liaison is vitalized by our energy and attention. When we are there, we are wholly present, leaning into possibility, and bringing to the table both our fullness and our emptiness.
Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again. —Joseph Campbell
Excerpted from Marry Your Muse by Jan Phillips. Copyright © 1997 Jan Phillips. Excerpted by permission of Theosophical Publishing House.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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|Pt. 1||Committing to the Creative Journey||1|
|The Artist's Creed||3|
|You Are Worth the Time||5|
|Your Work Is Worthy||13|
|You Have the Right||21|
|Becoming One with Life||27|
|Your Work Flows Like a River||35|
|What You Are Called To Do||43|
|The Time You Spend Creating Is Precious||51|
|What Matters Is the Newness||59|
|You Are Not Alone||65|
|As the Muse Gives, So Does She Deserve||73|
|Pt. 2||Staying on the Path||81|
|Letting the Heart Sound the Beat||83|
|Giving the Artist Within Half a Chance||99|
|Leaving the Chaos Behind||111|
|Keeping the Journey Mind||117|
|The Little Wise Ones||131|
|A Deeper Kind of Seeing||137|
|Believing in the Dream||145|
|The Art of Activism||153|
|Stretching the Boundaries of Creativity||159|
|Eliminate Your Enemies||169|
|The Workplace, the Wave, and the In-Between||175|
|Jewels in Our Midst||181|
|Pass the Stardust, Please||185|
|Pt. 3||Passing the Stardust||191|
|Judith Ann Benedict||199|
|William F. Farnan||211|
|Sister Paula Matthew, CSJ||227|
|Cris Williamson and Tret Fure||245|
Posted June 2, 2001
Jan Phillips brings a gentle, even poetic, sensitivity to the opportunities and challenges of really living a creative life. Her Guidelines make a powerful way to work for anyone-artist or other. This approach will make a difference in expanding your creativity!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.