Ray Bradbury (one of the greatest American authors of all time) acknowledges that The Muse is not a fictional fleeting goddess dressed in ferns as delicate as her hand in helping in the creative endeavors of any mere mortal. A person’s Muse is real as rain and should be appreciated and nurtured. Only Bradbury could so aptly describe what it feels like when one’s Muse appears and ignites the creative genius within.
“At any given moment, the fuse, after sputtering wetly, flares, and the fireworks begin.”
In Zen in the Art of Writing, Bradbury writes: “It is my contention that in order to keep a Muse, you must first offer food…Through a lifetime, by ingesting food and water, we build cells, we grow, we become larger and more substantial…” He says it is a similar process regarding one’s Muse.
“In a lifetime, we stuff ourselves with sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures of people, animals, landscapes, events, large and small. We stuff ourselves with these impressions and experiences and our reaction to them. These are the stuff, the foods, on which the Muse grows.”
A genius at Sci-Fi writing, he reminds us: “When people ask me where I get my ideas, I laugh. How strange—we’re so buy looking out, to find ways and means, we forget to look in. The Muse is there, a fantastic storehouse, our complete being. All that is most original lies waiting for us to summon it forth.”
Bradbury goes on to give coaching on how to feed and fatten your Muse. I hope you’ll join me in taking these on. First, he advises to read poetry every day of your life. He says that poetry flexes muscles that we don’t use enough. Bradbury gives concrete examples from his own experience where a particular poet’s work inspired him. “I have had a metaphor [from a poem] jump out at me, give me a spin, and run me off to do a story.”
The next item on the menu is reading essays. His coaching is to “play the dilettante” and browse short nonfiction pieces (as you might find in a book of essays or, in more modern times, in the Kindle store). Read and learn the finer points of keeping bees, growing world-champion roses, scuba-diving through caves, or repairing large church bells. He says that in effect, this activity is like dropping stones down a well. “Every time you hear an echo from your Subconscious, you know yourself a little better. A small echo may start an idea. A big echo may result in a story.”
Of course, he is speaking as a writer, but the Muse can inspire any act of creativity. He offers additional diet tips for feeding your Muse (in Zen in the Art of Writing). He sums up his lifelong care of his Muse (which sure paid off) as what one might call having a strong sense of curiosity and a free spirit to follow his inklings: “Because I wanted to, I did. Where I wanted to feed, I fed…the continual running after loves…”
Take this QUIZ and see if you’re ready to write the book that is inside you.