Sometime around the time I started managing two crews of workers–one in the new place and one in the old, my muse showed up, flounced through the studio, threw a few things in a bag and stormed out. I figured she’d be back. At the time, I was busy with tile and floor people, moving van estimates, and being a creativity coach while pretending I had a normal life.
Once we were moved in, I expected at least a postcard. So far, no sign of her. Truth is, I have no idea what I want to do next. A few vague ideas are cooking around in my head. Nothing definite. Nothing that charms me. No sign of the muse, either.
So I did what every creative soul does in a pinch: spent too much time on Facebook and You Tube. Binge-watched old TV shows because I figured out how to use Netflix on my new TV. I ran across old videos of The Dog Whisperer and watched many of those. Odd. I don’t own a dog.
In the Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan makes unruly dogs heel and stay. Would his method works well for the unruly, leash-tugging muse? The one I want back in my studio? The one that disappeared around the corner and won’t come when called? Worth a shot, I thought.
The Dog Whisperer has a formula: “Exercise, then discipline, and finally, affection. As the human pack leader, you must set rules, boundaries, and limitations and always project a calm-assertive energy.”
The “calm-assertive energy” comes first. It’s not about being a control freak, it’s knowing that you are the calm leader of your creative energy and your studio. Even when you aren’t sure that’s true.
You set the rules, boundaries and limitations for your studio. Here are some good ones to start with:
- Know what your project is. If you don’t then:
- Know what your project is not. If you are going to create a journal page, don’t worry about creating the whole journal.
- Leave the studio set up so you can begin. Nothing saps energy faster than having to spend an hour cleaning the studio and another finding what you want to work on.
- Put extra materials away. It’s distracting to see unfinished project lying around.
- Set a time to start and be there to start doing . . . anything.
- If you have an appointment, set a timer to remind you when to stop. You can’t work deeply if you keep having to check on the clock.
- Keep a paper and pencil around to take notes as you work. Once you get to the studio, you will immediately think of “work” that needs to get done before you start. Stay in the studio, make a to-do list. The laundry will still be there when you leave.
The rest of Millan’s ideas work just as well: exercise, discipline, affection.
Exercise is a way to burn off tension in your body. It makes room for creative ideas. While you are
exercising, a part of your brain is problem solving. That’s good for your brain and your body. Burn off that exhausting adrenaline energy.
Discipline is not punishment. Discipline allows space and time for deep, meaningful work. Discipline allows you to turn off the phone, shut the computer off and head for the studio. It is a set time to work without guilt or fear. Discipline is an approach to creative time that includes knowing what will happen–you will work meaningfully, for a set amount of time, on a regular basis.
Affection is allowing yourself to feel good about yourself and your work. Affection is allowing yourself to try and fail, to try something different, to follow a thought or idea until it works or until you know why it doesn’t.
Just as Cesar Millan projects a calm, assertive pack-leader image to his dogs, I will project a calm, assertive creative leader image to your muse. If she shows up, great. If not, I could use the calm.
–Quinn McDonald admits to whispering at her muses occasionally, and sometimes yelling at them, too. I’m thinking of ways to a-muse myself until she returns.