Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Trusting the Muse

I’ve written extensively on my thoughts about The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, but I’ve written almost nothing on the companion book Do the Work.  While I find the first one more inspirational and helpful, there are gems in the second book that I haven’t thought about in a while.  One of the main ideas is, “Trust the soup.”  The “soup” is the inspiration, the Muse, the creative urge.  When I think of soup, I don’t think of clear broth, I think of something thick and murky, like tomato soup.  The soup isn’t transparent.  You don’t know what’s inside.  With all due respect, maybe fog is a better word.  You just go in not knowing what you will find. 
When I write, it’s like this.  I just go in, not knowing what the result will be.  But my Muse is leading me, beckoning to me, and because I love and trust her, I continue into the soup, the fog (sometimes fog is called “pea soup” because of the thickness of both).   Once when I was 16 I was with some friends, Dave and Mike.  We were driving around on a foggy Friday night and we were in the thickest fog I had even experienced.  We literally could not see more than two or three feet ahead of us.  Mike, our driver, slowly crept forward until we were out of the fog. 
That’s what creative efforts can feel like sometimes.  We go forward slowly.  We know the general direction and most likely we’re going the right way, but we still can’t see more than a few feet in front of us.  We Keep Going anyway.  What choice is there?  To stay in the mire, in the fog, in the soup?  We trust that going forward, even slowly, will lead us somewhere.  That’s why I keep writing.  That’s why I haven’t given up on my house on the beach.  I keep moving forward even though all I can see is a few feet in front of me.
I wish I were given more.  I wish I knew I was going the correct way and the most direct way.  But I don’t.  So I Keep Going. Sometimes I may slow down, but I don’t stop.  I need to reach my house.  I need to have a life with my Muse.  This isn’t just something I want.  This is what I need.  Sometimes I feel as if my life literally depended on reaching my goals.  I don’t wish that kind of intensity on anyone, except for anyone who wants to live the most fulfilling life possible. 
The other thing Pressfield says is to stay stupid.  The word “stupid” is a strong word, even offensive to some.  It’s almost a swear word.  And I’m a smart guy, but I need to stay stupid.  I need to be smart enough to be aware of the danger, of the risks, but stupid enough to not care.  Maybe stupid is also not the right word; maybe “stubborn” is a better word.  The word almost doesn’t matter.  Words rarely do (and I’m a writer, so that seems like an odd thing to say).  What matters is action.  Fortunately (or unfortunately) for me, my words are my actions, and my actions are my words.  More accurately my actions are writing words (blogs), reading words (studying), and speaking words (podcasts and teaching).  Words are my currency and I need to read, write, and speak a lot of them until I get to my house.  And I’m stupid enough to believe that if I just read, write, and speak the right number of words, then I will get to that house.  The problem is that I don’t know what that number is, so I have to act as if the next word I read, write, or speak is the one I need.  If it’s not, I Keep Going. 
This may be true of all of us who are trying to reach a goal.  Maybe the next interview is the one that will get us the job.  Maybe it’s the next piece of art that sells or helps us find our vision.  Maybe it’s the next hour, or the next half hour, or even the next ten minutes of study that brings us understanding.  Maybe it’s the next day when we finally make the right connection personally, professionally, spiritually, or financially.  Maybe only a little more effort is required, not a lot.  Or maybe it is a lot.  Fortunately, we only have to do a little at a time.  Really, we only have to and we only can do one thing at a time.  We just need to Get Started, even before we’re ready.

That’s the third thing he says, by the way – Get Started before you’re ready.  Jump in.  Do it.  This doesn’t mean to not plan or to be foolish.  But sometimes planning and thinking are just reasons to not move forward.  Often when I write, I have no idea what’s going to appear on this screen.  Every day I chase my Muse.  I have no idea where she will lead me.  I don’t care.  I trust her.  I Keep Going.  That has worked for over 800 blogs and it will work for my house on the beach.  I trust the soup.  I trust my Muse even more.