Let One Artist’s Magic Be Your Muse

Let One Artist’s Magic Be Your Muse

Find inspiration from your creative role model.


“I believe that creativity is both magical and magic,” writes Elizabeth Gilbert in her latest book Big Magic. “And when I refer to magic, I mean it literally… I am referring to the supernatural, the mystical, the surreal, the transcendent, the otherworldly.”

Her gist is that creativity is a supernatural force that wants to inhabit us all … and it takes an intricate blend of elements for us to nurture the magic. Very basically: say “yes” to an idea, believe in a little magic, then have persistence to manifest your idea.

There are lots of books like Gilbert’s these days that encourage us to absorb what an artistic life feels like and how the creative “pros” thrive.

For this exercise, we want you to take the absorption process a step further than reading a book. Remember when we were little and dressed like our favorite stars? We wore striped socks and plaited pigtails to feel wild and playful like Pippi Longstocking. We wrapped studded leather around our waists like Cyndi Lauper and sang “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” with our faces scrunched and fierce.

The big person game of this is slightly more studied and earnest, but the motivation is the same: to learn how our creative role models do it and imagine we can do it too—then do it. Imagine you are an actor, given the task of all but becoming their character.

Exercise: Choose someone in your life or in culture. They can be alive or from history. For some, this will be an obvious choice: Bowie fans might go straight for the flaming red hairspray and a night in with ten historic interviews with the glam rocker. For others, it might take some meditation: who makes you shake your head in amazement every time you hear them on the radio. Who do you find yourself quoting at dinner parties? When you close your eyes and imagine the most inspiring person you know, is it your neighbor who travels the world taking nature photographs or an aunt who sells abstract paintings at the markets and has never bought a made-in-China dress in her life?

Let this person be your muse. Get even more curious about them. If you know them, interview them. Do your research: read every book you can and read every interview. What do they eat and when do they work and who inspires them and why do they do what they do? What weird habits do they have? What makes them work and what provokes instant writer’s block?

The more you know about them, the closer you are to their creative process, which for some will manifest as a sort of divine intervention and for others might be a somewhat tormented yet fruitful path. For Georgia O’Keeffe fans, it might inspire to know that she loved to paint while naked. Joan Didion is diligent about the curious and yet beautiful reasons for keeping a notebook. Some artists swear by taking many naps. David Lynch swears by meditation.

And perhaps your creative aunt will suggest a social media detox. (Lady Gaga agrees.)

It’s said that it takes 21 days to form a habit, which is a gentle time frame if this kick starts a lifelong creative hobby or even a new career. Whatever we think it about is what we will attract into our lives, is the mantra of much spiritual thinking. And the more positive and creative a role model we follow, the more magic we’ll attract.

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