An invocation to the muse is a welcome mat for creativity. My creativity tends to act like a feral cat I’m trying to befriend. It has to be offered some kibble to make it feel safe, to have any hope of it purring happily by me as I work at my desk. An invocation to the muse is one way to sprinkle some kibble on my porch for it. (Experience teaches that yelling, screaming, and cajoling is counterproductive) The first invocation to the muse I ever used was Shel Silverstein’s “Come In.” (It’s in the list below). It offers my creativity some quiet, safety, and a sense of warmth before I dive into my writing.
There are lots of ways to do an invocation to the muse. One could be solemn and sacred, lighthearted and fun. Even dry and sardonic might work, every muse has its own personality and its own moods. You’ll know what works when it helps you start writing. If you decide to try one, commit to it; recite it, and then use it every time you write for at least six weeks. Fine, I made six weeks up. It’s enough to use it and see if it helps. You’ll know if it helps.
Here are ten examples of invocations and dispensations you could try out. I’m sure there are plenty of others. If you have your own, share it in the comments below.
1. Steven Pressfield’s (author of The War of Art) from Homer’s Odyssey:
O Divine Poesy, goddess, daughter of Zeus, sustain for me this song of the various-minded man who, after he had plundered the innermost citadel of hallowed Troy, was made to stay grievously about the coasts of men, the sport of their customs, good and bad, while his heart, through all the sea-faring, ached with an agony to redeem himself and bring his company safe home. Vain hope – for them. The fools! Their own witlessness cast them aside. To destroy for meat the oxen of the most exalted Sun, wherefore the Sun-god blotted out the day of their return. Make this tale live for us in all its many bearings, O Muse.” – translation by T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia)”
2. A prayer/exercise from Barry Michels, Co-author of “The Work:”
Get an egg timer. Set it for one minute. Kneel in front of the computer in a posture of prayer, and beg the universe for help writing the worst sentence ever written. “Please let me write the worst sentence ever. Please help me write the worst sentence ever. When the timer dings, start typing.
3. Robert Fulghum’s Storyteller’s Creed:
I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge.
That myth is more potent than history.
That dreams are more powerful than facts.
That hope always triumphs over experience.
That laughter is the only cure for grief.
And I believe that love is stronger than death.
4. Teddy Roosevelt’s Man in The Arena evocation:
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
5. Pema Chödron’s reminder from “Start Where You Are”:
We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips that we lay on ourselves—the heavy-duty fearing that we’re bad and hoping that we’re good, the identities that we so dearly cling to, the rage, the jealousy, and the addictions of all kinds—never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time, our warmth and brilliance are right here.
6. The thing Michael Bennet, Jimmy Webb’s boss on Tin Pan Alley, told him when he started his job:
“In this room, you’ll never make a mistake.”
7. Pat Pattison’s writing dispensation:
I hereby grant you permission to write crap. The more the better. Remember, crap makes the best fertilizer.
8. One that came to me as I assembled these today:
I am an imperfectionist, anything and everything that arises today can be written down, anything and everything that arises is a gift that brings me closer to the truth, and could be part of the message I want to convey, even if it’s a poop joke.
9. A collection of reflections from Brene Brown:
Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do. Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame. [On the other hand], Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.
10. Shel Silverstein’s “Invitation”:
If you are a dreamer, come in,
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hoper, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer . . .
If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.