Songwriting, The Muse

Madness and the Muse

“They who, having no touch of the Muses’ madness in their soul, and come to the door and think they will get into the temple by the help of art–they and their poetry are not admitted; the sane disappear and are left nowhere when they enter into rivalry with madness.” -Plato (more or less)

We like to be in control.  We don’t like madness or frenzy, and we hate letting go.  But The Fearless Challenge isn’t about being in control. It’s about finding out what happens when we go a little (or a lot) crazy.  The challenge isn’t about anyone’s precious egos or liking what is written today. It’s about writing seven days straight, and looking back after saying, holy shit, where did THAT come from?   

The Challenge is simple:

1.  Sit down to write a song in about 45 minutes.

2.  Let go, say something CRAZY.

3.  Use the last 15 minutes of the hour to make a recording as a artifact of what was claimed from the unknown.

That’s it, and it can be S.C.A.R.Y.

Said another way the challenge is to: find your edge and lean forward, afraid of falling but fall anyway.  It’s  to jump out of the plane of everyday thoughts with no parachute and nothing to hang onto. The good news is there is no ground.  Eventually you’ll come home to your senses and you’ll have a new song.

The challenge aims to enter into communion with the Gods, into communion with powers that, bless our analytical minds & the double-blinds of science, we can’t explain for shit.

That can be scary.

Here’s a mantra to use with fear: BRING IT ON.

Say these words and then run at the fear.

Then say; “I LOVE FEAR,” because fear is nothing more than a little biological energy, and when you sit with it, it will launch you like a rocket into the unknown, and you’ll find flow.  Then time and identity won’t matter until you return back to earth.  Thinking doesn’t help us do that–it helps us AVOID doing that.

This week, I dare you to set a timer for 45 Minutes each day and write a song you never knew you could.
I dare you to share a simple one take recording of that song.
I dare you not to judge yourself for what finds its way onto the page, or into the recorder each day, or even for the whole week.
I dare you not to quit when you DO judge yourself.
I dare you to continue when you’re certain you’ll never write a good song again.
I dare you not to make excuses.
I dare you to write seven songs in seven days. 

The next challenge will be posted at The Fearless Songwriter on Facebook.

Songwriting, The Muse, Writing

10 Invocations, dispensations and prayers to the Muse

writing_cat_HDAn invocation to the muse is a welcome mat to creativity.   My creativity often acts like feral cat I’d like to befriend.  I need to offer it some kibble and make it feel safe to have any hope of it ever purring happily alongside me at my desk. An invocation to the muse is a way sprinkling some kibble on my porch for it.   (Yelling, screaming and mentally berating myself sure wasn’t working).

I chose Shel Silverstein’s “Come In” as my first invocation to the muse.  It offers my creativity some quiet, a sense of warmth and safety before I dive in writing. There are lots of ways to do an invocation to the muse.  It could be solemn and sacred, lighthearted and fun, or even dry and sardonic, every muse has its own personality and its own moods.   You’ll know what works when it helps you start writing. If you decide try one, commit to it; recite it and then write every day for at least six weeks. A little bit each day is enough—try ten minutes. Go gently.

Here are ten or examples of invocations and dispensations you could take for a spin. I’m sure there are plenty of others. If you have your own, share it in the comments below.

1. Steven Pressfield’s 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 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 from my basic wealth, is bringing me closer to the truth, 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
Come in!
Come in!