Oh, for a Muse of Fire
O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention
-Shakespeare, Henry V, Act 1
I'm sitting here next to a friend who calls me his muse. We're having a writing day. I'm procrastinating on Facebook while he's busily tapping away, creating immortal words of prose. The other night, out to dinner with my sister, I found myself in a familiar position, the same position I'd been in with my friend two months ago when I started encouraging him to write his story on a blog (You can visit it here). I was encouraging my sister to follow her dreams, and brainstorming with her about how she could start on that path. Again with the muse.
For a long time, I've felt a sense of insecurity around my lack of any major creative dreams. I went through a phase about ten years ago (after a boyfriend dumped me, partly because I didn't have any grand creative passion), where I decided I was going to try to find a passion. I painted, wrote, did collage, and I even enjoyed doing those things, but once I was done with a piece, I never had the overwhelming urge to do another one. Those things just weren't my passions. I do write, yes, but I don't have the dream of writing the Great American Novel or of changing the world with my words.
I think every boyfriend I've ever had has called me his muse at one point. And except for a couple, I've showed up in all of their art, even after the relationship ended. If I think about the times when I've felt the most passionate and inspired, it's always been while helping friends with their projects. Publishing books, editing their writing, brainstorming ideas. As a feminist and an inveterate overthinker, I've always wondered if it was OK to be so comfortable and at home being the helper, as opposed to the dreamer. It always felt like an inferior place to be. But is it?
Recently, I got some personal cards made with my e-mail, phone number, and blog address. On the card, I called myself a "writer, editor, and muse." The muse part just came out of nowhere; it surprised even me when I typed it in to the order form. But it fits, and maybe it's time for me to claim the role that seems to come so naturally to me.
I was talking to my blogging friend about it once, trying to figure out why I was so good at pulling other peoples' dreams out of them. We decided that it was a combination of my good listening skills, my nonjudgmental nature, and my ability to follow the person's train of thought and then go one step further. To see the situation differently than they and to freely give my ideas and opinions, with the intention of supporting their dreams, whatever those dreams may be. I get excited about other peoples' dreams, and when I get excited about them, so do they. Sitting with my sister, brainstorming over fancy, overpriced pizza, I felt totally in rapport with her and could see her vision taking shape. And then so could she. It was a great feeling.
Is it possible, then, that my passion is really about setting other peoples' passions free? About making it OK for them to follow those dreams they have that other, more practical people in their lives are cautious or even actively unsupportive about? My greatest love is using my time and talent to support someone's dream, and to move them forward, to get them closer to seeing their dream realized. I love connecting people to one another, people who can help one another. I love seeing the other person's excitement as they talk about their passion, and I love suggesting something to them and seeing that lightbulb go off, that "Aha" moment. I'm slowly starting to realize that this is a talent, and that I can actually nurture that talent, that it isn't inferior to having my own Big Dream. After all, no dream gets off the ground without help, just as no airplane or hot air balloon flies without the ground crew. Just call me the Mechanic of Dreams.