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Fun Things to Help Bring Out and Harness

your Creativity

by Nigel Baldwin

www.thewriteinn.co.uk
www.nigel-baldwin.com
www.nigelbaldwin.com
Drop the Slop.

This is just basically automatic writing. I call it


Drop the Slop – others call it Morning Pages,
Autopilot – because it is a way of getting rid of
negative thoughts, negative thinking, petty
worries, and allowing more positive feelings, more
artistic leanings to come through. We have a lot of
‘stuff’ in our subconscious/unconscious. I go into
more detail about this in my Writing Course but the reason I call it Drop The
Slop is because in the UK there is a process in prisons called ‘slopping out’
which is basically the taking out of the cells in the morning the bodily wastes
or human excrement passed the night before. So I use the metaphor to apply
to getting rid of all the waste in your mind. And to do this you’ve just got to get
out of the way and dump the unwanted stuff on the page. It’s predominantly
an unconscious process because it helps to write before you’ve thought about
it.

Basically get your self a pen and notepad (or if you can’t face looking at your
scrawly writing a keyboard will do, though it doesn’t work as well for me) find
some place to be alone where you are not going to be interrupted and just
take half an hour or so to write about a thousand words. That’s roughly three
to six pages of A4, the discrepancy in number being dependant on your
handwriting. Just write. Write out the slops.

It’s also a way of by-passing what the German poet Schiller called ‘the
watcher at the gates of the mind’, the one who censors you, tells you how
pathetic you are. Your gremlin in other words, your self-censor. What you
need to do is just fill up those pages with whatever comes into your mind or
psyche and not look at the results afterwards until you’ve done about ten days
to two weeks of them. Because if you do you will make judgements on them

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and the point of this exercise is not to judge the quality but to ‘Drop The
Slops.’ The self-criticisms, the doubts, the fears, the ‘I-can’t-do’s’. It’s these
kind of slops that stop us going forward in the first place. And never, ever
show these slops to anyone else. Except when you are proud of the product.
After you have dropped the slops you see, good stuff might out.

This can be a very healing process. Eventually after the slops have gone the
writing can become very ordered. This is also a great exercise to do if you are
feeling particularly isolated. Everyone needs to vent their feelings and writing
can take on the job of therapist. In earlier forms of therapy (still practised to
this day in the guise of counselling and psychotherapy) we used to talk to
another about what bothered us, what held us back, what we hadn’t achieved,
what had hurt us. Slowly you will see a direction and patterns emerging and
now these are down on paper – in form – you can begin to learn from them.
Writing gives you a sense of control over your thoughts and – as when you
are dropping the slop – you might well express (and I would encourage you to
do so) thoughts and feelings that you harbour and that you are too ashamed
to express to anyone else. Suppressed issues can be uncovered which
sometimes can be disturbing, even frightening. But, remember until issues
are uncovered, there can be no healing.

At some level we all need – and want – healing. We have all scuffed our
knees and stubbed our toes on our journey. Some have bigger wounds than
others but we all could do with it. Writing can be a form of self-healing. Write
what made you angry, write what hurt you, write about who humiliated you,
who mistreated you. Some claim that writing is the means by which you reach
the goal of creativity, implying that being creative is a union with a higher
energy. When I first did this exercise, after the slops had been dropped, I
started – somewhat mysteriously to me – a dialogue with what I can only call
a higher part of me, something I illustrate in my writing course at
www.writeinn.co.uk It was a quite a release, and something of a testament to
my spiritual component, and consequently a healing.

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Four Card Stud(y)

Take a pack of playing cards and deal yourself


four face up. Then make a scenario up from the
four you have. You must include both the suit
and the denomination. (You can use the
singular or the plural of the denomination.) If
something comes up twice you have to use it
twice.

For example I have just done this and come up with the two of diamonds, four
of hearts, queen of clubs and ten of hearts.

So –

“I woke up at two in the morning dreaming that I had been to see a concert
with the four piece rock band Queen. I knew in my heart of hearts that this
was impossible since they had split up and one of them had died. Freddie
Mercury was a diamond singer. I counted to ten and was back in sleep as if
I’d been hit on the head with a club. “

(‘Diamond’ is London UK slang for ‘wonderful’)

Or –

“I carried two diamonds in a pouch close to my heart. Mike had given me four
but I kept the others at home. When I walked into that club at ten that night
my heart was pounding. But I still felt like a queen.”

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Ace of Spades, five of diamonds, Jack of clubs, two of clubs.

“I couldn’t make up my mind which club to use, the five iron or the hybrid. I’d
be better off digging myself out of the rough with a spade. Sometimes I
thought I didn’t bring enough clubs with me. I calculated the ball needed to
travel no more than two metres. Afterwards my son Jack said the shot was
ace and bought me a Diamond White to celebrate. “

(Diamond White is a very strong cider in the UK. I know nothing about golf by
the way!)

Or –

“Ace was a big guy, upwards of two metres with shoulders that measured
twenty five inches across. He once defended himself from a man with a club
with one bare hand, nearly ripped his neck for his shoulders. As such, of the
four of us, he did all the spade work. All the lifting, all the grunting. Me I was
more of a jack of all trades, small but good at fixing and fetching things. One
of the things I always fetched was a beer for us all in the middle of the day
from the Diamond Club across the road.”

It doesn’t matter how long it is but you’ve got to eventually use all the cards
and all the denominations. Not in one sentence, you can take a whole page.
By which time you’ll be well into your story.

If you turn up four of the same denomination – particularly if it’s spades which
is the most difficult suit – try a poem!

This is great fun and somewhat challenging, but it’s also addictive so make
sure it doesn’t eat into your real writing time!

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Brainstorming/Storytelling with One or More Friends

I use this a lot and it’s great fun. A version of a


panel/parlour game played – I should imagine – since
time immemorial. I use this frequently with students
and they are constantly amazed at what transpires.
Even if you only have one other person to play with it’s
fun. Firstly have a conversation with each one of you
taking every other word. “This-morning-I-went-to-the-baker’s-for-some-bread.”
Try to go as fast as you can and not think too much about it. If you can record
it digitally even better. Eventually you will be speaking as one and you might
have even put a coherent scenario together. Once you have, go on to the
next stage. This time you have alternate sentences – or if there are more than
two of you, a sentence each until everyone has had a turn and then go
around again. Again, after a bit of practice, a coherent scenario will start to
emerge. It helps to not be too self-conscious about this and make judgments
on the quality of the material. Remember you are using it as a tool to harness
your creativity not to write a proposal to submit to a publisher or producer.
With students this always works, except when they make judgements. And
the hardest task with students is to get them to not make judgements. And,
yes, you’re allowed to stop and go back. Even if there is just the two of you. If
something emerges which is interesting, even inspiring, and the next
participant ‘blocks’ it, you can observe this and go back and take a different
direction. It’s a ‘re-write’ if you will.

You can do a version of this on your own.

Firstly take a writing tool – pen, paper/computer – and write down as quickly
as possible ten words consecutively which are NOT associated with the
previous word. These words should represent objects/solids rather than
concepts. Concepts – such as time, space, religion, philosophy – can have all
sorts of unseen associations and are best steered clear of. Otherwise you
might end up arguing with yourself a bit like players do when they’re arguing
about a valid word in Scrabble. Objects only – living or inanimate. So: cat-
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mustard-penny-clock-water-phone-paint-radio-light-television.This takes some
concentration. Mostly there is usually an association. I started doing this and
wrote cat-monkey which have association in that they are both animals, so
start again. This will get your juices flowing.

Then ten words with none of them associated out of the whole ten. So from
the above example radio and television would probably have to go. Even
radio and light have a bit of an association, as do radio and clock. Keep
going, you’ll soon have the cobwebs cleared.

Then write sentences that seem to have no association. After about ten, sit
back and look at them. Where are the associations? What associations can
you make? Is there a way of making the connections less tenuous? Can you
firm up the connections? Rearrange the order of the sentences? Soon you
should have the beginnings of a story.

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Changing Your Story/Changing the Story of Others

Even if we think we can’t control everything that


happens to us we can write our own story about it. As
Viktor Frankl says in his book “Man's Search for
Meaning” we are in charge of how we think about what
happens.

Quantum physics tells us reality is not as solid as it seems and that matter
and events may even be malleable.

How many times has something annoying happened in your life and you have
heard yourself saying “It’s going to be one of those days” ? And how often
have you turned out to be right and then consider yourself to be a victim of
circumstances? But if quantum physics has any validity then to some extent
we created it. So why not change the story: “Today is going to be a great
day.”

Pull yourself up when you’re telling a negative story, change it, and watch
what manifests in your life. At the very least, you’ll begin to feel better about
your difficult day. But, even more, you might find that what seemed initially to
be a challenge or problem could turn out to be the indispensable prelude to a
bunch of positive experiences.

This can be difficult at first – after all we’re all conditioned into thinking we
have very little control over our lives – but with practice it will come. The
following is based on the preceding storytelling exercise and can benefit all
involved.

You can tell this on your own, with a friend or with a group of people who all
take turns in telling their story and having it changed. The principle is the
same whether you are on your own or with others. The more participants the
more people who benefit.

Tell a story about something that happened to you which wasn’t exactly great.
Better to start off with minor stuff, profound traumatic material really needs a

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very safe and formal therapeutic environment. Say it’s a story about your dog
running off. After one or two sentences stop and ask what you said which
was negative about the event. Try to turn the negative into a positive. It didn’t
matter that it didn’t actually happen, this is a process of healing. Maybe your
dog ran off and you got frantic but at the end of the day a neighbour brought
him home. The negative here is you being frantic. But instead of being frantic
you could say your dog had gone off on an adventure and tell that adventure
culminating in the dog returning with a pouch full of money! It doesn’t matter
how outrageous and untrue it might have been, this is all about healing the
psyche.

If you are doing this with one other then tell your story in the most negative
fashion you can (exaggerate!) – one or two sentences at a time – and let your
partner retell it in the positive.

If you are doing it in a group use the same principle except that everyone else
takes turns to put a positive spin on your story. The first person on your left
takes the first two sentences and then the next person takes the next two and
so on….

What happens if you tell this in a group or even to one other is that you get
your positive experiences affirmed by others which will enhance your self-
esteem. The idea is not to change the essential event – the dog did run off
after all – the idea is to change the experiencing of it.

Nothing is really negative or positive, only what we make it so.

There is a very popular, very old Sufi story that illustrates this.

“Hundreds of years ago, in a poor Chinese village, there lived a farmer and
his son. His only material possession, apart from the land and a small hut,
was a horse he had inherited from his father.

One day, the horse ran away, leaving the man with no animal with which to
work the land. His neighbours, who respected him for his honesty and hard
work, went to his house to say how bad it was and how much they were sorry
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for his loss. He thanked them for their visit, but said:

‘Good? Bad? Who’s to know? ’

A week later, the horse returned to its stable, but it was not alone; it brought
with it a beautiful mare for company. The people of the village were thrilled
when they heard the news, for only then did they understand the reply the
man had given them, and they went back to the farmer’s house to
congratulate him on his good fortune.

‘Instead of one horse, you’ve got two. Congratulations!’ they said.

“Good? Bad? Who’s to know? “ said the farmer.

A month later, the farmer’s son decided to break the mare in. However, the
animal bucked wildly and threw the boy off; the boy fell badly and broke his
leg. The neighbours returned to the farmer’s house, bringing gifts for the
injured boy. The elders of the village sombrely presented their condolences to
the father, saying how sad they all were about such a bad accident.

“Good? Bad? Who’s to know?”

These words left everyone open-mouthed, his son was going to be


permanently crippled, how could that ever be interpreted as good?

A few months went by, and Japan declared war on China. The emperor’s
emissaries scoured the country for young and sturdy men to be sent to the
front. When they reached the village, they recruited all the youths and young
men, except the farmer’s son, whose leg had not yet mended.

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None of the recruits came back alive. The distraught villagers visited the
farmer who gave them his condolences. They said how lucky he had been
that his son had broken his leg when he did. The accident had had a good
outcome for him.

‘Good? Bad? Who’s to know?’ said the farmer with infinite compassion and
wisdom.”

Events in themselves do not have meaning, we give them meaning. Give


everyone in your group a chance to tell their negative stories and each one of
the others change it into a positive. It becomes a very life-enhancing
experience.

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Five - Words, Objects, Characters

This is for the egg-heads among you. More difficult


but fun because it is demanding and you get to use
new words! (Or rarely used ones anyway.) Take a
dictionary and choose five words that are semi-unfamiliar to you. Learn their
meaning and application. Then choose five objects in the room you are sitting
in, and then five characters from life or fiction (any fiction).

So, I’ve just done this -

Words – aristology, nomogeny, heuristic, lacteal, calefacient


Objects - book, computer, lamp, vase, rubber plant
Characters - Desperate Dan, Popeye, Jed Bartlet, Othello, Winston Churchill

Now use them all. So –

“Staring, as if mesmerised, at the rubber plant is his office, sitting under the
standard lamp by the fire which was distinctly calefacient, Jed Bartlet
dismissed comparisons to Winston Churchill as he closed his book and
contemplated re-election. In the next room he could hear one of his speech
writers tapping away on the computer keyboard. He liked how his staff, and
particularly Joe - affectionately known as Popeye - embraced a heuristic
model of life. Jed knew the speech, addressing excess budget spending,
started off with a metaphor based on the comic hero Desperate Dan. They
had discussed the opening sentence. “Being a glutton Desperate Dan’s
favourite hobby was aristology.” He liked Joe’s turn of phrase, but wondered if
an audience would understand what he was referring to. He also liked his
velvet tones. If Joe had been an actor he would have been born to play
Othello. Joe and he always argued about the origin of life, Joe buying into the
theory of nomogeny whereas Jed had a more religious perspective.

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Jed reached for his drink, a lacteal confection which was supposed to help
him sleep. Something he had been having trouble with lately. As he did so his
hand slipped and knocked a small ornamental vase from the table. It hit the
floor and shattered. The typing in the other room ceased as if the typist had
been suddenly struck dead.”

It’s not going to win a Nobel, a Pulitzer or a Booker, but it’s great fun, and it’s
surprising how you find you are using the words, mostly not in the obvious
way you imagined. And you get to develop the use of your vocabulary. If not
entirely new words, words re-membered. It’s also challenging, but that’s not a
bad thing.

Once you have done that, make one of your characters yourself. And then tell
your story in the first person, changing your negatives into positives as per
the ‘Changing Your Story’ exercise. Do yourself a favour, challenge yourself.

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Right and left handed

If you are right handed write with your left for a page of A4.
It’ll stimulate the opposite hemisphere of your brain – the
creative side. Reverse if you are left-handed.

Autobiography

Choose a fictional character – cartoon is permissible –


and write his or her biography as if you were them.
Where you were born, what you like to eat, where you
want to go, your ambitions, how you came to meet
your friends and colleagues. How that accident happened. How you did/didn’t
marry/sleep with/go horse riding with a counterpart. What car do you drive,
what are your hobbies, what clothes do you like to wear when on a date? Do
you mix easily with others or are you a loner? Where do you like to go on
holiday? Even if you are a fictional character it is now your autobiography, so
who would play you in the movie of you? Have fun, be expansive. It’s a form
of playing – which leads onto the next one.

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Learn to Play

When you are stuck or blocked, unblocking is in effect


allowing the creative child to come through and heal.
Observe how creative children are in their playing. Play
yourself. If you are embarrassed skipping along the sea
shore singing a nursery rhyme then find some woods
and skip where no-one can see you. The creative child you may have
suppressed for so long – the one who delights in so many things – wants to
come out to play. Make some musical instruments out of pots and pans, bells
and jewellery, paper rolls and paper clips in small containers that you can
shake, rattle and roll. Have fun.

Having fun is the opposite of trying too hard – and trying too hard is
sometimes what blocks us. We fret, we worry, we think we’ll never do it.
Children never have those problems, so rediscover the child in you.

Creativity is about having fun and playing, it’s not a duty – “I don’t want to go
to the gym, but I must to lose weight/get fit.’ Whoever or whatever created the
Universe had fun doing it – imagine painting in your mind all those species of
living things, plants animals etc. Doubt that was duty. It was fun.

It is essential to laugh more. If you can’t find something that makes you laugh
then sit down and just exhale using the term ‘ha’. If you run that term together
again and again ‘ha-ha-ha-ha’ as quickly as you can you won’t be able to stop
yourself laughing. Works every time.

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St. George and the Dragon

(Skip this if your schooling and childhood was so


perfect that you already feel that you are in the realms
of the angels. Others might find it useful.)

This is more a meditation than a game, but it is very


useful for those who are stuck because the story they
are telling of their own lives is peppered with concepts as ‘can’t-do’, ‘I-was-
told-I-was-no-good’’, ‘people-always-laughed-when-I-said I wanted to write.’
We are the authors of our own lives and we can retell/rewrite the stories. I
was told as a child that I would never amount to anything, which was my sole
and principle motivation to stick one in the eye of my detractors. That’s
because I’m recalcitrant and antiauthoritarian, so if anyone tells me what I can
or can’t do I’ll do the opposite. Bloody minded if you will. But many people get
stuck in the beliefs they have been fed by their family/teachers/mentors
because they want to please them and be seen to be agreeable.

Now, you’re going to consider yourself as a character in your story in the third
person so that you can be a witness to this narrative and not be immersed in
it. You are Michelle or Michael rather than ‘I’. So the story might begin
“Michelle/Michael was born in London on a wet stormy night on April 1 st at five
in the morning. Being born in foul weather on April Fool’s day seemed like an
apt omen for the life that then transpired.” You’re not going to write “I was
born in London etc…” because you are a witness. Then tell your story as
other people might see you. But not your whole life’s story because it would
be too long and, most likely, discourage you to do the whole exercise. Pick
two or three incidents or events where you were manipulated (mostly
unconsciously) into being what someone else wanted you to do or be.
Embellish that story of how you fitted into other peoples’ perspectives and
expectations. Tell the story (if it indeed is so) of how you complied with your
parents’ wishes to be a doctor when you really wanted to be a circus clown,
but tell it in the third person. And try to identify the moments when your
creativity was disparaged or crushed because all children (and therefore all
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adults, even if suppressed) are creative. It is said that all creativity comes
from the inner child, but the inner child has no defence mechanisms against
the disparagement of disapproving adults. This is why criticism of your
creative endeavours can hurt so much. Make it about 250-1000 words
depending on how healing it is for you.

Okay, so then retell it how you want it to be now. How you have come to
realise, despite all the obstacles, what a creative creature you are. That
whatever people said about your inability to dance, sing, write, they were
wrong, They thought you were an ugly duckling whereas you were really a
swan. Rewrite the story so that when someone told you that you wouldn’t
amount to much or, as parents, you would be much better off earning your
living in business than in the arts (or whatever you want) you include a scene
where your heroine/hero rejects that. This is the novel/script of your real life.

Now, the third and final part. Sit and relax and go into meditation or
visualisation mode and imagine you are St. George and you have come to
slay the dragon which has imprisoned the damsel in distress in the castle.
The damsel in distress is your true story, the dragon the old one imposed
upon you when your intuition, reasoning and real desires were a hostage to
fortune. Imagine St. George battling and killing the dragon and carrying off the
damsel, your real story. Be as elaborate as you want about this. Your psyche
will accept the gear shift.

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Expanding your Consciousness

This takes some commitment but is really useful in


developing an awareness to allow your stories to come
through. It is also only useful if all your senses are
unimpaired. If not – you have a hearing issue for
example – it doesn’t mean you can’t develop your
awareness, just that this exercise wouldn’t be useful for
you. Once you who are blessed with unimpaired senses have mastered some
of this exercise (and it is really difficult to master it all) you might find your
channels much clearer and your stories come through from your ‘muse’
(whatever you perceive that to be) with an elegance that surprises you. P.D.
Ouspensky, a student of Gurdjieff is credited with devising this when he
asserted that most of mankind is sleepwalking through their lives. I don’t hold
an opinion on that, I just know that this is useful (even though I have never
mastered it completely.) It is not easy though and you need to take about half
an hour to do it.

Take yourself out for a walk and for the first five minutes concentrate and the
visual stimuli. Not just looking but seeing – cracks in the brickwork of houses,
TV aerials and satellite dishes, the plumage of birds and the colour of the
leaves on the trees. Be aware of the colours and really see, as if you are a
child looking through a kaleidoscope for the first time.

After about five minutes (but don’t get distracted by formally looking at your
watch) add to this your world of sound. The passing traffic, the voices of
people, the birdsong, the distant sound of a speedboat on water, an
aeroplane. Don’t let go of your visual stimuli.

Ten minutes in bringing in the sensations you feel with your sense of touch.
The breeze on your skin, your footsteps on the road/path, even how your
clothes brush against your body. You are now conscious of three types of
stimuli.

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After about fifteen minutes bring in the sense of smell – the flowers, the dust,
the honeysuckle in the woods, the smell of grass after a rainfall.

Now try to pay attention to all these four sensory inputs simultaneously. (If
you’re a real glutton for punishment you can include taste by sucking on a
sweet, but I didn’t ever take it that far.)

Once you have anchored these four (or five) senses start to count your
footsteps as you walk AND recite a piece of poetry that you know well or a
nursery rhyme.

If you do this even moderately successful you will slip into an altered state of
consciousness which is akin to the meditative state which enhances
creativity. You need to have patience though.

I would also like to add that you can’t fail at this because it is a tool to help
you unblock yourself and enhance your creativity. It’s like running: some
people run five miles, other people run five minutes, it’s what it does for you
that matters. Also, unlike all the other tools/games I have illustrated here this
one doesn’t involve directly sitting at your desk and writing. So when you
need to get out ….

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Make Friends with Your Muse

This is a contentious one, but where do your ideas


come from? Now, even the most avid atheist who
has thought about these matters must have asked
where consciousness comes from. Max Planck,
the father of quantum physics, claimed that all
matter was a derivative of consciousness. So what
is this consciousness? I suggest it is your muse,
the gods and goddesses in other dimensions
tickling your creativity button. So who or what is your personal muse? That
depends on your model of reality. God, the Universe, The All-That-Is, Spirit,
your creativity, your Auntie Bessie. Just let it through and make friends.

Yes, take some time to sit down and make friends with your muse. In epochs
past when man and woman contemplated how the Universe came into being
they coined the word God or Allah or Yahweh or Krishna or numerous other
names. It’s simply a name expressed in symbols (letters). Our artists have
since been trying to express the Divine in their paintings, music and writings.
And because we know no other way we personify Him/Her/It. So God is
personified as a man even though no man is God and God is not man.

I have no denominational or religious views on this but often wonder where


my ideas come from. So I have made friends with my Muse and sit down
often to talk with him/her. My Muse metamorphoses often – sometimes he’s a
middle-aged hippy in sandals and red corduroy trousers, other times she’s a
gorgeous goddess in the most stunning golden robes beckoning me to an
ecstasy I haven’t yet experienced. (And still haven’t as it happens. But there’s
a way to go! And fun on the way!) It doesn’t matter. Make friends with that
part of you/higher self/source that partners you in your creativity and give
him/her/it an image you are comfortable to sit with. Then have a dialogue.
And after the dialogue, record what you remember. Then make a date to
meet your Muse at your desk and/or writing space the next time you approach
it. It’s a yummy new date!

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Many artists will consider their work a ‘channelling’. Nothing wrong in that,
since we are all connected to the same source and each other. I’ll conclude
with what Giacomo Puccini said. (Substitute the word God in the following
quotation with your concept of the energy of the Universe.) Puccini when
speaking about Madam Butterfly said : “The music for this opera comes from
God. I was merely instrumental in putting it on paper and communicating it to
the public.”

And if you think it all comes from you and not something as well as you
(because of course all things do come from you because you are not
separate from the source) contemplate this as a wonder about how complex
an organism we are and how the astronomer Fred Hoyle calculated the odds
against us evolving by accident. “A living cell has a chain of amino acids: the
function of these amino acids is dependent upon 1,000 to 2,000 different
enzymes. The probability of a thousand different enzymes coming together in
just the right way to help amino acids function in a random way over the
Earth's several billions of years is 10 to the power of 40,000 to one.”

In the light of that (wow!) make friends with your muse.


We are creative people who with the creator created us being creative.

The word Inspiration derives from in-spiritis (emanating from spirit), the word
enthusiasm (a must for the creative heart) derives from en theos (emanating
from God, whatever that means to you.) “In the beginning was the word” says
one spiritual tradition (though I don’t adhere myself to any one specific
philosophy) and other religions also place metaphysical emphasis on sound
and creation being inextricably linked.

Food for thought there huh? Who can deny the creative power of the word?

Let’s get going!

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