Connecting to the Muse: Plugging into the Subconscious

I’ve struggled for the right idea for today’s blog. The ever-helpful @AuthorTinaGayle ( suggested talking about the wonders of caffeine, which might be a good topic for Friday. But @NailahCarter ( suggested doing something else to fire my muse, and the answer dropped right into my lap: music.

I’ve talked about music on this blog before. I’ve talked about how certain artists have elicited different emotions in me and the kinds of playlists and soundtracks that I have built for creating moods in works. It’s all a lot of fun, though sometimes I need silence to hear my inner voice. I considered listening to music, as Nai’lah suggested, but the real answer came to me: play the music.

You see, I’ve also wanted to be a songwriter for years. Like my fiction writing, ideas come to me without any prompting. I have several years’ worth of songs that have floated through my head. The problem, as I’ve described it to friends, is that I lack the language to transcribe those ideas into something that I can share with others. Aside from a few jam sessions with a friend’s band back in 1994/95 (during which said friend showed me a few basic riffs) and writing some lyrics for the band, the whole thing seemed beyond me.

I mean, seriously, I thought that even the most basic concepts of creating music with instruments laid far beyond my ability. It wasn’t until 2007, when I started playing first Guitar Hero and then Rock Band that I learned that, all along, I had grasped the basics of rhythm and guitar fingering, I just underestimated my own abilities. I picked up a guitar in December 2009 and before long started working on learning the basic chords, figuring it would just be a hop, skip, and a jump from there to something more.

Yeah, not so much. It took a long time to get a hold of the basics, and chord progressions still do a number on me. Still, I can handle some basic riffs, and have gotten brave enough to pick up a bass guitar, as well. I’m not really here to talk about all of that, though it’s relevant enough to what I did want to talk about. I want to talk more about wordless connection with the creative urge.

Sometimes my writer’s block problem lies not in fear of failure, or even boredom, though I have suffered both of those many times over the years. My problem is more one of connecting with the muse, or the subconscious, or whatever you want to call it. So many times it feels as though that creative…being, for lack of a better word, lies buried beneath a sheet of ice. In my case, that sheet of ice is made of words. Bear with me here, I know it’s an odd metaphor, but the issue is less in having inspiration- that’s present and accounted for. The problem is cutting through the words that I feel lie in between myself and that core of inspiration. The sheer mechanics of the issue present a problem.

You probably see where I’m going with this. Music provides a more direct line to the muse. A way to bring that creativity to the surface without having to think through the mechanics of words that so often trip us writers up. I’ve found the same thing with painting, but that obviously requires a little more set-up than just plugging the amp in and letting the music flow through you. I also find that when I play music, I can’t concentrate on anything other than that. My mind cannot wander. I can’t click over to the web. It’s a pure connection between conscious and subconscious. It keeps me in the moment, and I think that’s where the best art comes from: remaining in the moment and removing the barrier of self-awareness. That’s what edits are for.

Obviously the recommendation worked; here is an entry, after all, and I had abandoned any hope of writing one today. In fact, I’ve come up with ideas for a few more during the process of writing this. I would hope that other writers could do the same – it’s always good to have a backup creative form, something that might work, be it music, drawing, painting, or something else entirely. So much of creativity is just about being able to connect to that part of ourselves. It feels good and right, but sometimes the path is covered with the mechanics of what we hope to do.

So thanks to Nai’lah! You helped make this, and a few other entries, happen. I hope you have a great day.

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  1. Good post! And so true! If you try talking to me while I’m writing, you’ll throw me off my game. But yet as long as I have my headphones on, my focus is razor sharp. The mind is a truly powerful (and weird) thing.

    Happy New Year, Jonathan!

    • Yeah, it’s weird. Sometimes the headphones work, and sometimes they just distract me. I think it’s all about the level of focus or something. Happy New Year to you, too!

  2. Frustrated guitar players unite! If only my oldest son hadn’t left my Ibanez with two broken strings… Who am I kidding? I live on this laptop so much, I couldn’t even recall the model of electric guitar that I had until I checked it just now.
    So sad.


    • Haha, I live in fear of the day that my first string snaps. I’ve watched friends restring guitars and it does not look like fun. I’d hide out on the laptop, too 😉

  3. Music has often unlocked my creativity. Maybe I just haven’t been listening to the write, er, right music lately! 🙂

  4. Johnathan,

    OMG thank you so much for the tribute! It means so much to me when other writers tell me that I’ve been an inspiration to them. I know that I have to continue on my journey. This was an amazing blog and I’m even more ecstatic that so much was incited off advice. Please continue to share your thoughts with the world because you’ll be surprised to see that other writers may be struggling with the same thing.

    As far as the headphones go, sometimes they can be a hindrance and sometimes they can help. I totally agree with you on that one.

    Anyway, thank you again!

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