Monday, 19 September 2016

Find Your Muse

or, How Patti Smith Changed my Life

A muse is the source of an artist's inspiration.
WB Yeats had Maud Gonne, Pablo Picasso had Marie-Therese Walter, Patti Smith had Robert Magglethorpe.

Patti Smith
I first heard about Patti Smith’s book ‘Just Kids’ a year ago. I can’t remember what I was reading at the time or where I read it (this anecdote would be so much better if I did!) but I do remember what I read. “Patti Smith’s ‘Just Kids’ is the best book you will ever read and it will change your life.”
I ordered it, read it within a few days, and it did change my life.
‘Just Kids’ is lauded as the seminal biography of artist Robert Magglethorpe. In reality, it details the thought processes of a young woman trying to make it as an artist in 1960s New York. Her roommate and lover Robert is also trying to ‘make it’. This isn't a book review, if you do want to read one, check out this epic piece about 'Just Kids' from the Guardian.
“We gathered our colored pencils and sheets of paper and drew like wild, feral children into the night, until, exhausted, we fell into bed.” 
Just Kids opened up a whole new world to me and challenged my own perspectives of what an artist was. Why couldn't two kids without any money be artists? Why couldn't a punk poet be an artist? Why couldn't an S&M photographer be an artist?
Just Kids taught me to embrace your inner creativity – no matter what the end product may be. A photo collage. A handmade necklace. A sculpture out of found objects. It didn’t matter what you created. It matter that you fulfilled your compulsion to create. And that it is possible to live off of your art.

There's something special about the way Patti sees the world. She's an effortless narrator and an eloquent writer. She reads nothing but poetry. When she does finally ‘make it’ as an artist, it is as a poet. A punk singer - the godmother of punk - whose songs read like poetry. I wanted to be her; effortlessly cool, drinking only black coffee, and with a self-assurance not accustomed to a young woman in the early 1970s. I wanted to experience life in the way she does - a full, creative life.

Last year Patti Smith released 'M Train', her second book. 

And when I put the book down, I felt like I had a new appreciation for our inter-connectedness, for opportunity, and for finding beauty where it may be least expected.

And like beauty, inspiration can be found in multiple places. While Richard and Patti inspired each other in the early days of their careers, they both also had other creative partners. They didn't have one sole muse.

Inevitably, I have been thinking about my own muse this month.
In 'On Writing' Stephen King tells wannabe writers "Don't wait for the muse". 
William Boyd says "You can't rely on the Muse to descend and sort it all out for you."

Patti Smith inspired me to embrace my own type of creativity. She allowed me to write and write about anything that interested me. Rather than teach me how to find my own muse, she became my muse. She became the thought in the back of my head as I wrote or glued or coloured. 'What would Patti do?'

Find your own muse. Whether it's someone you know or someone, or something like a way of life, you discover in a book. Find something that excites you and ignites you to work harder in pursuit of your dream. But listen to King and Boyd too. Don't wait around for the muse to find you. Work and learn and read until you discover your muse. And always keep on creating.

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