Appeasing the Guardian: How I Maintain a Steady Creative Flow

Artists and writers often talk about having a muse. I love Greek mythology, so the idea of a classical muse wearing a  crown of flowers and a flowing gown appeals to me. I imagine her gentle smile and soft voice, and how all the ideas she would offer me would be wrapped in gossamer and gold.

The thing is, I don’t have a muse.

My Big Blue Dragon
My Big Blue Dragon

What I have is a Dragon. A Big Blue Dragon. She is the Guardian of the Cave of Treasures. A mob of Makers live in the cave, little people with busy hands who are happiest when they are creating beautiful, mysterious things. They stitch and carve and paint and hammer and then shove the finished products to the mouth of the cave for me to see.

Only I don’t get to see them unless I am on good terms with the Guardian.

So when others talk about wooing their muse, I think about appeasing the Guardian. She is happy to share the wealth of the cave with me, but I must prove myself worthy.

How do I do that?

First, I have to convince her I am dedicated to my project. I must show up regularly to create and spend time on my project even when I am tired, distracted, or busy. I gain her trust through consistent effort, even if I can only manage a few minutes a day.

Second, I honor every gift that comes from the cave, large and small. A fleeting thought that has nothing to do with any of my current projects still gets jotted down in a notebook, so I can find it again later. Though I won’t use all the ideas that come my way, by treating all of them as treasures, I can convince the Guardian I won’t throw away true riches out of neglect.

Lastly, I work in faith. Even when I am not sure what to do next, I keep at it, believing that the answer is in the Cave, and that the Guardian will give it to me as long as I do my part of the job, which is to record the gifts whenever she decides to open the gates.

Commitment, respect, and faith: the three key factors that win the Guardian’s trust. I must continue to show up and do my work on good days and bad, to keep every fragment and scrap that comes out of the Cave in a safe place, to maintain that trust. The rewards when I do so are great. The gates stand open and the treasures come out, sometimes in a trickle, sometimes in a flood, and my work is full of wonder and joy.

And when I forget? The Guardian will close the gates on me. The flow of material, the sense that I am inspired, will stop, and I’ll wonder what’s gone wrong. Fortunately, the Guardian doesn’t hold grudges. She can be appeased again. I just have to remember the key factors and regain her trust.

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