Follow the Muse – B2B Brand Marketing
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So the Greeks, being pretty smart folks, came up with this thing called the Muse. The Muse, as you may know, was a goddess, nymph or spirit that embodied inspiration, or creativity. Ever since then writers, artists and others of their ilk have been sitting around, waiting for her to come by and make something happen.
Copywriters, for example, court the Muse for a living, writing ad copy, websites, taglines and so on that creatively break through people’s cognitive filters and leave them wanting more. Chances are, you will find yourself chasing the Muse too. Problem is, she’s very good at playing hard to get. Seems like the harder you try to catch her, the more elusive she gets. The more frustrated you become, the more maddeningly she stays just out of reach, as if taunting you. How can you woo this little tease and make her work for you?
The Muse will only meet you in the dream-like world of your subconscious. Truly creative ideas do not come from the conscious mind. “A-ha!” You may say. “I have thought up plenty of ideas, consciously, purposefully.” True. But the ideas originated in the evanescent imagery, moods and symbols produced in the subconscious, and were then are organized and displayed in the conscious mind. Our subconscious minds are capable of making associations and connections that the conscious mind, with its rules and structure cannot. Perhaps this is why children and people with mental “other-abilities” (autism, bipolar, etc.) can be so creative—the conscious mind is out of the way. As Aristotle said, “There never was a genius without a tincture of madness.”
But, how do you delve into that place in your mind where dwells the muse, if you are not a genius, “touched by fire?” Let’s look at what Marshall Cook has to say in his book, Freeing Your Creativity:
“Creativity means getting out of the way…If you can quiet the yammering of the conscious, controlling ego, you can begin to hear your deeper, truer voice in your writing…[not the] noisy little you that sits out front at the receptionist’s desk and tries to take credit for everything that happens in the building.”
One way to quiet this “monkey mind,” as Buddhism calls it, the constant chattering stream of consciousness is to practice mindfulness. Be present in the moment. Let the world swirl around you in its haze of stress, clear your mind, breathe and truly experience all that is going on—engage all the senses. The Muse, who cannot tolerate stress and will not shout to be heard over your monkey mind, might just whisper in your ear.
Author, Luke Sullivan wrote, “Shake the Etch A Sketch in your head, start over constantly, and come at the problem from wildly different angles. Don’t keep sniffing at all four sides of the fire hydrant. Run through the entire neighborhood.”
Good advice. The Muse cannot be taken by force, or cornered in some dead-end alley of thought. Like the proverbial butterfly, you must follow her where she goes, which is not usually in a straight line; you must not grab at her, but let her come and rest on you. (See, I told you she’s a tease.)
James Webb Young describes the process:
- You gather as much information on the problem as you can. You read, you underline stuff, you ask questions, you visit the factory.
- You sit down and actively attack the problem.
- You drop the whole thing and go do something else while your subconscious mind works on the problem.
- You find out how to implement your idea.
The key is to know when to let go—when to stop trying to catch the Muse, letting her sneak up on you instead. When your mind is trying too hard, go take a hike, hop on your bike or go sit in the garden. Stop thinking about the perfect tagline, marketing solution or typeface. Truly, truly let go your thoughts, still the conscious mind and trust the subconscious mind to do its work. The Greeks were right—the Muse is worth pursuing!
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