There is a belief among many writers and artists, myself included, that we must give up something for the sake of our art. That the muse requires sacrifice. That we must honor that requirement or risk the muse’s disapproval, disappointment, and ultimate desertion.
It is a belief that stems from our earliest days. So far back, in my own case, I can’t pinpoint its origin. I don’t know where it came from or when it arrived or how. But I do finally see it, and because I’ve seen it, I now know it for what it is: a lie we tell ourselves.
And it is a lie. That much I am sure. Though it is a lie of sorts.
For there is an obligation we must meet. The muse does require sacrifice. But it isn’t the kind of sacrifice we think it is.
We aren’t required to give up family or friends, money or sanity. We can live–as writers and artists–blessed, happy lives complete with all of these things. It is as much our right as it is the teacher’s or banker’s or doctor’s, despite whatever it is in us that tells us otherwise.
But that’s the sacrifice the muse requires. That deep, dark inner voice that spouts fear and revels in insecurity. The voice that tells us we aren’t good enough or if we are good enough that we don’t deserve to be considered good enough. That we can’t have it all.
That’s what we must give up in order to succeed. That’s what the muse wants–that voice. Our fear.
We cannot write well and often if we are constantly battling fear. The fear that we aren’t good enough. That we have nothing to say. That our family will desert us, or our partner will leave us, if we obtain the level of success we crave.
That fear is rampant among writers and artists, and it is time we conquer it. The muse isn’t coming for our loved ones. She isn’t coming for our bank accounts or our mental health. She is not a jealous creature, no matter what the myths may say, for she cannot exist without our help and we cannot help her from the half-life–that nebulous existence of partial feelings and partial truths.
Creativity requires full-throttled living. It cannot exist in the halves. As people innately and forever tied to the creative spirit, neither can we. We die there, piece by piece, minute by minute. So does our work. So does the muse.
That is why she requires us to cast out that voice, drive off that fear. Only once we have embraced who we are fully and completely, only once we are living life full throttle in as many ways as possible, will the muse reward us with what we crave: a productive and lifelong body of work that makes us proud.
We can have it. It is ours for the taking. The only thing we must give up is the fear.