This is a re-post from June 5, 2011, from a different blog I was keeping at that time. Today, apparently, is the day for spring cleaning old blog accounts -- I found and got rid of two of them that I had long since forgotten. This was one of the entries I wanted to keep for future reference.
I just watched this 2009 TED Talk by Elizabeth Gilbert, on the subject of creativity and "divine inspiration." In it, she postulates the idea that imagining one's creative inspiration as an external entity might provide a more constructive approach to creative work than assuming your creative genius resides solely within you.
She argues that letting your creative genius take the form of a "muse" or a "daemon" may take the pressure off. You do your work, and sometimes your muses show up, and sometimes they don't. You do your work regardless.
What I find fascinating about this idea is its psychological merit. Regardless of your belief system or notions of "divine intervention" or mythology, you can use a construct like this as a relief valve for feelings of pressure or frustration or "stuck"-ness. If offers a way of seeing the creative process as a collaboration between the individual and the universe, giving permission for flashes of brilliance to come into your head as well as out of it. Realistically, most, if not all creative people have had at least one moment of blissful, thrilling inspiration that they could not explain. While this notion does not quantify it for purposes of evidence-based science, it does serve as an explanation.
If we accept the notion of science as that which we can explain, and "magic" (or divine inspiration, or flashes of brilliance, or whatever metaphor you like) as that which we cannot explain yet, we leave room in our world for these crazy ideas. Work hard, yes. Never give up. Devote yourself tirelessly to the work you know you exist to do. And trust that in so doing, something will happen that you don't necessarily understand, that will give significance to your work beyond anything you had thought possible.