Sober Chronicles | The Muse

by Marc Lee Shannon for TDS 

Most days, I get up very early. I make the usual pot of strong coffee in my french press, Martin the dog warming up to my side, letting me know his urgent need, and together we get another one started. 

Never knowing what the day will bring, we both trust that there will be some inspiration. Something. Please and thank you to that magical, mysterious force of the creative person’s life—the Muse. The Lego blocks of our creative intuition and guidance brought to us by some unknown force that meets the blank canvas, the empty page, the new Protools session, and says: “Let’s begin; you won’t suck.” 

First, I set my intentions and start my pre-dawn meditations centered on reading trusted spiritual teachings. My well-worn books and journals include a few longtime favorites and a very special well-worn “libre” I have highlighted so often that the unmarked text stands out like a poorly dressed stranger in a gated community. I bow my head to a Higher Power, The Universe, God or Mother Earth, or whatever is in my conscious mindset, and I give thanks for another sunrise. I’m alive and sober for another day. Amen, and thank you. 

Then, as with every day, I begin my daily patient waiting for the Muse. 

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In Greek and Roman mythology, the Muse were the 12 daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne that presided over the arts and sciences. (And yes, I just looked that up to confirm spellings). The muse is that magical, out of nowhere inspiration that flows through us when we sit down to create. When we’re hoping for brilliance but settle for something that doesn’t embarrass us too much. That moment — when creative mojo comes through, not from us — makes it all worthwhile.

After meditations, I get to work planning my day. In my Moleskin journal, I write the date with a Pentel Twist-Erase pencil. I love the feel of the graphite scratching the page. I first fell in love with that brand during my trips to the far East. Oh man, the joy of spending an hour in the massive section in that department store in Machida, Japan testing writing utensils. Yes, I’m a Pentel person, end of story. 

After capturing the date on-page, I always circle it with a blue highlighter to remind me that this is the only time I will live this particular moment in time and that I should pay attention. Those of us in the recovery community make a big deal of one-day-at-a-time living. It doesn’t suck to celebrate the moment and not miss things. Being here now and not living in the small rearview mirror is a practice I struggle with and must always remember not to forget.  Next, I write two columns in that black hardbound graph paper-lined journal, two task-centered planning columns of intentions and purpose for this 24 hours. 

Life Work – The things that are important to my life. Family, exercise, social and emotional connections, learning and studying, and all the things that make this drive down life’s lane meaningful.

Work Life – Stuff that is urgent in my freelance artist life that pays the bills. Practicing, writing, gigs, recording, podcasting, social media management and teaching schedules. The money work.

And then, I get to work on the phone calls, emails, spreadsheets, Google Docs, lesson plans, gear prep, etc… you get the picture. I understate the time I sit with a guitar in hand or digits poised above the keyboard with my head cocked, staring off into space waiting for the moment of delivery of that lick, lyric, or laugh delivered in written line. Come on, Muse, right about now would be a good time…

I get it done most days and when the pillows are calling is the time when I reflect and genuflect once again. The Muse shows up. That’s what happens when we let go and let life flow. When I learn, again, to get out of the way and float downstream in the ever-flowing current of creative joy.  

This much I know. 

The songs, the columns, the lessons with my students, the podcasts, and the gigs come and go. Beautifully formed and perfect with all the proper imperfections.

I, and every other writer, know that it’s ass in the chair and shitty first drafts that make us. (Thanks, Anne Lamott) 

The work and the art that the Muse sparks in me is never finished; rather it is gently abandoned and handed over to you all: the readers, the listeners, and the audience. Once it is in your hands, I no longer have any say. When you are thanking me for the work, I am thanking the Muse and maybe the Moleskin for keeping me on purpose. But, mostly, the angels of redemptive mercy that bring the notes to my hands and the words to the paper. They always show up.

In the end, for most of us in the creative pursuit, the payoff for all this effort ends up earning tons of satisfaction and tens of dollars if we are lucky (Ha). Most of us would not have it any other way. 

Why? Because when it’s the end of the night and I’m lying in bed, and the sound of the notes and the whispering words are still in my head, I am grateful. For one more day, one more chord, one more line of the verse. One more “I didn’t think I could do it, but I did” moment. I drift off to dream, and as I close my eyes, my last thought is of the morning and the hope for another day and another visit from the Muse. 

The song and the poetry of another day upright, another day saved by the sanity that comes to this journey of recovery by grace, and allows me the endless searching for the rhyme, the rhythm and the meter of life. Delivered just in time and with one more moment sublime by, The Muse. 

Steady on

mls

Reach Marc Lee Shannon at marcleeshannon@gmail.com. Listen to “Recovery Talks: The Podcast” from 91.3 The Summit at: www.recoverytalks.org, Apple Podcasts, or Spotify. Find his music on bandcamp.com.

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