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Stories From The Studio: The Truth In Our Muse by Gabrielle Dearman

Last Monday at the River Oaks Artists Group, we found ourselves in some thought-provoking discussion and revelation about our creative muse and the challenge of birthing something new in our creativity. Several of us seemed to be at a starting point in our creative processes – trying to get ideas and courage together to start a new body of work; honing in on one’s point of view to start creating consistent, recognizable, authentic works; trying a new creative medium; and getting new training to help refine a creative skill. It was clear that many of us were feeling the progressively uncomfortable pangs of creative labor. Looking back on the evening, I can’t help but feel that our group could be compared to the artistic equivelant of a lamaze class! We all helped each other figure out how to breathe through the painful experience of bringing something beautiful and new into the world, and reminded each other of the purpose and valuable gift we are carrying.

Nancy Simmons, who is a musician, had a beautiful story to tell of finding creative inspiration at a recent jazz concert at The Altamont Theatre here in Asheville. She passionately shared about how she was deeply caught up in the music and had a realization that it was like the visceral feeling of falling in love with her husband. She spoke of the importance of being in community and collaborating with other artists in a place like that where we can soak up the creativity that can be the muse for our own art. Nancy so eloquently stated that the key to activating the creativity for a body of art is to “find a passion that speaks in every piece.”

Luci Shaw describes her creative labor process of knitting in her book, Breath For The Bones:

“There will be no other sweater just like this, and though I have a pattern of sorts, my own trial and error and decision and will shape it into my own creation. I don’t know yet what it will look like finished. But the effort feels worthwhile, satisfying.”

Luci’s account is encouraging for those of us pushing through the discomfort and the unknown place of our creative processes. She has found significance and beauty even there in the middle of her artistic laboring.

Another amazing testimony was shared by our friend, Joe Ruminski, during our discussion time. He told us how he courageously gave himself permission to create something that he thoroughly enjoyed making, that was totally unexpected, and it sold immediately. He encouraged those of us in the group who struggled with wanting to do things that people expect us to create, to be authentic in our process by having fun doing something we love to do. This was wonderful wisdom for us in the group to hear, as many of us still struggle with creating art based on other’s opinions. As we talked about the difficulty of presenting work which carries our true heart and voice, knowing that others would see it and judge it, Joe’s story gave us courage that even if it is different than our more “accepted” works, it was worth the risk.

Photograph by Gabrielle Dearman


Luci Shaw recounts another moment in her creative process as she was wanting to photograph images of leaves falling from a tree to complement a poem she had written. She said this about the moment:

“I knew experientially my powerlessness to make a creative moment like that happen. A tree can’t thrash its branches; it waits for the wind to move them. I can manufacture neither poems nor spiritual power, but my task is to be on the spot, watching, ready when the breeze picks up.”

The courage to let our art stand strong and wait for the true muse, which is the Holy Spirit, and be authentic in our creative process are huge issues when we are feeling those uncomfortable birthing pangs in our process! But as we learned through our discussion, there can be beauty and enjoyment as we work out our ideas through our creative expressions.

“Stories from the Studio” is our weekly series by Gabrielle Dearman where she will be sharing about the happenings at River Oaks – The Worship Studio’s local creative community here in Asheville. Check it out each week as Gabrielle shares highlights from our local artist group meetings, community days, workshops, and all the other great things happening in our creative community.