“The muse is not an angelic voice that sits on your shoulder and sings sweetly. The muse is the most annoying whine. The muse isn’t hard to find, just hard to like – she follows you everywhere, tapping you on the shoulder, demanding that you stop doing whatever else you might be doing and pay attention to her.” Harlan Coben
This quote resonates with the creative side of my personality. I would imagine it is true for most people often defined as: creative, artistic, or even right-brained. It is a piece of who you are and not being able to express your creativity nags at your consciousness like a mosquito. Buzzing, buzzing, buzzing – never going away and just too fast and erratic to capture. Most recognize it as a temporary block and trust that if they can quiet themselves it will eventually return. The elusive muse.
For others, it’s not that their muse has gone on a temporary vacation. For these people, something often happens that destroys that muse as they know it. It’s like they have lost something vitally important and are forever trying to find it. Over the past few months, I have had the privilege of meeting two wonderful ladies who have been struggling to find a way to express their artistic side.
I talk a lot about the benefits of Zentangle when teaching a class, sharing various anecdotes throughout the class. I mentioned that my granddaughter’s neurosurgeon was watching me tangle over an extended period of time and we began to discuss how I started. He told me the fact that it helped me cope after her accident was really not surprising. He described it as a “reset” of my brain patterns – well documented with those listening to specific Baroque music. After a class in which I shared this story, one student came to me with tears in her eyes. She said she was a singer and had lost her ability to sing with a brain injury several years ago. The story resonated with her. While she was tangling, for the first time she felt that artistic “muse” she had lost so long ago. “I think I needed that reset. Now I have a way to be creative and express myself again.”
The second woman described herself as an artist at the beginning of class. I was a little surprised to see her struggle with several of the simple beginning tangles. Clearly getting stressed and frustrated. We did a little “one on one” and worked through it by the time the class ended. She was optimistic about moving forward and started looking at some examples of my work after class. Suddenly, she exclaims “THIS IS ART!” My student became very excited about the possibilities. She shared with me that she was getting ready to get rid of all her art supplies. She hadn’t done anything in years and every time she tried she was stressed and upset. Explaining that everyone I know who practices Zentangle comes with a unique story about why they do it, her eyes filled with tears. “Mine is Hurricane Katrina. I haven’t been the same since. But I know this; I’m NOT getting rid of my art supplies now!”
Some people wonder why I teach Zentangle. After all, I have a very busy and demanding job, full family life and struggle with my own personal health issues. Every student has a story, some as simple as a bonding activity for mothers and daughters or a break in the day for a new mom staying at home with her baby. But every one of them is important to me. Sometimes the gift of Zentangle is a small token and others it is much bigger and harder to define. I’ve always loved to give gifts and this feeds my need to give and make a difference in my little corner of the world.