Jen Kiaba Photography | How Do You Honor Your Muse?

How Do You Honor Your Muse?

September 08, 2014  •  4 Comments

There was a time that I was convinced that I simply was not creative. 

Yes, I was a photographer. Yes, I could take a decent portrait. But I didn't feel comfortable identifying myself as an artist.

That felt like an honor reserved for other people. Those that were born with some sort of creative gene.

The thing is that I was no more creative then than I am now.

Back then my creativity was manifesting itself in how I color-coded and organized my financial spreadsheets, how I decorated my corporate office, and how I was Instagramming the beauty of the world around me.

What I was not doing, however, was listening to that insistent voice inside of me that was begging for me to pay attention.

Once I began to stop and listen to that inner inspiration, I began to understand the limitless bounds of my own creativity and finally began to be comfortable identifying myself as an artist.

I believe that creativity is a muscle and by honoring it with regular attention and practice anyone can find their own boundless creative inspiration.

However our muse chooses to manifest itself in our lives, there's a limited amount of patience that it has.

If we don't honor our ideas and inspirations, then our muse may end up finding a more receptive audience.

For a while I tried to be immediately available to the muse with my camera. That meant that sometimes I was sneaking into empty conference rooms in order to take a photograph with my phone:

"Visitations" Fine Art Photography by Jen Kiaba"Visitations" Fine Art Photography by Jen Kiaba

"Visitations" Fine Art Photography by Jen Kiaba

Unfortunately we can't always sneak off and have a photo shoot every single time the muse strikes.

In Elizabeth Gilbert's Ted Talk, she tells a great story about Tom Waits trying to drive while the muse is delivering a song, and how he deals with great inspiration at the wrong time. (Hint: he asks the muse to come back at a slightly more convenient time. Ballsy!)

So as long as you're not driving, or engaging in a similar activity that needs your full attention, it's important to be able to capture inspiration when it comes to you.

If I don't document the idea, then it hangs out in the ether. It's so easy for a lot of ideas to get stuck in the "Wouldn't that be nice" stage. 

Plus, if you don't document that spark, it can be difficult to reconnect with later. And documentation brings things out of the "Wouldn't it be nice" stage and into the "What are the steps to get this done" stage.

For me, when I document an idea, it suddenly comes into the realm of what's possible and I can begin a plan to execute my idea on a very external level.

I'll start with a sketch of how I want the final image to look. I don't get too precious about this; I could care less about the accuracy of anatomy. I just want to capture the idea.

This is the sketch of the second image I created in my current series:

Fine Art Concept sketch for "My Mind is a Lie" by Jen KiabaConcept sketch for "My Mind is a Lie" by Jen Kiaba You can see my handwriting is sloppy and my sketching is pretty laughable.

Can I draw better than that? You betcha!

Do I need to? Not really. 

It's so easy to get stuck in perfectionism, and I have a major tendency towards that.

But perfectionism can lead to procrastination. The more pressure I put on myself to sketch the idea perfectly, the more I could put off figuring out how to accomplish the execution of the image.

So instead, I opt to capture the essence of the image and the gesture of my figures. 

It was more important for me to figure out how to get a human head into a bird cage for the final photograph than it was to make sure that I had an accurate rendering of the sketch before I proceeded.

Though the inspiration for this image came pretty quickly, it took me a while before I had figured out how I would be able to make this into a believable self-portrait.

You can't stop at capturing the initial idea. Follow-through on the idea is where it matters.

I could have an entire sketchbook full of crappily drawn ideas, but they don't matter if I don't bring them into reality.

So even though it was the middle of the winter at the time, I dug myself out of my snowy driveway and packed up my car to head to my studio.

And here is the final result: "My Mid is a Lie" Dark, Surreal Fine Art Photography by Jen Kiaba. Click to purchase a Limited Edition Print."My Mid is a Lie" Dark, Surreal Fine Art Photography by Jen Kiaba.Click to purchase a Limited Edition Print.

It all comes down to honoring our ideas and then taking inspired action.

Will all of our ideas be amazing? Maybe not, but wouldn't it that be nice!

The key is developing a practice that teaches us to listen to the inner wisdom or inspiration that wants to speak through us.

I have sketches in notebooks, on the back of grocery lists, you name it. I try to compile it all later, but the point is that when inspiration speaks I am willing to listen.

So now I am curious to know if you have a practice for listening to your inner voice or inspiration when it seeks you out. 

What's been the most effective way for you to translate that inspiration, and then bring it to fruition in your creative practice?

Let me know in the comments below!


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Jen Kiaba Photography

It's such a powerful thing to claim ownership of your stories like that. Bravo!
Sometimes I get a title for an image first too, and then the "story" of the image takes shape afterwards. Funny how our antenna works sometimes huh?
Robin E. Mason(non-registered)
Good Lord woman! I do believe we be twins!!! change up the photography for writing, and well, I could have written this!! to wit, I give you the introduction to my bio, “I once said I should write down all the story ideas in my head so someone could write them someday. I had no idea at the time that someone was me! I mean, even my dollies and Barbies had backstory!”

I keep some form of paper with me at all times, and a pen to write story ideas, names, sometimes my muse gives me the title first. sometimes I "get" a name and I just "know" to which story it belongs, and with whom!!

you are so right when you address perfection, and the handicap it call be. excellence, much better! thank you for an excellent post!
Jen Kiaba Photography

Thank YOU so much (and of course you are quite welcome).
I definitely understand the feeling of being lost, but as many great business experts say: "Clarity comes from action."
I think that can so perfectly be applied to our creative pursuits as well. Sometimes we have no idea of the final destination when we begin, but just by being on the journey we find the clarity that we need.
Best to you in all of your pursuits! <3
Hi Jen,
thank you so much for this post! I am following your blog for a short while now and today I was especially moved by your post. It is exactly what I needed to hear right now... I have lists of concepts in small notebooks, on my phone, and on various post-it's, but struggle with the idea that I first need to prepare well, get more of this and that and "finding" time to pursue the ideas... although I know you don't "find" time, you make or choose time, I feel somewhat lost and stuck... but your post was a great, soft kick in the behind, to stop "preparing" and start creating! Thank you!!
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