The essential truth is that sometimes you’re worried they’ll find out its a fluke–that you don’t really have it. You’ve lost the muse–or the worst dread–that you never had it at all.Robin Williams
Eight years ago I suffered the most catastrophic, soul-crushing failure of my professional career. Nay—my life!
I was still psychically drunk from the moderate success I was enjoying from my boutique digital advertising agency in southern California. Every venture I touched seemed to blossom without much effort. Call me King Midas, I often thought to myself, during those heady days.
Awash with disposable funds, I poured all of my money into another ‘boutique’ venture. In true cliche fashion, this new venture was a chic, high-tech themed hotel in a moderately sketchy part of town. In retrospect, I’m surprised it even lasted as long as it did. Anyway, the details are less important than the outcome—I lost everything. Everything! And managed to get myself sued in the process.
Yeah, I lost money and most of my fancy over-priced toys, but those were the least of my troubles. After the dust settled and the legal shootout was over, I found myself completely devoid of energy and creatively depleted. Now, I’m usually quite easily inspired (most creative entrepreneurs are) but now I was physically, emotionally and mentally spent.
I had no money, soon to have no house and no creative fire left in my belly.
I was just a shell–a terrified shell.
Calling my experience a mere ‘creative block’ would’ve been the understatement of the century. It felt more like ‘creative rigor mortis!’ I didn’t even have enough energy to watch television or eat anything more complicated than cereal. On most days, I routinely slept way past noon and on other days, just stared at my dimpled ceiling. My therapist would later inform me I was going through a mild form of PTSD, but I didn’t know that at the time. It just felt like even breathing was exhausting enough.
I was given just thirty days to evacuate my home and I spent the first seven of those days in bed. At some point on the eighth or ninth day, I finally dragged myself out of bed—perhaps to evacuate my bowels of what was, no doubt, a multi-day build up. I meandered aimlessly through the house and found myself staring out of my back screen door. A year earlier, I would’ve been frolicking under this gorgeously sunny, So-Cal afternoon. Astonishing how fortunes change on a dime.
Standing there, deep in the midst of my nostalgia for a by-gone lifestyle, I heard a rapid fluttering and light buzzing against the upper left corner of the doorway. A hummingbird was hovering just outside the screen door, actively digging at something only hummingbirds could find important. I couldn’t see what it was actively feasting on, but I was utterly mesmerized by the shimmering hues of purple and red reflecting off its immaculately painted feathers. It looked like a hovering Christmas ornament under the dancing sun rays—its wings just a blur of activity. Then the oddest thing happened.
The hummingbird froze in mid-air, cocked its head at me, and then flippantly said,
“Looks like your muse is dead, mate! Better find a new one before its too late.”
Then it zoomed off, leaving a purple-red jet stream of hummingbird magic dust in its wake!
Ok, I know what you’re thinking.
No, I was not high!
I was absolutely sober. I hadn’t even had a joint in almost ten months prior to that. I swear that hummingbird spoke. Audibly. Needless to say, the whole affair instantly yanked me from my depressive stupor. Its not everyday you get visited by a talking hummingbird. Where are the witnesses when you need them most?
I stumbled to the bathroom again and washed my face for a good long while. After some intense mirror-gazing, I made up my mind. Half-naked in the middle of my dirty bathroom, I resolved to find a new muse. I wasn’t quite sure what my old muse was, or even that I had one to begin with. Either way, I needed one NOW to rekindle my creativity—my life force.
I packed up my entire house over the next few days and sold most of my remaining crap. All of my remaining possessions fit into one suitcase which I loaded unto my sole means of transportation—an old 1996 Vespa PX.
Then I set out on a journey to find my new muse.
The stories that follow recount the circuitous (and sometimes tumultuous) path I took and how I finally found what I was looking for—the rebirth of a creative life.