Getting your mojo back

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Dear Artist,

Yesterday, Doug Swinton wrote, “It seems lately I have lost my will to paint — or, as they say, I have lost my Mojo. Where does one go or what does one do to find one’s Mojo? I’m hoping for some Mojo wisdom from you.”

motherjones

Mother Jones

Thanks for that, Doug. Mojo is one of those words that popped into the language about 1926 and nobody seems to know where it came from. Merriam-Webster says it’s “a magic spell, hex, or charm — a magical power — probably of African origin, akin to the Fulani moco’o medicine man.” Other sources trace it to the Mojo Indians of Bolivia who are supposed to be the most skillful at river work and fishing. Some claim a connection with the incisive wisdom of “Mother Jones.” All kinds of musicians and animators have Mojo as their patron wizard. Lucasfilm, for example, has spun off crowds of Mojoists. While Mojo suggests any art that invokes supernatural powers, for us creators Mojovation means finding magic in what we do.

Here are a couple of ideas that might bring on your Mojo: “Random plunging” ought to be happening with you on a regular basis. Stewing, pacing, having self-doubts are the top killers. Try bypassing this common tendency and human frailty. Mindlessly grabbing reference material or errant imaginings and simply beginning is a time-tested way to invoke Mojo. Your muse is amused and willed to further renewal during this process. Goethe said it: “Whatever you can do, or dream, you can begin. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.” Also, some artists strain to see every start in Shunryu Suzuki’s “beginner’s mind.” You might consider getting his book: Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. His little self-deception is a basis of simple productivity and creative out-busting. Magician — fool thyself.

Mojo is not the resin that a pitcher puts on the ball. Mojo is the magic that you make as you go.

Best regards,

Robert

PS: “I see painting as an evocative magic, and there must always be a random factor in magic, one which must be constantly changed and renewed.” (William Burroughs )

Esoterica: To get your Mojo back you must revitalize the wizard (or witch) in yourself. Fact is, Doug, you’ve stopped believing in your own wizardry. That’s bad. Like the Wizard of Oz, it’s all about working weird levers behind a curtain. So here’s what you do: Take about five minutes to make yourself a wizard’s hat. Find a piece of coloured paper and roll and staple it in the form of a cone. Put a star or two or some other more personal design on it and put it on your head. Grab your brush and if you don’t notice a difference right away, please drop me a note and I’ll refund the cost of this letter.

This letter was originally published as “Get your mojo” on July 27, 2004.

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