What Happens When You Lose The Muse

Writing lessons from Jony Ive’s departure from Apple.

What Happens When You Lose The Muse
Photo by Md Mahdi / Unsplash

Jony Ive, Apple’s head designer, is leaving the company. Through 30-years at the company, Ive is responsible for the design of every major Apple product since the Bondi plastic iMac in the late 90’s. According to the Wall Street Journal, Ive’s departure began years ago, shortly after Steve Jobs died of cancer.

The Journal article paints a picture of two extremely creative individuals (Jobs and Ive) feeding off each other to create Apple’s iconic products. Jobs, ever the dreamer, envisioned future technology and Ive designed it into reality. Under Jobs’ direction, design was the chief component of Apple’s products. Ive’s attention to detail ensured the blue plastic casing perfectly complimented the blue hues in the software.

Yet, after Jobs passed away in 2011, Ive lost his muse. According to the Journalarticle, Tim Cook trusted Ive’s work but didn’t provide the same inspiration Ive received from Jobs. Ive became solely responsible for design choices and lost his partner to bounce ideas back and fourth with.

Writing, like product design, can be a solitary endeavor. We can sit in our favorite spot and write and write and write without interaction with another human being. While this is functional, it might not produce our best work. There is a certain magic that happens when two creative people get to gather and share ideas.

Muse¹ is any one of nine sister goddesses of Greek mythology who provided inspiration for music and poetry. In today’s world, a muse can be anyone or anything that provides inspiration to create. A muse can help a writer divine inspiration from other people, movies, song lyrics, clouds… just about anything can strike as a muse.

When we find a muse we particularly enjoy, it becomes the well we tap into time and time again. For Jony Ive, that muse was Steve Jobs. For me, it’s reading news articles that have nothing to do with subjects I’m thinking about.

But what happens when our muse disappears? As the Wall Street Journal reports, Ive lost his focus when he lost his muse. I’m the same way (and I’m willing to bet you are, too).

A few months back I realized I might not be a writer after all. This season of doubt, coupled with a missing muse, produced two long months of inability to create. Instead, I busied myself with other projects (that I’m very excited about) and hoped someday the muse might return.

There’s no rhyme or reason when or how the muse might strike back. Jony Ive is leaving Apple after 30 years to seek a new source of inspiration. Perhaps his design firm will produce a muse to rival the one he had in Steve Jobs. Perhaps that muse was a once in a life time occurrence.

As writers we need to seek muses at every corner and when they strike… well, we need to be prepared. You might just be reading an article in the Wall Street Journalwhen you feel that slight tug from one of the nine sisters. That’s when you know it’s time to start writing.

  1. Not the English rock band. ↩︎
A version of this article also appeared on Medium.