Sunday, September 12, 2010


A muse painted by Jean-Marc Nattier in 1798

Last week, I was running over land and hillock with my muse. Once we get a good pace going, she just won't let up. She runs me ragged.

She came to me last weekend to help me with this writing contest I wanted to enter. I am grateful she showed up. But she jerked me around a lot. Had me taking off in one direction, then stop, and go another way.

The contest deadline was this past Friday. I submitted my entry in the wee hours Friday morning. I'd been working on it all week. Last Sunday, I was still struggling to get started, to gain a foothold. I went to the Broadway Cafe to brainstorm and bounce ideas off myself. There is something about the Broadway Cafe that makes me feel awake and connected. I have a favorite table in the window. I feel like I can think creatively there. Maybe it's because they play the best music. Stuff I've never heard before. A few times I've asked them what cd they were playing, then walked right down the hill to Streetside Records and bought it. That's how I discovered the Beck "Mutations" cd.

I was sitting in the window, jotting down ideas in a little book, scooping foam off my cappuccino... I started noticing that the music was really good. I sat back and soaked it in. Liquidy guitar, ambient electronics, a warm backdrop of strings--magical. The singer's voice was understated and floaty. I forgot about writing and just listened, drifting on a cloud of happiness. That's when I felt my muse sidle up next to me and tell me that she was going to be hanging around for awhile, so not to worry, it would all come together. I offered her a latte but she declined. My muse is not necessarily always a woman, but this time she was. Like a sharper, more with-it version of myself.

I eventually had to leave my cozy spot, but I know my muse was still with me. Little sparks were going off in my brain. There were ideas to get down. I had walked down the hill to my car, but then I turned around and went back to the Broadway Cafe. I asked one of the baristas the name of the cd they had been playing before. It was Radiohead's cd "In Rainbows." I went back down the hill, stopped in at Streetside Records, where they were selling it for $10.00, and I bought it.

Later on, at home, I began typing, trying to string some ideas together. A few false starts, but gradually the odd bits began to take a discernable shape.

It's always when things are starting to gel that my muse starts getting crazed--jealous of my time, wanting me to do nothing but write, write, write. All the routine obligations of an ordinary day become unbearable to her. No time to wash dishes! You have something much more important to do than cook! Forget about those bills. Bah! Your children will keep. Your man is a big boy. Let it all go to hell! Grab your laptop and tell the rest of the world to bug off!

So I neglect everything and everybody. No supper for the kids. They could make themselves ramen noodles. I'm typing and thinking. Typing, revising...I think I'm about finished, but my muse just laughs. "Don't kid yourself! You're getting warm, but you still haven't found it yet. That's still not IT! No, that just won't do. You have to completely throw a huge chunk of that out. Come on, no, not that way, this way.....hurry, hurry! It's over here!! And we're off and running, chasing down an idea, pouncing on it, until we choke the life out of it, which she blames me for...."ahh, you killed it!" Then it's off and running again. "Keep going, keep going!" she shrills.

People talk to me and can see by my eyes that I'm some place else. I'm off in some other world, exploring its scenery. My muse pushes me the whole time I'm in this world, and won't let me leave until she's satisfied, or is bored with me and wants to move on to something else. By the time she finally bails and disappears, I have something for the contest. And I also have a stash of new ideas I might be able to use for future projects. I'm glad my muse came to visit. But she's so all-consuming, it's good to have a break, and get back to washing the dishes.


  1. oh, this is good! i like your muse better than mine, cuz just about the time mine really reveals an idea - it's shhoooop-- out the window!!

  2. whew! i am exhausted reading this post! your muse is intense. love the pic. and now, i can't wait to read what you and muse created!!

  3. I think I will send you what I wrote at some point. It's a story that has some stuff about western Kansas in it. But right now the best way for me to move on to other writing projects and be cool and detached about the contest is to put it aside, so I'm going to wait a few weeks before I show it to anybody.