Monday, August 17, 2009


I got a good look at my muse today.

He’s shorter than me and much thinner. He has wings, but they are molting and in some spots they’re singed. He wears a hat that looks like a cross between a fedora and that weird little cap that Robin Hood wears. He smokes hand-rolled cigarettes. There’s a small leather pouch he keeps fastened to his belt, and when I caught a glimpse of him he shot me an evil grin and patted it softly. Scares the hell out of me.



I believe that people who want to write, but don’t, have a fairy-tale image of the writing process. They believe a writer sits down to begin work and a rainbow appears over their shoulder and they are washed in soft light descending from the heavens as the sentences and paragraphs flow fully formed into their brain and all that is left is their inspired transcription. In the middle of the afternoon other writer friends drop by and they all enjoy high tea while brilliantly discussing each others work. They use words like “transcendent” and “exhilarating”. Just lovely.

The truth for me is that writing is mostly lonely, and, when done correctly, an excruciating process that robs a little bit from you for every good sentence you manage to eek out. You have to give up just a little bit of yourself to make it work. When I explain this to my friends whom would “love to write”, they look at me as if I were someone standing alone in a parking lot clutching a brown paper bag that was leaking something.

“Maybe you’re doing it wrong. Why would you choose to do something that sounds so miserable? I thought you loved to write?“


It’s at this point that they slowly back away from me. As if they were afraid whatever it is that’s leaking from my paper bag might get on their shoes.



I know what’s in that little leather pouch of his. It looks small, but it holds a lot. Kind of like Mary Poppins bag, if Mary Poppins had been a sick twisted bitch. He has medical tubing, all kinds of vials, some tobacco, some wooden matches, and lots and lots of syringes and needles. All kinds of needles. Long ones, short ones, thick ones. “These is all of my little angels,” he sings to me. “They help me do the best parts of my work for you.”

There are times when I cheat. I toss something off without digging very deep and that’s it. The muse doesn’t come near me. Not so much as a pin prick.

But there are other times. Times when I go below the surface and so does he. I manage to mine something that is difficult to extract and he’s right there with a vein tied off and the needle plunged deep into my skin, sometimes through the bone and right into the marrow. Those are the good times and the sadistic little imp knows it. He revels in it.

I don’t know what he does with those vials after he fills them. Maybe he’s saving them for later on in my life when I’ll need it back, but probably he sneaks off in the middle of the night to the edge of town and dumps the contents into a drainage ditch. It doesn’t matter to me. Whatever is in those vials belongs to him now.

I wonder what it would be like if it were easier. If I could reach below the surface without the struggle, without the sacrifice. I don’t think it’s possible, and even if it were, I couldn’t do it. What would become of my nasty little muse and his finely honed skills? It’s not like a greeting card writer is going to give him a job.

No comments: