Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Muse's Visit

Late tonight, while in the doldrums of boredom, my muse manifested. She's a tough old broad, part Ruth Gordon, part General Patton. A crusty dame chomping on a cigar, eyes narrowed into a skeptic scowl as if she's heard every whiny procrastination from hack writers on why they're not writing.

Writer's block? 

She'd tell you, in a salty Brooklyn accent, gruff and candid; "Quit yer whinin' ya pantywaist! Ya think everything's easy? Get writin'!"

She's brittle, honest and pulls no punches, except when she's punching me. 

"Come on, genius!" she snaps, slapping the back of my head as I write this. "Pull those words out your ass if ya have to! Just get 'em down!"

I've missed that muse. Longing for some spark of divine brilliance to strike me, a lightning bolt from Olympus, filled with the glittery stuff capable of inspiring greatness and changing the world. 
Or in my feeble case, enabling me to compose something that doesn't suck a lamprey's anus. 

Writing is difficult, a mentally strenuous endeavor, both exhausting and unrewarding. Slinging words onto the page like a short order cook slings corned beef hash on the griddle, except writing never gave anybody indigestion. 

Sometimes I wish the fates aligned, the heavens opened up and words trickled out of my brain onto the page like a sweet summer rain dripping on an emerald field, cool and comforting. 

"Nice metaphor, Shakespeare. Maybe ya ought to stand in a coffee house and read this out loud to a bunch of hipsters," the muse said. "Maudlin jackass!"

Her bony fingers remove the cigar from her mouth and she blows a jet of smoke at my face. Coughing, I wave the noxious cloud away. 

"What's the big idea?"

"Can't a lady have a smoke? Helps me to relax," she says, her voice like gravel mixed with Scotch and poured into an asthmatic's trachea. "Ya wouldn't begrudge me a little relaxation, would ya? I got a busy schedule."

"You haven't exactly inspired me, muse. What are you busy doing?"

"Muse stuff. I attend muse conferences where we dish about struggling artists and writers. Most of 'em are effeminate art school students praying for miracles," the muse said, chortling. "Others are waiting for their big break." 

"Have you talked about me?"

The muse took another draw on her stogie.

"It's always about you, isn't it? Ya always mope and bitch about your plight, your struggle with words," the muse said, flicking cigar ashes on the floor. "What an ego. Self-absorbed instead of drinking in the world around ya."

"That doesn't answer my question."

She made a face which resembled a carburetor and a dead monkfish. 

"Of course I talked about ya," she admitted. "How could I not? So much kvetching and griping. 'Muse, I need help writing', or 'Muse, please give me a good idea.' Well I can't give you ideas, can I? That's not how this whole megillah works."

"Look, you're a muse. Muses inspire artists, writers, musicians in the creative arts. You're where ideas come from."

"Wrong again, boychick! Think of me as a subliminal advertisement playing underneath some movie. You don't really see or hear me consciously, but I'm there. Whispering. Suggesting. Imparting kernels of brilliance."

"Well? Impart. I'm as dry as the Sahara here."

"Not so fast! Ya cramp my style!," the muse said, and peered over my shoulder at my laptop. Her etherial eyes scanned the words on the screen, and she emitted a low growl.

"That's it? That's all ya got?"

Flustered, I put my head in my hands, a hunched, dismal failure. 

"It's a decent start," she said, taking a puff of the cigar. "Maybe we can punch up this bad boy a little."

"It's good? Right? That's what you said. It's good?"

"Relax, Lord Byron. I said it was a decent start. Maybe you should try reading more, absorbing everything like a literary sponge slurping up words. Devour it. Engorge yourself on stories. Slake your appetite on prose and poetry," she said. 

"Reading has escaped me. I've been spending all my time working my day job. My nose is rarely in a book."

"That's the problem, isn't it? Day job. Journalism. What a waste of good talent. Interviewing nudnik politicians and scribbling editorials about, what, exactly?"

"Local issues like the economy, jobs, development."

"Boring! If I wanted to go to sleep, I'd swallow an Ambien," the muse said, and leaned her bony back against the wall. Her gown, a gossamer cloth woven by celestial beings and garnished with unicorn piss  and leprechaun shit flowed around her. 

"I saw what you wrote about my clothes just now," the muse observed, scrunching her face. "Wiseass."

"Thing is, I need my profession. It pays the bills and allows me to write...something, at least."

Folding her arms, the muse paused in thought. 

"I get it, pal," she said at last. "Ya don't wanna be a schlemiel. You're doing the responsible thing. But be forewarned, scribbler. Never let your day job kill the writer ya wanna be. Make sacrifices, only make the right ones. It's important you get yer ass movin' and get writin'."

"That's what I'm trying to do," I confessed. "Only the writer's block..."

"What have I said about writer's block?" the muse said, rolling her eyes. "It doesn't exist. Might as well be dancing the two-step with Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and the Easter Bunny."

Returning to my laptop, I attempted to resurrect these words, typing as thought came to me, ripping sentences into being from the dismal ether and constructing something fresh and new. 

Writing is hard. It's a turbulent, exhausting exercise in futility. Yet it can be rewarding. When everything clicks and words flow like a mighty monsoon. 

"Again with the weather metaphors," the muse's shrill voice echoed through the room. "Lose the bullshit, Balzac. It makes ya look freakin' ridiculous."