If i had a hammer: or, that opinionated bitch, my muse


Heather Renee (click to go to her Flickr page) seems to be my muse’s photographer.

If I had a hammer, maybe I’d be a carpenter and maybe I’d work for somebody else, and maybe I’d have a time card. That would be good, because I could make bookshelves and cabinets. But really, it’s the time card part that appeals. Because with a time card, you have to be someplace, you have solid goals and the tools to achieve them. If you’ve got a time card, you don’t need to depend on a muse.

Because muses are not easy. A muse can be generous, yes, and shower you with ideas and images and words. A few authors have muses who won’t shut up. My personal muse is more of a bitch. Now, I often use the word bitch in a positive way, but here I mean it the other way: cranky, fussy, willful, stubborn, self-absorbed, possessive, opinionated. Sometimes I want to throttle her, but then the joke would be on me.

My muse and I have had a tough year. For a while there I thought she was going to walk out on me and never come back, but I had neither time nor energy to deal with her moods. When your kid is in danger or sick or lost, everything else becomes very small, and the Girlchild was in a perilous spot. Even a six foot tall, broad shouldered, chain-smoking transvestite bitch of a Muse has no power over the Mother-you. Writing? What’s that? Oh yeah, that contract thing. Would you move? You’re in my way, and I have a call to make.

As the crisis (or I should say, long string of crises) slowly resolved, other things began to impose on my conscious mind. Hey! Look at the size of that cobweb! Um, what is this … thing in the fridge? Oh, I guess we forgot about the propane bill. And the big one: wow, imagine that. Already six months behind on book six. When am I contractually obligated to deliver it? Really?

Time for my Muse to come back. I knew it would take some wooing, but I forgot how vindictive she can be.

Here is her rule, inviolate: Ignore me, and I will pay you back in kind. If you really piss me off, I will turn my back on you for a very long time. You may beg and grovel, but from me? Crumbs. Dribbles. Until I’m feeling generous again, which if I may be frank, don’t hold your breath.

During this whole period I regularly sat down to write. I suppose I was hoping my Muse would be understanding, as she likes the Girlchild; but no luck there. I did beg and grovel, and all I got were the promised crumbs. I’d look at the manuscript and force myself to write while she cackled in the next room. Book Six crawled along, dribble by dribble.

And not good dribbles, either. Nothing felt right. Then one day I printed out the ms to read it (something I do very rarely) and I realized that all those words I had put down in the hard times, words extracted one by one like slivers, stank. The story lines stank, the rhythm stank, the dialog stank. Muse sat in the next room affing her lass off while the truth dawned on me: For the first time in my writing career, I had to dump thousands of words and start over again.

Muse was satisfied with this sacrifice. She came back to sit across from me and keep me moving along. Of course, the usual nitpicking and snarky comments also came back, but the story was moving and shaping up. Carpenters have to put up with a lot of sawdust. I’ve got the Muse’s moods and her cigar smoke.

I’ve been writing pretty well for the last two months, but it’s all very tenuous. My muse is ultra-sensitive to any kind of external emotional interference. For example: earlier this afternoon I made the mistake of checking my email. She told me not to. Another irritating thing about the bitch, my muse: she’s always right, she always announces she’s right, and not in a whisper, either.

Today we got some not-so-great news that will require some time and energy, and the minute I closed the email the Muse got up and went to the door looking very indignant and put-out.

I said: Wait! I need to get another 1,400 words down today!

She snorted, stormed out and slammed the door shut behind herself. Maybe if I’m lucky and if I can get the other problem resolved, she’ll come back later this evening. I’ll be thrilled. I’ll write through the night, if the bitch will let me.

Wish me luck, on all fronts.