I have two muses, because I have done two different types of writing. For what I call “general writing”, that is--articles for publication, blogging, school papers, etc.—there is a lovely, almost friendly muse. She is very nearly kind, and is actually somewhat forgiving as her type goes. That is, I can sit down and write without much forethought and oftentimes she’ll actually forgive the arrogance and whisper a few ideas into my ear anyway. And, once she starts, she’ll usually stay at my shoulder until I’m done and the end product looks, at least to some extent, cohesive. She’s not above misleading me so that I come back later to what seemed to be a brilliant piece of writing but now seems to have magically transformed into a pile of crap….but she’s a muse. They’re a flighty breed, muses, and they can be expected to get bored and play games. The other one, though…..the other one.
See, I also have been known to write poetry. Once upon a time I dreamed of publishing a book of poetry. This, of course, when I was young and innocent and didn’t realize that getting a book of poetry published is something one should only try when similar forms of satisfaction—falling out of a tree, becoming shipwrecked, standing under a flock of seagulls with intestinal flu—have been exhausted. If the other muse is a gentle, occasionally mischievous soul who generally wants me to do well, the other one is a bloody-minded bitch (or, as my mother would say, a brass-plated, four-door bitch. I’ve no idea what that means, but it’s quite satisfying to say in these situations). To blog or write a paper or an article, I form some general ideas and sit at the computer and type and stop and erase and type and stop and erase and I do this for awhile until something passable is born. Practically painless. I call the muse; for the most part she comes and we do the dance and all is well. Not so the other one.
To write poetry it is necessary to sit down with a notebook and a pen (I don’t know why, but I’ve never been able to write poetry on a computer), and then to stare at the page until my eyes bleed. The muse, meanwhile, just does the muse equivalent of standing there with her fingers in her ears chanting “La, la, la—I can’t hear you!”. And, since she has the attention span of a three-year-old at Christmas, even if she does help she’ll leave halfway through and I’ll be stuck with this half-written poem that makes no sense to me and I have no idea where I was going. But here’s the real hell of it: when she does decide to help, it’s beautiful. When she’ll do the dance it’s like nothing on this earth. The thoughts and images pour through my mind and through the pen and onto the paper and I stare in amazement and wonder how in the world that came out of me. (I used to say the poems just used me to get written, and that’s how it felt.) That, of course, was the hook. Because I’d love what we made and I’d think we were going steady and the next day…..well, the next day she’d be long gone. Or she’d stare at me blankly as if to say “Oh, you didn’t think that was SERIOUS, did you? That’s so cute……” My poetry muse has huge commitment issues.
She’s a flirt, that muse. She’s almost like Lucy and Charlie Brown and the football. Because I’ll get fed up and ignore her and she’ll just hang at the edge of my consciousness and offer tantalizing little bits of music…..and then run away as soon as I get out the paper. I can almost imagine her saying “I can’t believe you fell for that AGAIN!” I love her and I hate her by turns. And at the same time. I haven’t tried to write poetry in quite some time because I know how she is. But I’ll probably have to try again soon because…..well, because I know how she is. Bitch.
So there’s the answer to how I write like I do—if it’s general writing, I ask nicely and I angst a tiny bit but mostly she comes. If it’s poetry, I whack my head against the wall until the urge goes away…then admit that it won’t and do battle until something is finally born. And both hate and love very minute of it.
I’ll leave you today with this offering from the Evil Muse of the West (not to be confused with the Good Muse of the North), written for Mr. K once upon a time while thinking about ordinary miracles:
Eggs chuckle softly on the stove
Spitting water to hiss and die
On the burner below;
Steam clouds the window
Where night presses
Her cool black cheek,
Leans longingly against the lovelit walls
Where we are
And other small