Tag Archives: muse

Fire and Water: Wrestling with Doubt #739

30 Oct

The fire crackled with life as it swept its way across a stack of manuscripts, greedily consuming page after page. Through tears I watched the pristine white papers transform into thin, black feathery curls that peeled off, danced momentarily with the updraft and then drifted resignedly down into the ashes.

Fire consumes a life's work

Death of a Dream

I thought I might be able to rescue a scrap or two by pushing some of the charred lumps to the side of the fireplace, but my mother must have read my mind. She grabbed the metal poker and stabbed at the carbon-coated mass to separate the blackened pages; she was determined to destroy every remnant. I could smell the words in the stench of burnt ink that wafted around me. I was 14, and newly enamored with the life and writings of Laura Ingalls Wilder. This was my first experience with death.

“Writing is a waste of time,” she spat, her breath so laden with alcohol I worried the fire might flare if she got too close. Her eyes were bloodshot and her hair was matted against her head with the sweat from days of neglect. She pointed the poker at my chest and slurred, “Don’t you dare tell me you want to be a writer.  It’s a pointless dream that will amount to nothing, and 40 years from now you’ll be a sorry loser, wishing you’d never started.”

She flung the poker wildly, just missing my head, and staggered from the room. I stayed there for hours, sobbing and staring at the black pit long after the fire died, trying to come to grips with the idea that every word, every sentence, and every page of every story my mother had ever written, was gone forever.

Today, nearly 40 years later, I am profoundly aware of the significance that moment has had in my journey. Somewhere in my heart, I believed her. I’ve spent the past 40 years skipping along the edge of the sea, yearning. Occasionally I’ve ventured ankle-deep, savoring the warmth and trying to imagine what’s “out there.” But I’ve never leapt with abandon. People ask me what I’m afraid of, and I remember the charred remains of dreams and the scent of unread words. It is my image of hopelessness.

That was the image in my heart this morning after I missed yet another self-imposed writing goal. I could hear my mother mocking me, reminding me that I have no business dreaming when there’s work to be done. Another failure. Who am I fooling?

But I cannot quell that constant, gentle song of unwritten words that calls to me above the din of the world’s demands. As is my habit, rather than follow the call, I tend to lash myself to the Siren of perceived obligation that is my “real job.” How did things get so backward?

Then this morning I read a familiar verse in the book of Jeremiah (29:11), and it spoke to me anew:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I’m reminded that I can start again and again, as often as I wish to, because I have hope and a future. There’s a whole big ocean of possibility out there and I’ve not even dared to snorkel across the top. The only thing stopping me is me. I can choose whether to listen to voices past or the voice of the future. It’s not a waste of time. It’s His plan.

And He says, “C’mon in, the water is fine!”


“Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it” Bill Cosby

I am not a-mused

23 Jul

I’m waging a valiant, but losing battle Spoon on the keyboardagainst the demons of distraction—those self-centered brain sprites who care not a whit that I have a writing deadline to meet today. I will NOT go online, I say to them, I’m writing! At least, I would be if you’d just hush.

But they dance noisily through my brain, screaming like late-night infomercial salesmen…

“Why so serious? Writer’s what? Well that sounds boring. Hey, you know what was fun? That movie…the one with that guy in it? You know, the dopey one with the girl who did that thing? Who WAS that? Perhaps you should look it up!”

No, I say firmly. No online. None. It’s just me, my muse, and my Word doc—hey, how did that screen open? Well, as long as it’s here I’ll just type it in. Yes, Richard Gere. I thought so. Now if you would just—

I look across the room and notice the sprites have lured my muse away with a quart of jamoca fudge ice cream. Useless ditz. Usually I keep her close with a box of chocolate chip cookies. I couldn’t get her attention now if I piped in chocolate direct from Pennsylvania. . .but that makes me think of—oh, what’s that place we used to go to for that incredible chocolate Easter candy? I’ll just search it really quick. Criminy! Who knew there were so many chocolatiers in Pennsylvania? Oh, my, that one has tours; and this one is right across the border. How far is that from Woodbridge?

Stop it, stop it, STOP IT!

My muse is now in a jamoca fudge stupor, dancing around the room like a wood nymph while the sprites clap with delight. She’s oblivious to the cascade of ideas trailing behind her, tumbling across the floor like dry leaves in the breeze and disappearing behind the furniture.

Hey, those were MY ideas, I shout. Pull yourself together! I race to save a precious few but they seem to disintegrate the moment they’re out of sight.

Speaking of leaves, did anyone from the north east notice that the ends of nearly all the trees are blighted with dead leaves? I did, and yep, I looked it up. See here, it says that’s called flagging. Those are the last traces of our recent cicada visit. The trees will be fine next spring.

Dash it! That was a 30-minute detour. And while we’re at it, I absolutely abhor the sound of sprite giggle.

I decide I’ve got to do something about that low-wattage nitwit before she loses everything, so I quickly start typing: “It was a dark and stormy, um, um…”

She can’t help herself; she twirls by to see where I’m going with it. Quick as a wink, I lasso her with a noun string and tie her to the chair beside me. She rolls her eyes, or perhaps she’s trying to focus. She starts patting her now-empty pockets and looks up all wide-eyed and innocent, but I have no sympathy for her fudge-faced self. I hold my hand out, palm up, and give her my sternest no-nonsense look.

She pulls out a crumpled, cocoa-stained, barely legible morsel of thought—the last measly scrap of idea she has left. I snatch at it and read it hungrily, but it contains only two disappointing words:

“Writer’s Block.”

I can’t write about writer’s block, I sputter. What kind of idea is that?

But my question goes unanswered; my muse is now slumped over and snoring with abandon. It’s pointless to wake her. She’s going to hate herself in the morning.

So now it’s just me. Even the sprites have gone to bed. I look back down at the paper and then return to my keyboard, because I have to post something

And so I do. Take THAT, my muse-less salad spinner.

. . .And because I just know you’re wondering, the search engine brought up 11,600,000 results for “Writer’s Block.”