I believe if I sit down to write for about an hour every morning The Muse will eventually know to show up with inspiration. If they don’t, I’ll be there anyway, typing bullshit like this until the words come.
I surround myself at all times with something to write on. I have notepads and notebooks and pens and pencils all around. I spend some time once a month making sure every pen I own works and every pencil is sharp.
I suppose this is hope eventually the Muses will come to me and say,
“Write this down, it’s brilliant!”.
That day hasn’t happened yet, whatever that story is that hasn’t come out of my brain or my fingers or where ever in hell stories are kept before I put them on the page. I find not writing exhausting, but I find what I‘ve written exhausting when I read it later. Sometimes I‘m so embarrassed by what is there on the page.
Even these words began with a thought that popped into my head. As soon as the first two sentences were down I just started making shit up. It’s only the first two sentences that meant anything to me, the rest of this is just making shit up to fill in the space so I feel like I wrote more than two sentences today.
Who is my muse? Not who, what. Truth and black humour are my muses.
When traveling, each day must have a destination or landmark to visit. I am not content to wander aimlessly. I will wander a specific place, like a museum or gallery or historical site without an agenda. Each day must have an agenda or chaos and whim will keep me from seeing anything. Inertia will set in. My body at rest will stay at rest.
“One difference between magic and art is that magic can be explained.”Francine Prose; The Lives of the Muses
When we gave up our pantheons of gods and goddess, the art that had come from the gods had to come from somewhere else. Somewhere must be love, or desire, or some strong emotion.
The Muses of ancient history were the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (literally Memory personified). They were considered representations of knowledge and the arts, especially literature, dance and music, in human form. Calliope (epic poetry), Clio (history), Euterpe (flutes and lyric poetry), Thalia (comedy and pastoral poetry), Melpomene (tragedy), Terpsichore (dance), Erato (love poetry), Polyhymnia (sacred poetry), Urania (astronomy) have been the fickle beloveds of Artists since we started drawing people and showing emotion via words.
I’ve written something every single day since 1 Jan 2018. Every day I’ve written between 50 and 1000 words (sometime more). I’ve done whatever was in front of me for months. Some of it is better than others, but I’ve worked at polishing many turds over the course of the past year. I couldn’t think of anything else I wanted to write about other than writing. So I’m writing about that until I’m done writing about it.
Stephen King recommends writers write about 10 pages a day; roughly 2,000 words. Writing every day works for me. Fifty words or 2,000 words it doesn’t matter. Forward progress is forward progress. One hundred words is better than no words. Also, it’s physically impossible to edit words you haven’t written. So I keep writing. I keep creating the raw material from which I will forge a masterpiece. Or, closer to the truth, something that triggers a response, however vague.
Ernest Hemingway always quit writing for the day when he knew what would happen next. Yesterday, I left off before knowing.
I need to consider what I am going to write each day before I write it. I have a list of possible subjects I’ve collected from various sources but I am not sure the topics are what I really want to write about. I don’t know what I want to write about. I have a few ideas but I’m not sure where they are going to go.
I read Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life, and she talks about knocking on the walls a writer builds, and you get to this point when you realize a load-bearing wall needs to come down, and all you can save from catastrophic failure is a few sentences. If you’re lucky, maybe a paragraph survives. I want to get to that point. I think by not reading what I’ve already written will save me from the preciousness of my prose.
I’m tired of grasping at straws and trying to find answers for questions I’m not allowed to ask. Don’t put anything in writing. Don’t say or write a single word you wouldn’t want published on the front page of the New York Times. There are lots of things I could write or say without shame, but I don’t want to sign up for the fallout. The inevitable consequence of being a woman with an opinion in public.
I wish that there was something more magical about writing, but it really is mostly me sitting around with Spotify on shuffle until I hear a song that reminds me of something I wanted to say. I’ve been here before. I’ve been here before. I’ve been here before. I don’t want to think too much about it. Most days I feel like I’m reanimating corpses of the long dead. People I used to know. People who will forever remain 17, 20, 25 or 33 in my mind. I wish I could know you as adults or I wish you were dead.
When I was a kid, I used to make up stories I would tell to strangers who would have no chance of finding out the truth. I did this because I wanted to be anyone else other than who I was. I wanted to be a grownup. I wanted to do something important. I wanted to spend a lot of time in my pajamas. These were my goals. In school my English language skills were always years ahead of my peers. I read voraciously. I would steal notebooks from school and hoard the half used notebooks at the end of the school year, even taking them from my siblings. I would hide under the stairs with my dad’s automotive repair flashlight and write and write and write.
Someone published me in a poetry anthology when I was in Grade 9. No one cared, but I kept writing any way. No one told me that writing was worth doing. No one told me it was a valuable skill. No one said,
“You can do this.”
In my twenties I believed that in order to be a good writer, I needed a degree. I didn’t have one, I still don‘t have one, but I kept writing any way. I’ve written several blogs on topics that matter to me for between 1 and 5 years and I received less than ten comments in that time. I’ve shut them all down, but I keep writing anyway.
I write a lot, I have always written a lot, because I have to. I have a compulsion to write; my mind won’t let me sleep unless I do.
For the record, this post has 1,217 words.
Photo credit: Sarcophagus of the Muses.
White marble. Rome, 180—200 CE.
Vienna, Museum of Art History
© 2012. Photo: Ilya Shurygin.
Info: museum annotation
Nine Muses and their divine patrons — Athena and Apollo.
Athena leaning against an oil-tree stands in the center of composition.
She wears a helmet and holds a spear. Her aegis is seen by her feet.
There is a snake on the tree and an owl on the ground near the goddess
— her attributes symbolizing her wisdom.
A naked figure of Apollo Musagetes is the last on the right.
A small Gryphon — winged mythical creature whose rider was Apollo
— sits on the ground by the god.