Today at high noon, while the storm was frightening my cats, I got an e-mail from my muse that said, “Do not forsake me, O My Darling.”
Darling? What’s that about?
I let that ride in my reply: “Say what?”
“What have you done for me lately?” she asked.
Well, a lot of things. I thought about writing something. I mulled over some ideas. I wondered whether or not to dream up a short story for the Harper’s Bazaar contest. And I read the kinds of books that fire up my imagination and make it more likely I’ll write something. I told her all this.
Her response was, “pfffft.”
I wanted to tell her that writers, like normal people, become preoccupied with life. We’re concerned about GMOs in our food, fellow writers who are under the weather, why Cote de Pablo is leaving “NCIS,” and whether or not the Copyright Office has heard of our books. Okay, sometimes we wonder if anyone has heard of our books, but the muse doesn’t want to hear whiny points of view like that.
Some writers say that if we don’t write every day, we’re screwed, we’re going to lose our touch, we’re not being true to our art and craft. To that, I say (as Colonel Potter said on M*A*S*H): “Horsehockey.”
On the other hand, if there’s no manuscript in progress, then chances are good there won’t be, say, a Pulitzer Prize coming in the mail next year.
Many of us go through periods of limbo when, frankly, we have nothing to say. My friend Smoky Zeidel calls these “fallow times.” I like that. We need times when we can renew ourselves.
My muse told me, “At your age, you don’t have time for fallow times.”
You really know how to hurt a guy, I thought. I didn’t say that because I was busy saying: “I thought you’d forgotten my birthday, DARLING.” (We were now in Facebook chat mode and we all know how klugey that is.)
“Heaven’s no,” she said. “I’m sending you a dream tonight about a prospective new novel that’s going to be bigger than The Cuckoo’s Calling.”
“Please tell me it’s not a private eye story about a body that falls and/or is thrown off a balcony with a name like The Ostrich’s Calling.”
“You’ve been sticking your head in the sand too long already,” she snapped. “What I have for you is a dark Southern charmer called Rabbit on a Hot Tin Roof.”
Fortunately, I heard the storm blow a tree down across the driveway, giving me an excuse to run outside in the rain and snap a blurry photograph. I wondered though: “When a tree falls outside a writer’s house, does his muse hear it?”