Monday, July 01, 2013

WRITING WITHOUT A MUSE

When Wingo and I decided to start a magazine, we talked long into the night about the pitfalls of doing it in Springfield, a city where we'd both enjoyed modest success in the world of local journalism. It wasn't that we doubted our abilities — that had never been a public problem for either one of us — but the idea of creating something from nothing and putting it out there for all of our friends and enemies to see was daunting. As a friend once told me, honest writing is like masturbating in a department store window: you're doing it in front of everyone, no shame and no embarrassment, and you'd better be good at it because people will instinctively know if you're faking it. The same held true for our little magazine. If we were going to do it, might as well do it in front of everyone we knew.

"Without a net," Wingo said.

"Without a net," I agreed.

And we did.

I am now in the middle of several writing projects, including a couple I started when a muse ruled my world. I read what I write now and realize it is remarkably different from previous voices — richer in some places, more ragged in many others, and world-weary from sentence to sentence. It is a voice that belongs to someone I've never known.

As dawn broke Saturday I was staring into the screen of the black MacBook (I am decidedly old-school in my instruments of construction), trying to will words to life. Neither Yoda nor Buddha offered much help. In desperation I turned to the only voice that has never failed to move me, and with that voice in my head I started typing, then writing, then flying through the paragraphs, the words flowing like blood from a freshly slashed vein as the memory spurred me forward.

It's worse than writing without a muse; it's cheating, and it's an acknowledgement that my inspiration does not come from a bottle or a glass pipe — it comes from a quiet soul, since gone silent. In that tomb I listen and surrender, and when I force myself to shut out the voice the words stop and I fall silent, too.

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