The typical image of a working author is a slightly deranged person hunched over a keyboard in a lonesome subterranean room, his haggard face lit only by the cold azure glow of an unsympathetic computer screen. Between intermittent flashes of madcap productivity, when characters laugh and cry and cheat and lie and thrive and die through the mystic conduit between the author’s fevered mind and the plastic lettered keys his fluttering fingertips rap, this reclusive soul wails and moans at blank walls and musty ceilings and threadbare carpeting. He waits in silent, endless agony for inspiration to stop shunning him so cruelly.
To the extent this image bears accuracy, it’s not the poor author’s fault. It’s not his choice. Blame his Muse.
Most Muses prefer their authors very lonely and irretrievably co-dependent. They are such faithless trollops. They keep fiendishly irregular hours, flitting away for interminable days and nights at their wicked whims, always whispering pretty lies about when they’ll be home next. They pique their jollies through the sadistic pleasure of making their simpering authors beg for their incessantly divided and fleeting attentions.
So the author suffers, and that typical image of the working author is not entirely based on unreality.
This inequitable and unreliable allocation of inspiration that is the author’s bane is purposeful. It’s endemic of any rigidly monopolistic distribution structure, and the dispersion of authorial inspiration is firmly dictated by the Muses. I know. I’m a card-carrying, dues-paying member of the Immortal International Muses Syndicate. No one receives the blessed inspiration we control except when and where we allow. It’s in the handbook. So you get a glimpse of how long we’ve been in operation and doing these things the way we do, I’ll just point out our original handbook was written in Sumerian.
It’s actually a fairly simple system. It’s an ancient system, too, misty time immemorial stuff. Sticking with what works is sound strategy. Ask any successful monopolist.
We have scouts scanning the human masses, watching out for the particularly artistic, creative types. Not just authors, of course. We target painters, musicians, architects, scientists, choreographers, poets, priests, even overly ambitious politicians with delusions of beneficent grandeur. We confirm our prey is prey when we get our first whiff of a freshly budding artist’s creative effluvia. Immediately, one of us becomes the new artist’s Muse, and his fate is sealed instantly and irrevocably with divine suffering. One of us invades his mind, gussies up the place to suit our particular taste, and thus his slavery begins until he decides maybe going back to that 9 to 5 cubicle job’s not so bad after all.
Don’t misunderstand. It’s always discouraging to us when one of our prey surrenders under the constant adversities and abandonments we foist on him. It’s not why we do what we do. We want our prey to succeed, and succeed spectacularly. It’s just that we will accept not a scintilla less than all the credit. We punish him relentlessly while he toils, and make him doubt himself when he’s done and he prays he has created something good. In every interview he does and at every appearance he makes we insist on receiving all the credit for all his successes and none of the blame for all of his failures. That’s also in the handbook.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking all us Muses have horned heads and leathery wings and tails with razor-sharp points at their ends. Some of us do. A lot of us do, actually. If the shoe fits, right? But it’s impolitic to stereotype nowadays. I, for one, don’t fit that stereotype at all. I’m Richard’s Muse, no one else’s, and I’m as unique as he is and you are. The horns and wings and tail don’t suit me, so when I grace him with my presence I’m a long cool woman in a black dress with blood red lips and fingertips. He seems to respond best to me when I let him see me that way.
Unlike the majority of my colleagues with their prey, I don’t like keeping Richard in solitary confinement in some dank basement room when he writes. Not so for his benefit, though, but for mine. I’m a gregarious sprit, as is he, and I like taking him out to happen upon inspirations from the world at large, when I allow him inspirations at all. I had him write his novel, “Blood of the Moon,” in a Starbucks. On the one hand, when I let him write well but he started to bog down and plead for my intercession, sometimes I guided him to thoughts and ideas to spur his creativity by showing him slogans on tee shirts or bumper stickers on passing cars, or from letting him overhear snippets of fervid lovers’ quarrels amid the cacophony of a bustling coffee shop. On the other hand, when I left him cold and dry and shivering for my attention, I admit I rejoiced in witnessing his public humiliations. His friends coming over to him to ask how his writing was going, and hearing him tell them it was going awfully and he doubted he would ever finish “Blood of the Moon,” that never failed to fling tremors of sheer pleasure vibrating through my ethereal flesh. I love my job.
So all of us Muses, we’re all the same. And we’re all different. Your Muse may not let you out much, or ever. Or maybe your Muse is like Richard’s and insists on your writing in the glaring light of public view, like any other spectator sport. Each of us knows what works for you, and what’s best for your writing. We’ve been doing this for a long, long time, and we’re always right. Trust your Muse.
Copyright 2010 Richard Gazala