Just think … you are making history. This is my very first Blog post. It’s intended for people who read books, as well as those who write them, be they young writers or old writers or even would-be writers.
I hope my musings can contribute in some small way to helping you externalize your deepest thoughts and bon mots. I invite you to leave a comment at the end of this post. If it requires an answer, I will surely write you back.
Every Writer has a Muse.
~ by Dennis Koller ~
I had an English professor in college who was a prolific and well-known author. He regaled us by telling tales of his Muse. “I’m at her mercy,” he said. “She can be very fickle. Sometimes she visits me at 3 am and I have to immediately respond by getting up and writing. If I didn’t, she would punish me by not showing up again for three or four months. But even if I faithfully dragged my ass out of bed, she may still disappear. Very fickle, indeed.” He would stop, take a puff on his pipe, look pensively at the ceiling and say, “If you are thinking of becoming a writer, my best advice is you better practice being patient.”
It wasn’t until my own impatience reared its ugly head that I realized how true those words were. My Muse was extraordinarily fickle. For 20 years she flitted into and out of my life, flirting and teasing me with her promise. She made me think I was special to her, but never staying long enough for me to get to really know her. I wanted her to be my mistress, but was too proud to ask. That was a mistake. I found out later she never went anywhere without first being invited.
Like so many would-be lovers dancing around a relationship, we both instinctively knew the time was not right. But like those same lovers, we didn’t want to just walk away. Over the years we would reconnect, albeit fleetingly, and then, alas, she would always back away. She knew what I didn’t … that I still wasn’t serious enough about the craft of writing for her to waste her time with me.
It wasn’t until I came to the time in my life where I started asking “What’s it all about, Alfie?” that she came back again … and this time she stayed. Why now you ask?
Maybe you’ve heard the story of a man walking down the beach. The tide had gone out and in little tide-pools left behind by the receding waters were scores of starfish that would die before the next tide rolled in. So the man went to the nearest tide-pool, picked up a starfish, brushed off the sand that was choking it, and threw it back into the ocean. Then he picked up another and repeated the process. When he finished with that tide-pool, he went on to the next. There was another person on the beach that day watching. He caught up with the man, and said to him, “If you are trying to save these starfish, you’re wasting your time. It’s a futile task.” His hand swept the beach. “There are dozens and dozens of tide-pools here. You can’t possibly get to all of them before most of them die.” The man paused for a moment, picked up another starfish, brushed the sand off and, right before throwing it back into the ocean, he said, “You are right. I can’t save all of them, but I can save this one.”
I first heard this story about the time I finished reading Gone, Baby, Gone by Dennis Lehane. Lehane introduced a moral dimension to the novel I thought was brilliantly illustrated. His story asks the reader to reflect on the difference between the spirit and letter of the law. I had seen such questions raised before in literature, of course, but thought they were the sole provenance of a Shakespeare or a Melville or a Joyce … never in a book you could find at a “newsstand” in an airport. But Lehane had just shown me that such important questions could be intelligently engaged in well written and exciting pulp fiction.
The recognition that my writing could make even one person (like the starfish above) ponder over some of life’s important questions, resulted in the miraculous reappearance of my Muse. I believe it was that recognition that moved me across the threshold of readiness to be a writer. My Muse certainly thought so. She stayed with me on and off for the next three years, and with her inspiration, I wrote my first novel, These Violent Delights (soon to be republished as Best Served Cold).
Much to my dismay, as soon as the novel was finished, my Muse left me once again. “Good bye and good luck,” she said. “When you are ready to do this again, I’ll be back.” I was heartbroken. The experience was like going through a divorce. I was alone again. Isolated. And this time, alone meant surviving in the intractable and unforgiving world of book publishing.
(The trials and tribulations of publishing a book will be taken up in next Friday’s Post)
Click here to read the first chapter of my new novel One Death Too Far. Haven’t got a publishing date yet, but as soon as I do, you’ll be the first to know.
For book marketing purposes, I am looking for “followers”. If you click “follow” at the extreme bottom right of this page, not only will I be grateful, I’ll even send you the second chapter of my novel free.