Wednesday, March 21, 2007

All-Powerful Muse

By Hannah

A writers’ group expecting pages is a wonderful rationale for doing what your heart tells you to do. In the past, I worked on worthy causes that pushed time for writing down the list. Later, I would say. Tomorrow. With readers expecting something solid once a month, writing moved to a more prominent place. I communicated with the Muse more often, more efficiently, simply by making her a greater priority. Yes, other items fell downward on my to-do list; I never missed them. Hey, life is busy.

Too busy, still. Last week, a friend suffered the inconceivable loss of a son who was to head off to college. He took ill and was gone. Those who knew him describe him as bright, funny, and so alive he put a smile on people’s faces just by walking into a room.

Loss slows everyone. I pushed things aside, put them off, managed only the have-to's. Hours passed, crowded with thoughts, emotion following emotion. No answers, certainly, for my friend, his wife, their other son. Selfishly, I began to think about what I love, what I do. My responsibilities: self, husband, children, family, writing, work, house, friends, community. I don’t know when I last spent so much time allowing ideas to tumble after each other, without purpose. I found myself starting to think about my life in ways the Muse taught me when I finally let her: to sit, quiet, to give it space and time; to determine themes to strengthen, diminish, or drop; to consider balance, and outcomes.

In stepping away from daily demands and allowing myself stillness on issues other than plot and character, I found possible solutions to issues that gnawed at me. I saw opportunities to streamline further the details and responsibilities. I found value in being unsparing, to find more quality time for what is most important.

The Muse is fickle, but remarkably persistent despite the degree to which we ignore her, use her. We go through days, weeks or months when we rush to her between meetings, before we pick up the children, after the day’s pressures are off, if temporarily. We take what we need for our work and dash away. Yet this past week when I started to leave her, I looked back to see her waiting with something more. We stood and stared at each other, until I sat to think, simply because I didn’t know what else to do. I don’t know for certain; I believe she was waiting for me to realize, finally, that she is not merely about the Craft of the Story. She is about the story of Life.

7 comments:

Therese said...

The Muse "is about the story of Life." I couldn't agree more, Hannah.

And oh, I'm so sorry for your friend's loss! I have a son who's a year away from graduating high school, and so the thought of what your friend and his family are enduring is especially horrifying to me. What a sad, sad thing.

Thank you for sharing this tale.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much. I'd forgotten how necessary it is to sit and think about life in a purposeful way now and then, that setting aside focused hours as we do when we create can make everything we do stronger. The Muse truly is an amazing creature.

Hannah

Maprilynne said...

No one expects death in someone so young. It puts life in perspective, even for someone like me who does not know this person at all. Several people have blogged about death lately and it makes me look at my writing just a little bit differently. I LOVE to write. I do! And it has to be a priority because I intend for it to be my career.

But I don't love writing more than my children. I don't love writing more than my husband. I don't love writing more than my dear friends and family. Writing is an enormous part of my life, but LIFE is what make existence worthwhile.

The thoughts of my heart go out to your friend in her grief. How precious life is.

Maprilynne

Melissa Marsh said...

I'm so sorry for your friend's loss. How heartbreaking.

Your post is excellent - we can get so caught up in the "craft" of writing that we forget the "life" of a piece.

Larramie said...

And she is the voice of your heart expressing every possible emotion. Very sad things happen in our story of Life, yet these tend to teach very wise lessons.

Anonymous said...

I was uncertain whether to post on this, worrying I wouldn't do it right. The reminder was so strong, though, and came with such a sharp edge, I couldn't ignore it. So thank you, all, again.

Hannah

Maia said...

I'm sorry to hear of your friend's loss. When you spoke of the muse and coming back to it after heartache and thinking and loss, I wondered if what doesn't kill us makes us write better. Sorry to plagiarize Nietzsche, but aren't we better writers for moving through pain and coming out the other side?