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.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007