As I loom over my laptop and brew my latest writing project, I’m always hoping that the muse will fly in, land on my shoulder, and whisper into my ear, “Write it like this…..” and then genius will spill out like a magical spice, the spice that transforms the ordinary or above average into stellar. Yes, I’m always hoping. And then I plead. I demand. And I sometimes resort to that jaw-clenching, mother-to-disobedient-child, “Get over here NOW!” The muse, as it turns out, is very temperamental and doesn’t respond well to commands.
My book club is currently reading Jodi Picoult’s The Storyteller and I think I’ve figured out why the muse is so frequently deaf to my demands. She’s too busy hanging out with Jodi. Apparently, Jodi lives in New Hampshire and that is a heck of a long way from Texas. Maybe there’s more than one muse, you say? Well, fine then. I want Jodi’s.
She writes with a brilliance that, on good days, incites me to work harder to fashion a sentence that rivals hers. On bad days, her writing makes me question my own. I wonder if I should be spooling yarn or counting matchsticks instead.
From The Storyteller: “Later, as I got to know her, I’d realize that when she gardens, she never sees the seed. She is already picturing the plant it will become. I imagine she thought the same, meeting me.”
Yes, it’s time. I don’t know why I’ve taken this long to reach the only conclusion possible. I have to steal Jodi’s muse. She’s very prolific, so she probably has more than one anyway. I’ll be the Writers’ Robin Hood—stealing from the rich to give to the poor. My muse may be deaf, but I’ll bet her muse is one of those airline passengers that sits next to you and chatters all the way from New Hampshire back to Texas. For the first time ever, I’ll leave my headphones in their case and listen with rapt attention, taking notes.
Have you ever Googled yourself? You should. It could change your life.
I just discovered that my name is Earlene. Now, I’ve been called a lot of things in my life. (I know you’re thinking that I’m referring to the “b” word, and yes, my names have included that one. I told myself at the time that if a woman hasn’t been called a b**** at least once in her life, she probably hasn’t spoken up for herself often enough. I’m not advocating the use of the word, I’m just saying that there’s an entire book of reasons why a woman hears that epithet and we could talk about that conundrum for hours.)
But for now, I need to talk about Earlene. Susan is actually the name I expected to find as I’ve been called Susan much more often than my own name, Suzanne. My family will tell you that if you really want to see steam billowing out of my ears, call me Susan.
Earlene, however, is the woman married to my husband, Douglas. You see, the marriage records of Texas apparently show that my real husband, Brian, and I were married in Texas in a certain month in a particular year. Okay, so far. But the day of the month is wrong. Hmmm. How does that happen? An erroneous keystroke? I can buy that explanation. But then, the record goes on to say that “At the time, Douglas was twenty-three years old and Earlene was twenty-three. If they’re both still alive, Douglas would be forty-nine and Earlene would be forty-nine.” What? How did those people get involved in our marriage? Douglas is my husband’s middle name, so okay, the person inputting the information is apparently daydreaming on the same page. Then Earlene comes in from out of nowhere. She’s been in my marriage from the beginning. According to the state of Texas, she is me.
You know what I say about that? From now on, everything is going to be blamed on Earlene. Everything. I’m not saying she’s a b****, but she’s always in the wrong place at the wrong time. And the best part? There’s no way Earlene will ever be called Susan by mistake. Life just got a whole lot easier.
I have a paperweight on my desk that says, “The road to failure is actually the path of least persistance.” And yes, “persistance” is misspelled on the paperweight. So this little gem makes me smile and it sobers me at the same time. And it reminds me to use spell check when I write.
Sometimes persistence gets a bad rap and I think that’s because it’s often associated with belligerence. But I love persistence. I’m not sure that anything gets done without it. Though the Good Luck Fairy can certainly wave her wand when she wants to and astonish all of us, I don’t rely on her. Ever. Instead I live with persistence. I don’t have a choice.
I blame it on this thing that lives inside me and though I wouldn’t call it a voice, it definitely shouts at me when it wants my attention. I also wouldn’t call it a longing or a drive because it’s more than that. And it’s definitely not a belligerence either. But it does have incredible power over me.
If I could compare persistence to anything, it would be like this small, cascading creek in Colorado that I know well. The creek rushes down the mountain on its familiar path, yet whenever it encounters resistance, the force of the water either surges over the barrier or forges a new path around it. The creek simply follows what is in its nature to do.
I’ve been facilitating writing workshops for over five years now and due to the specific focus of those workshops, I’ve had to put many proposals out there before one is accepted. Word of mouth recommendations are starting to kick in now, but there were months when I wondered why I was working so hard only to get discouraged by rejections. The same feeling crops up with my work as a writer. But that creek runs as powerfully through me as it does in those mountains. It would be sooooo easy to give up, but I can’t. I just can’t. I’m doing what is in my nature to do.