Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Muse Takes A Nap

On ordinary days, as I go about my business I have at least a couple of topics for posts running through my head. On less ordinary days, themes and phrases tumble around in my brain like lottery tickets just before a drawing.

But yesterday was different. I could not think of a single thing to write about.

Now I know very well that there's no such thing as nothing to write about. Not for nothing did I spend a couple of decades studying and then teaching French lit, many of whose masters prided themselves on making something out of nothing (“faire quelque chose de rien”). A hint of adultery here, a spot of introspection there, and voila: a 500-page masterpiece.

On a day when I feel only some reluctance to write, I just focus on whatever is in front of my nose—say, my hand—and pretty soon stuff comes to me: how it's getting bonier, how it reminds me of my father, how I've never been able to grow my nails, or keep polish on them for more than five minutes. And each of those thoughts can take me in a dozen different directions.

But yesterday my reluctance was absolute. I had run up against a stone wall—not a hard thing to do in Vermont—and I couldn't even write about the wall. My Muse, I suspected, was hiding behind it.

Sometimes if I don't feel like writing I go do something else for a while, then give the Muse a whistle and she comes running. I spent the entire day yesterday doing something else, then whistling, then doing something else again. But she didn't show.

Eventually, I gave up. The Muse, I decided, was taking a nap. Maybe she was cold. After all, my hens have stopped laying the last couple of frigid days. Why shouldn't the Muse get a break too? So she did, and today, I'm glad to say, she's hovering near.

When your Muse yawns, how do you react?

12 comments :

  1. If she doesn't wake up tomorrow: I've been waiting for you to write the companion piece to the egg/snake story, about the guinea fowl/fox saga. Mostly because I can imagine the drawing that would accompany it, of you in your nightgown chasing the hens around in the moonlight.

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  2. My muse is definitely asleep right now. I haven't felt inspired to write a thing (outside of the work things I've been doing). I think hibernation is in the air. Hiver nation. Here we are.

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  3. I don't have a problem finding things to write about or doing the actual writing (I tend towards being diagnosably hypergraphic, especially in the wintertime). But I do have a hard time writing things that are either interesting or amusing or whatever. And then, I usually try to do other things with my hands and brain together--like knit or sew or bake.

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  4. i take a walk. my brain frees up when i'm walking along, and i start thinking of things i want to write down, full sentences, paragraphs start forming in my head.

    or i go back and re-read something i've written before, or started. sometimes that gets me going.

    and every now and then, when i'm looking for a blog idea, i get inspired by something some other blogger is writing about that day.

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  5. I let her sleep; she needs the rest.

    Seriously though, when I really feel blank and that there is nothing I feel inspired to paint I take it as a sign that I am physically and emotionally exhausted. The first thing I do is to get some pajamas-all-day rest along with complete internal permission to do whatever I chose. This generally means I get to read for fun and not to Become A Better Citizen or keep up with book group;) After a day, or two, or a week - or sometimes an hour - of this wanton and sybaritic existence I invariably feel the itch of a new idea...

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  6. Yikes, I meant 'choose', obviously, not 'chose'. Shudder.

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  7. Alison,
    Thanks for reminding me of the guinea saga. I'll get to it as soon as my fingers defrost (16 below on our front porch this morning).

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  8. Indigo, conserving energy isn't a bad idea on these cold, cold days. We should take a lesson from the hens, and stop laying until things warm up.

    Bridgett, "diagnosably hypergraphic" I love that. As to whether what you write is interesting or amusing, that judgment is best left to your devoted readers!

    Laurie, yes, walking is great. Maybe it's about the rhythm, or the right arm-left leg coordination that activates some part of the brain. But how do you do this in the winter?

    Elizabeth, words of wisdom that I would do well to take to heart! (and I'm SO glad you fixed that typo....)

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  9. I find that I am often unable to write. I sit and look at the blank screen, and wonder why. So I keep a notepad nearby, and when I am weaving, and have interesting thoughts pop up, I write them down, just blurbs, sometimes just a word. Then later, I go back to it, and get inspired.
    Hilary

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  10. My Muse looses her way frequently. But it is the finger nails that can't keep polish that grabbed me. I remember long ago asking myself "Do you want to paint finger nails or paintings?". Not feeling that there was time for both. Now my nails tell me they need to breathe and can't if covered with toxic material.

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  12. Hilary, I've often wished I could have a notepad implanted in my body somewhere, so I could always have it handy.

    Dona, Can you imagine what your fingernails would say to you if you glued those fake nails on, or had them "wrapped"? You'd probably be able to hear ten little screams....

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