by Darlene Cah
WRITER sits at a computer typing in a cluttered office. A single desk lamp illuminates the mess of books, papers, dirty dinner dishes, soda cans, etc.
Hey! How about that story about the woman and the Flamenco guitar player?
(Writer shifts weight)
I think it has legs.
(Writer hits keys harder)
Picture it. The little town of Mijas in Spain…
Excuse me. I’m trying to work here.
Just doing my job.
Hey, I know! The woman, uh, Meg, yeah, Meg. Good name. She and the Flamenco dude…uh…Ignacio go to a shrine and meet his gypsy grandmother. Yeah, I’m digging this
Shut up. I’m in the middle of a love scene. (Types faster)
Yeah, I know, but you’ve had the Flamenco character on your mind for weeks…
(Writer puts on headphones)
You even wrote in your notebook that he has a tattoo…a ponytail, blue eyes, eats peanuts…has a jigsaw puzzle collection, goes to hear metal bands when he’s not performing…and the cat. Don’t forget the cat!
Why do I still hear you!?
Your two hundred dollar headphones cannot block the voice of your Muse. Nor can a deep sleep. You should know that by now.
(Writer takes headphones off. Opens a new document)
Fine. You win. Ignacio? Really? What’s wrong with Alejandro?
Whatever. It’s your story.
I’m a notorious scribbler. I have scraps of paper with first lines, paragraphs, notes, character descriptions, one or two words that were supposed to trigger an idea that later read like a cryptic message. These scraps are on my desk, in my purse, in my pockets. I even have random notes in word docs on my laptop…or is it my desktop? Both.
My writing is like my decorating sense: scattered. So I can’t even call these whims project starts. They’re more like project sparks. Many times they go nowhere. Okay, that’s not entirely true. One went into the washing machine via a hoodie. It made beautiful lint.
Surprisingly, as unfocused as I am with scratching out possible story ideas, when it comes to writing, I get stuck in one place, consumed by setting, characters, voice, plot. This is a recent, odd twist in my personality. I’m pretty flexible in other areas of my life, so this little quirk disturbs me. For one thing, I’m not very productive. I can spend weeks, months stagnant, mulling over some snag in a story or worse, giving up and not thinking about the piece at all. That’s where I am now. Mired in indecision. Uninspired, afraid I’ll become disinterested. But, eventually, Ms. Muse will sigh and throw me a hint, and I can write again.
In the past, I’d take a break from longer stories by writing flash stories or simply write flash for the joy of it. Or I’d scrawl a truly terrible poem. Apparently, Ms. Muse has a sense of humor. In fact, she thinks it’s hilarious that I’m writing this at 1:40 am. Yeah, she has great timing, too.
So do you stop a project and give into Madame Muse when she nags? Or do you crank up the classic rock and put La Muse on hold?