I looked up from my computer and smiled thinly, apologetic, before shaking my head. “Sorry. I’m working on it though.”
She lingered in the doorway, cupping her coffee mug with both hands. Her robe wasn’t completely closed, but she was wearing pajamas beneath–red and brown plaid flannel pajamas. She still hadn’t removed her curlers from the night before–I briefly wondered if that was bad for her hair.
“Focus,” she said, squinting before her glare melted into a smile–she always knew when I wasn’t thinking about my writing. She shuffled over, her bunny slippers flapping, and kissed my neck before leaving the room.
I could feel the stirring of a scene as the warmth from her kiss sank into my flesh. Ahh…my muse.
As with any romantic relationship, the one with the muse has a honeymoon phase. In that brief, passionate time frame, first drafts roll from the finger tips as if finger speed were the only hindrance; flesh wrapped around bone…the human condition. Digits, dexterous as they may be, are what slow the flow of the prose when the muse has you in her passionate embrace. In looking back months later, I sometimes remember the episode as a picture of intensity–eyes closed, head back, spine arched in rapture as fingers pound the keys. Perhaps there’s the memory of the occasional moan or gasp.
But after that intense love affair has muted, bringing the drudgery of fleshing out the work, smoothing the lines, punching up the emotion with clarity, there is a shift in the relationship. The passion, though still intense, is more measured in duration. It also comes less frequently, having to be coaxed forward with the promise of new insight or a twist that wasn’t held within the pages of the first draft. You get to see the more domestic version of your muse.
“Do you want to go out to night?” she asked, leaning through the doorway again.
I smiled and nodded, bringing a beaming response to her eyes and lips.
“Yay!” she said, quiet, barely containing her joy–the muse likes to strut her stuff.
If you rely on the newness of a relationship for inspiration, you will forever be confined to first drafts…and sometimes not even complete ones. The muse has many faces, and she cleans up well. But when the drudgery of the craft is more reality than you can bear, sending you out seeking fresh muses to seduce, you will never come to the end of your work–you will always be left with stacks of unfinished brilliance.
“Dancing?” she called from the other room.
“Absolutely!” I said. “No one moves like you do.”
In mysterious ways, I thought, a grin sliding across my face.
My lines flowed much better after that. Long, cluttered sentences got shorter and easier to follow. Complex ideas seemed to shrink to simple descriptions that even made them clearer to me. Odd…so very very odd the strange relationship we have with the muse. Each writer treats the muse differently, but in the end, we must all cater to her needs as we would in any healthy relationship. It’s impossible to elicit a passionate response from anyone when you do nothing to make that person feel passion. Seduction of the muse is not something that only occurs to draw her to you; it is something you must do to maintain her constant support–like any healthy relationship.
By the time she was ready to go out, my scene was complete and the words had been smoothed. I felt better…my frustration was gone. I knew it would be back, but that’s the nature of the work. Our minds are not meant to process pure creativity efficiently; if they were, they’d be loaded into bins, dumped onto conveyors and assembled by sweatshop employees in some developing nation at slave wages. Creativity would be traded by hedge funds as a commodity on Wall Street.
She was beautiful. She always cleaned up so well. I smiled as I escorted her to the car and drove her to the club. Once there, she began dancing as soon as she heard the music–on the sidewalk, waiting to get in. I could feel her joy flowing through me and the scene ideas began bubbling to the top immediately.
The line at the door was long, but I walked right up to the beefy bouncer before reaching out to shake with a hundred-dollar bill pressed into his hand.
He shook his head.
I smiled and gripped his hand tightly making him flinch before I leaned forward and whispered. “There’s another one in my top pocket for you if you find our name on your list.”
He looked up, doubt in his eyes, leading me to squeeze just a bit harder. “Go on…it’s right there in my top pocket.”
He reached into the pocket with shaking fingers, his face a mask of bravado despite the pain signals flashing across his features. He withdrew the bill, nodding, before I released his hand, leaving the other bill in his palm.
I pointed at his list. “See…right there.”
“Ah, yes,” he said, clenching and unclenching his fingers. “Sorry. Go on in.”
In the reflection of the door, I saw him shoot a worried glance over his shoulder as we entered. Kathrin took my arm and strode through the door with me, looking like a billionaire princess.
“Who are we looking for?” Kathrin whispered in my ear, disguising the question as a kiss.
I turned and kissed her lips before drawing in close to her neck. “The couriers,” I said, slipping my phone into her hand with the pictures of the couriers on the screen.
My muse…good lord she’s a fast worker. When the emotion flows through her, she reserves none of it for herself; all of it goes to me.
“Are we drinking tonight?” She asked over the thud of the club music pounding our chests with its heavy bass.
“If you want to drink, baby, you can drink,” I replied, raising my voice above the percussion.
She leaned over and kissed me, giddy with her freedom. Unlike a normal healthy relationship, there is a codependency in the author/muse union. She wants to stay with you, but she requires boundaries; not too restrictive or she will wander away to find another to inspire. But there need to be limits placed on her or she’ll have you seeing new visions before the last is complete. She doesn’t really like the mundane work of detailing a work she has inspired, so you must reward her for sticking around for the boring stuff–and never ever mention in a negative way, her robe or bunny slippers. She is self conscious. She has given you a gift allowing you to see her more vulnerable, less glamorous side.
Despite the smile on my face and the manufactured movement of my body to the rhythm of the music, I was in machine mode, taking it all in: Club security at the bar and exits, five total inside plus two outside. Kathrin at the leading edge of the bar, ordering drinks and scanning the lower floor. Drug dealer in the corner with two men for muscle. Drunk idiot in back, about to get his ass kicked for hitting on a big guy’s woman.
As I moved around the edge of the dance floor, my eyes flashed to Kathrin on the other side when she flipped her hair—a great way to get my attention. When we made eye contact she smiled and shifted her gaze to the center of the dance floor. I shifted my gaze as well and saw her—the woman from the bank security video.
Standing at the edge of the floor with his back against a concrete column was another of the couriers, looking bored but vigilant.
Kathrin nodded imperceptibly toward the floor and I shook my head, patting my chest on the left side with my right hand, indicating the other courier was armed. She looked at him and then back to me, nodding once.
Rewrites and line edits are the drudgery (don’t get me started on proofing…I’m no good at it being severely ADHD myself and leave that work to my brilliant editors.) But the creativity can’t end with the draft. The artistry in the detail is as crucial if not more so, in the refining. You can’t let your muse slip away and abandon you after the fire has ceased flowing through your veins.
If you’ve established a healthy relationship with your muse, letting her flow at her own pace when you started your book, she will linger once the refining work needs to be accomplished. But you have to give her the freedom to be the muse…it makes for a better story as well as a healthier relationship. Once you have the healthy habits in place, she will not just return, she will set up house keeping with you. Then, if you are very very lucky, you will get to see her in her robe and bunny slippers.
The like button is further down. 🙂 S.L. Shelton is the author of an Amazon Bestselling Political Thriller Action Espionage Series, (The Scott Wolfe Series). Follow him here on WordPress, on Twitter @SLSheltonAuthor or Facebook. He will love you for it. And if you like the posts, click like (likes, follows and reviews are the secret way to get authors to write more.)