When I talk about meeting my muse, I want you to understand. I do not refer to something a guitar-carrying (though not playing) hipster might say trying to wrangle his way into a co-ed’s bed. I am talking full-on Ancient Greek Goddess (though I haven’t yet figured out which one, since the novel didn’t exist when the Muses were extant). But, extant they still are.
I was complacently apathetic, playing around with an idea for a new novel, a fictional city in a fictional country. I had half a dozen characters but the problem was that none of them belonged in the same novel. I never really try to plan too much out in the early stages when it comes to characters. I did in the first novel I wrote but by the time I got to the end, none of them were what I had originally planned. I admit it freely, I am not in control of my creations. I was happy with where I was with the new work, idly thinking about it late on a Saturday night with a glass of scotch, Bill Evans playing on the stereo.
Then I met her. Even at the first glance, I knew she was dangerous. It wasn’t any sort of trouble-vibe I had gotten from women before. She soon proved herself to be capable, confident, intelligent, with a good sense of humor. These are all traits you want in someone that has come in to take over a leadership role. It was peculiar on my end from the start. I wasn’t attracted to her physically, yet still sought out her company. Somewhere in the very lizardy parts of my brain an inaudible voice was yelling at me to get as far away as possible as fast as possible. Obviously, I didn’t listen.
It was quite subtle at first, a character beginning to resolve himself out of just the stick-figure personality I had played around with, then characters starting to interact with each other in meaningful ways. Then I started breaking the cardinal rule of my writing routine. I never write after nine at night because otherwise my brain takes too long to cool down for me to get to sleep at any decent hour. That’s alright, I told myself. I can take a little loss of sleep and still get by at work. Now, it all seems so long ago, but it hasn’t been only about four of five weeks. Time seems to have become scewed somehow.
The host, I don’t know what else to call her, had realized what kind of place she was at and quickly found another job. I was now going two to three weeknights with fewer than three hours of sleep. I then began to notice something peculiar. At times when we were talking, she started radiating a luminescence. It was very subtle at first and it wouldn’t always happen. Each time it was getting stronger when it did appear. When I saw this glow, those were the nights that I would end up scribbling until the wee hours of the morning, grab two hours of sleep then go back to work. Being dead tired, I would seek out her company because I knew that just being around her would energize me. When she put her notice in is when things really started becoming strange. The lizard voice was now very audible.
I couldn’t stay away. The luminescence had grown, sometimes, briefly, to the point of a blinding light, the only thing I could focus on, her brown eyes. I couldn’t turn away. It was beginning to affect me in other ways. Always one to love food and avoid most varieties of exercise, I was losing weight, even having to punch a new hole in my belt. Other things, too, regarding the digestive track I think would be better not to go into.
Her last week, she had to train me on somethings so I was around her for hours at a time. Now that brilliance was full on all the time. Tuesday, two hours sleep; Wednesday, only an hour and a half; Thursday, none at all. Mt Dew has always been my coolant when engaged in intellectual endeavors, but that would no longer do. I had been averaging two or three bottles of wine a night. The words were coming too fast, I had to slow them down somehow. The only time this slacked was when I had run out of red. I still had a bottle of La Cantera Carinena Reserva, 2004. It, too, would have disappeared but my frugal Scottish heritage made a brief appearance and bellowed ‘Not merely for this!’ My aesthetics of drinking wouldn’t let me drink white wine in the winter after sunset, so it was on to the whiskey.
Friday was her last day. It was also a day I seemed to be floating in a vacuum. If anyone noticed a change in my behavior, they didn’t mention it, nor did my work rate diminish much. I felt calm, not tired but not rested. I thought, oh, after this, I won’t see her again, then I can get back to my normal life and start letting the belt out again. I had had some plans that Friday but they didn’t work out, I wound up going to bed around eight. I was up by five Saturday morning. It was the longest I had slept at one time in decades.
I felt normal. That was different. Certainly welcomed.
I ate a big breakfast. Then I made a mistake, picking up the last page I had finished, reading the last line. All that shining luminescence exploded in one flash. I have been trying to think about how to describe it. Up to this point, I had been writing a lot but just separate scenes. The whole novel, however, was still shrouded in fog, white-out conditions. The explosion cleared all that away. Instantly, I could make out the geography of the book: themes, plot and sub-plots, characterization, narrative devices, techniques, styles. A piece of butcher paper had hung on my wall for months waiting for the first mark delineating the cartography of the novel. That was all changed now. It was that Saturday that the Muse introduced herself to me, when I knew what it was both attracting and frightening me, that energy that I both feared and longed for, along with her was the shadow of the host, the chime of her voice, those brown eyes. It was terrifying and beautiful and I have now experienced what all those Romantics had been after. If you think all this was simply my unconscious slowly percolating on something, months of contemplation, ideas, half remembered bits from a hundred different books, you would be wrong. I am not that clever.
Then I did something stupid. I emailed her and told her what I had realized. ‘You are my Muse.’ That didn’t go over well. I did try to hold off, but then there I was, hitting the send button.
I try to be a nice guy. If someone has a little something dangling from their nose, or is trailing toilet paper out of their trousers, I would tell them. Shouldn’t I tell someone if they are the embodiment of an ancient Greek Goddess? One of the most creative forces in the known universe? Well, apparently, the answer is no.
So, here I am. The host is gone, never to be seen again. The energy, though, is still here, all around me. I am not saying that this novel will be some great work of art, but maybe the art is in the effort. Time will tell. I have no idea what the near or distant future holds. It doesn’t really matter, the work is what matters and there is a lot of work ahead. Yes, I can now see the landscape (most of it), the long trail to the peak, knowing there is an even longer path beyond that high point. Those are only the largest features.
I have experienced a few things in my life, but by far, this is the most beautiful, terrible, unsettling and satisfying experience I have ever had. Since the email went out, a calm, joyful, energy has settled over me.
I can’t address the source itself and the host never knew what I was going through, getting from her. My motto, however, is that writing is thinking so I will be posting regular letters to my Muse, asking for some sort of clarification in our relationship (they really didn’t like humans back in the ancient days). Do I expect a response? No, not really, But I hope you find them interesting. Right now, I’ve got two pounds of bone in rib eye to eat.