31 Days of Poetry{Day 8} Kill the Muse

Today, I’m going to tell you a story, a bit of fiction.  The muse is a myth, and the reality of writing poetry or anything is simple–kill your muse.

 In this story, I named my muse Winifred Eugenia Blowfish(just in case you missed it, her first and last initials are WB aka writer’s block).

 

Kill the Muse

It was a dark and stormy night. The words blinked on my keyboard like small black, dull ants. Worn out ants with crutches, half-blind. As I watched the cursor keeping time like some infernal metronome, her liquid poison words broke the silence.

“Oh, what a beautiful, original, unique, magnificent sentence! So full of artistic skill, oh, you have honed your craft. Now, why don’t you just go relax?” She brushed my shoulder with her icy hands and her long perfect fingernails. Of course, she didn’t have to bite her nails like I did. No one ever sent her rejection letter after rejection letter. Damn, that bitch was perfect. And on that dark and stormy night, she wouldn’t perfect for much longer.

Perhaps, I should explain. I started writing when I was six. An old Kay-Pro computer, a story about unicorns, and the hopes for a Pulitzer(fine, I didn’t have a clue what award I wanted, but just go with it), then she arrived. Her name was Winifred Eugenia Blowfish, and she looked like a faery queen. Her perfectly curled(translation: 80’s permed) hair, violet eyes, and boxy power suit, Winifred exuded confidence and style just like every little one wants. I’m fairly sure that she brought me a purple unicorn to seal the deal.

“Oh, what a beautiful, original, unique, magnificent story!” She gushed, and I smiled. Finally, some grown-up acknowledging my hard work with appropriate adjectives befitting my talent. Most adults read my carefully written sentences and ended the conversation with a dismissing “that’s nice.” Not Winifred. Everything I did was amazing. Every word astounding.

“Of course, you need me to stay, right?” She hugged my neck so hard I thought I would puke all over her navy and hot pink pumps.

“You can stay as long as you want,” I said.

“Good, that’s exactly what I wanted to hear,” she said. Instantly, she set up residence in my house; then she moved with me to my dorm room in college; and my first and second apartments harbored her belongings. Finally, she came to live here at my marital residence. Only now, she had lost the faery quality.

Her violet eyes only critiqued my hard work. She scanned my haggard pages, smile with her tight botoxed lips, and hand it back.

“Well, I guess you weren’t as inspired today, were you?” She laughed, and it sounded like the pains of a mama cat birthing kittens.

“But that’s your job. If I’m not feeling inspired that’s why I have you.” I pleaded. Why else would I invite this harpy muse into my life except to help write?

Tonight, each rain drop pelted down. Still Winifred said nothing. She kept trying to usher me away from the keyboard with a cozy blanket, a cup of warm cocoa, then finally the promise of wine and another episode of Downton Abbey(she would gush about the beautiful storytelling that she inspired. Nothing but pure bullshit from her.).

And that was the moment, I decided to kill Winifred Eugenia Blowfish, my muse. I’m sure other writers will one day thank me for my ensuing actions. Some, of course, would wish that someone had taken such drastic measures sooner. Who else could make Edgar Allan Poe insane with grief? Cause Hemingway to shoot himself? Or fill poor Virginia Woolf’s pockets with rocks and push her in the lake?

“Oh, Winifred, you work to hard. Why don’t you rest a minute on this chaise, and I shall fetch you a bit of light refreshment?” I pulled her to the living room and tucked her in secretly with her shroud, oh, I mean blanket.

“Now, don’t you go anywhere.” I smiled and hurried into the kitchen. I opened my kitchen drawers slowly so the creaky mechanisms wouldn’t alert her royal harpyiness to my intent. Knives, too bloody. Rat poison, cleaners, too cliché. Damn, this murder thing is just as hard as writing. I looked through my cabinets trying to remember if she had allergies. But nothing came to mind. I put the kettle on and waited for the water to nearly boil. I wrack my brain as the tea steeps, then I put out usual condiments—lemon, tea biscuits.

“Here you go. A nice cup of tea,” I said handing her the tray.

“Oh you’re such a dear.” I never could get over how she slurped her tea. The abominable sucking noise would drive anyone crazy.

“I’m going to bed.” She was too involved in the latest Downton episode, and I absconded to the office. I had a more pressing matter—how to kill this muse.

Hours passed. I could hear her snoring from the living room, but morning would awaken her anew. It must be tonight. Every killing method, she already knew, and worse, would expect. I stared at my blank screen, Googled killing the muse, but nothing. Then as if by my own pure genius, I started writing this:

It was a dark and stormy night. Winifred Eugenia Blowfish tucked inside a blanket became too warm. Her skin roasting, sweating, but she couldn’t get out of the blanket, or what she would soon be calling her shroud.

“Oh my,” my harpy shouted. “It’s so hot in here. My dove, please open a window.” I sat amazed and kept writing trying to ignore her screams.

Now, poor Winifred felt a crawling, slinking emerging from her shroud. Out from underneath its masses, the deadliest viper of Ancient Greece. A bite from this snake would render its victim mute and paralyzed, never to be heard from again. Of course, Zeus never imagined that this viper would turn upon the gods or worse the beautiful witch muses. The viper opened its mouth, fangs wide, and grab the nearest piece of flesh—Winifred’s perfect nose. Now, gone.

The living room, now eerily silent. I heard her gasp her final breath. The viper, the ice shroud, and Winifred disappeared back inside my imagination. And I kept writing.

Why I Bother Writing

Why I bother?

Because writing as a vice isn’t quite as bad as drinking, smoking, or collecting cats(my epitaph will not read: she was a crazy cat lady). Writing appeases my OCD personality to have something to create, to perfect, to pursue relentlessly.Or just offers another excuse to ignore the dishes, the laundry, and the unmopped floors. My OCD is fickle and cares not for such trivialities–it longs for something grander; hence, I write.

This is why I bother writing. 

I know there are so many writers that we drown  new books and NY TIMES bestsellers list, and maybe my words are just adding to the noise. But so what? If I don’t satisfy this compulsion to connect my feelings and experiences to words, then I’m not sure how I can make sense of this effed up world(except maybe in a therapist’s office, but writing doesn’t require a co-pay). Somehow, writing unlocks something deep in my subconscious that wouldn’t have come out unless written down. I can write things in journals that I feel but can’t speak aloud. This is freedom.

This is why I bother writing.

True, I vacillate between bestseller and the hack with no talent; punch drunk on the illusions of fame and hiding behind the mask of nobody.  While the comparison bitch screws me over every time always halting my writing process, it takes all I can do to shut her up and just write a few more words.

Perhaps in those next few words, I can free my voice just a little bit more,

feel something a bit deeper, hone this beautifully naracisstic craft.

 

This is why I bother writing.

And quite possibly, I don’t want to be the crazy cat lady.

 

 

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Fortune Cookie Writing Tips

Brown paper sacks, over flowing plastic containers filled with pork fried rice and General Tso’s chicken. Standard fare for at home date night, movie watching, stuffing ourselves with food not really from China, and hoping the MSG doesn’t petrify our insides yet.  We open our fortune cookies, read them aloud. Yours read like a bad Dear Abby letter, but mine always relates to my crazy writing life.  Or perhaps, I only see, read, breathe this writing gig.  Or maybe, I have stumbled on some great Zen wisdom:

The best writing advice comes from fortune cookies.  

Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons and Images of Money

Seriously, if we want to write better, perhaps, we should heed some of the wisdom baked with the oddly orange flavored, vanilla cracker cookies(on a side note: what is the flavor of a fortune cookie?). Today, I am giving you my TOP 5 things I learned about writing from my fortune cookies:

  1. You are not illiterate.  Neither is your audience. Right now, you’re reading. I hope you’re laughing too. As a writer, it is my job to treat my readers not as ignorant schoolchildren, but as literate, amazing, highly sophisticated, intellectual readers. It is so freeing. Try it.
  2. Only put off till tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone. Pretty much my philosophy on housework, dieting, and exercise. If I die with dirty dishes in the sink but have a beautiful manuscript finished, I say I spent my life wisely. If I choose to catch up with another writer to encourage her, no amount of laundry and well scrubbed floors will take the place of this soul balm.
  3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone. Because they would make better zombie fodder in your manuscript than actually stewing over their horrid bitchiness. Unless you choose the life of a hermit, people will piss us off so badly that hate feels like the only option. Now, take note: vindictive writing isn’t always good writing. But it is cathartic. Let it heal and move on.
  4. What you will do matters. All you need is to do it. Begin, write the first sentence that will amaze you and only you. I think sometimes we forget that we are our first readers not our second cousin’s first uncle’s nephew’s daughter twice removed. One thing that helps me get started is gather notecards, post-it notes and write 1 thing. Just do something. Begin the journey with your characters or yourself.
  5. At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet. We will never produce our best work if we believe that everything we do is shit. For our best writing, we must be sweet, kind, loving to ourselves. Encourage another writer. Believe in the revision process can make your words better.
Now, what is your best writing advice? Extra points if it includes fortune cookies!
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The Queen of Quantity

Quality is always better than quantity, right?

As I writer, I believed it. Shouldn’t we always look for the best word, the most tantalizing sentence, the perfect description? Under this paradigm, I labored and toiled. Second guessed my muse, begged forgiveness of my muse(her name is Winifred Eugenia Blowfish. She is a horrid harpy who praises mediocre bullshit and entices me to sofa sitting, Downton Abbey watching utopia. Or perhaps, she is merely personified writer’s block. Never quite sure.).

In the search for quality, I wrote nothing. I waited for the right conditions to write–kids in bed, husband distracted with video games, dogs snoring and farting very far away from my desk. Then, I bought new pens and purple legal pads and neon green Post-It notes. No quality writing. In my mind, I created everything I need for some kick ass poetry and prose. But the blinking cursor counted each second like a scowling metronome .

But what if I were focused on the wrong thing? What if it isn’t quality, but quantity?

Somehow, I existed underneath the hegemonic rule of my quality driven muse. I needed a paradigm shifting, parallel writing universe where I could simply write and write and write eschewing grammar, syntax, and stuffy formalities. Perhaps, I suffered from the classic writer’s block lie–if it isn’t amazing the first time, it isn’t worth writing. I berated myself for not writing like a mother scolds her children for untidy rooms. The passion, the enjoyment seeped out, and in its place, I found nothing.

But when I would sit in writing class, I threw off my need to perfect. Relaxed and allowed the words to flow trippingly on the tongue or in this case, the pen (ahh, Hamlet, I do so love thee).  I didn’t self-edit. There wasn’t time. I focused not on quality, but getting those damn words out on paper. Giving life to those faded memories, blowing the dust off my imagination, I gave myself permission to fuck up as a writer.

So, I became  The Queen of Quantity.

For May, I am committing to writing in mass quantity. Lots of shitty first drafts cobbled together, but it will all be inked out upon paper. My writing goal is to fill one 70 page notebook before the end of this month. And all this month, I am going to blog about this quantity over quality journey. Perhaps, I shall let you see a few first drafts. Perhaps, not.

Question: What has been the most freeing moment for you as a writer, artist, or person?

 

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