I had one amazing night with my muse.
I could feel her presence leaking in from the walls, guiding the clicking of laptop keys, words stringing together into thoughts and sentences. On and on and on. I sipped my wine and tried to keep up with her dictation. Sometimes, I almost heard her whisper: “Write, write, write…turn left here, go straight then double back, and stop” as if she were just a GPS giving directions.
When I punched out the last period, I felt drained, all spent into the work on the page. The muse packed up her voice, her presence, and shuffled off into the night. But I’m still here in front of the keyboard proud of the story that came so effortlessly that I had forgotten to heat up dinner or move toward the couch for reruns of The Big Bang Theory. To be quite honest, I knew that it wouldn’t need much editing or revision. I think all writers have that “I just know it’s good” moment and “whatever you do, don’t mess it up.”
But not all of my writing comes this easily.
Three days a week, I teach freshmen college students how to write. Most of them will never pursue careers in the writing life or write another research essay after my class. But the academic system dictates that freshman composition is their rite of passage, so they sit in class attempting to learn to write.
I tell them that writing is hard work, that they will agonize over the blinking cursor not moving because they hit the inevitable writer’s block and can’t go anywhere. They don’t believe me. I tell them that writing isn’t a formula. There’s no right way to write or get started. They don’t believe me. I tell them that writing takes practice and revision and never fully achieving perfection because something can always be written better. They don’t believe me. But I’ve seen a vision of the muse and her siren song. I have known the magic when she visits, and together, we write out stories. It is beautiful. The magic does exist, and I promise my students that one day they too can find it in their writing.
Our magic doesn’t happen until we do the work.
I’ve spent hours with my ass in my desk chair. I’ve pounded out labored metaphors and mediocre similes. I’ve worked and worked. I’ve showed up to write when I didn’t want to, didn’t feel like it, thought everything I’ve ever written was complete and utter shit. I’ve threatened to delete everything, but I kept going, kept typing, kept writing. I don’t have a secret formula for making the magic happen. On this blog post, I’ve started and stopped, mostly to refill the coffee mug, paused and got back to work. The words didn’t flow magically. I’m okay with the words coming slowly, meandering by.
The muse will come back, and she will find me here working.