Friday, January 24, 2014

Conversations With My Muse

Conversations With My Muse       

Her name is Eloise. She wears a lopsided grin, has sparkling eyes, carries a lumpy shoulder bag, and breathy words tumble from her so quickly that when she really gets going I have to pay close attention or I’ll miss the good stuff – that is, when she is in the mood to speak. Sometimes she barely talks at all.
I recently caught up with her, sat her down at my kitchen table with her favorite Chamomile tea, and asked for an interview. Luckily, it was a talky sort of day.
“An interview?” she says, “If you insist. But really, dear, I think you should work on that new story I’ve been pitching to you.”
“I will,” I say, wondering: which new story? The one about the Carnival of Earthly Delights? Or the one where aliens come to earth for some hands-on sex education because they've forgotten how to make love? It doesn't matter which. Eloise is waiting for an answer. So I do. “Okay. I’ll work on a new book, I promise. But I have a deadline. I need to write a guest blog post – an interview – and I want to interview you for it. Okay?”
She nods and sips, then nods again. “I’m your Muse. I’m at your service.”
But her words have an edge to them. Does she think I’m wasting her time?

“Okay,” I sputter, “thanks, Eloise. First question – how did you become a Muse?”
She stares at me, her head tilted. “You ought to know the answer to that, Gail.”
“You asked for me, and I came.”
“I did?” I glance at the slip of paper where I’ve written my list of questions. It seems blurry. “I didn’t know that.”
Eloise grins, softening. “You did. Like all Muses, I appear where I’m most needed. I stay as long as there is work for me. I give as much as my client – you – want from me, or can accept.” She puts her teacup on a saucer, then leans forward. “Understand? For now, I’m yours. Tomorrow, who knows? You may throw up your hands and swear off erotic fiction. You might decide to write a book about… oh… politics or something dreadful like that…something about which I know nothing!” She snorts, a most un-ladylike sound. “My dear – if you were to do such a thing, I’d be of no help to you whatsoever! I’d be forced to watch from the sidelines!”
“Really?” My voice sounds almost as breathy as hers.
“Gail. Listen. I truly adore collaborating with you. This has been, without a doubt, the best work I’ve ever done. You and I do marvelous things together! But, alas, I have no say in the matter. What happens to me is in your hands…”
I don’t know how to respond. This isn’t going the way I’d planned. “Um…I’m not going to write any political books,” I finally manage.
She sits back, looking relieved. “What’s the next question?”
I consult my list, but nothing seems relevant anymore. Flustered, I say the first thing that comes to mind. “Um…where do you get your ideas?” As soon as the words are out of my mouth, I’m aware of how lame they sound. How many times have people asked me the same thing, and every single time, I think, couldn’t you come up with something more original?
“Gail!” shrieks Eloise, making me jump. “Where do I get my ideas? Seriously?”
Suddenly – lame question or not – I want to know her methods so badly I feel my insides clench. How does she do it? Is it as hard for a Muse to dredge up ideas as it is for me? Maybe I can learn a thing or two from a professional idea-generator. “Yes! Ideas!” I say, excited. “Will you tell me? Please?”
She laughs then. “I get them from you!”
I can only stare.
“They’re your ideas, my dear. I glean what’s in your mind. I polish them up, toss out the appalling ones, maybe throw a twist into the better ones, maybe not – but that’s all! I do a bit of this and that – and then I send your ideas straight back to you!”
“Oh,” I say.
She snorts again. “You have quite the imagination. I simply adored the sex-in-the-Olympics thing! America’s Darlings...” She pretends to fan herself. “Whew! Hot book, that one.”
“Uh – thanks.”
Her cheeks have a rosy hue I’ve never noticed before. “Any more questions? Ask away.”
“No thanks.” I’ve lost control of this interview, but it hardly matters. “I’m good.”
She tilts her head. “You are good. All you need is to believe in yourself!” And then, in a flash, she’s gone.
She does that sometimes. At the precise moment when ideas are flowing and I’m immersed in a story, following characters down paths I never envisioned, enjoying the creative act of writing more than anything else in the world…she just up and disappears on me.

Eloise. Who is she, really? She’s at my service…she gets her ideas from me…she stays only as long as she’s needed…she adores my books…hey – I’m not an idiot! The truth is I don’t want to know. I won’t ask any more questions of my Muse because I have no intention of ruining my personal bit of magic. I like things exactly the way they are. Me. Eloise. My laptop. An idea, unfolding a word at a time, forming and growing and taking on life. I’m content. She’s mine.

And I adore being a writer.

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