Saturday, November 9, 2013

Shooting Star

I love to read about writing, what authors say about writing. The whys and hows of their craft, the secret bits of their art. Last night was sorry and sleepless and so as a distraction I fed myself a steady diet of it into the wee and weary hours and found myself conjuring, contemplating these whys of why we (and I) write.

Writing, although it is somewhat a solitary art, anticipates a readership for sure, but by the time a story or poem is in the readers hands, the writer has traveled miles beyond it. The exception I suppose, is the writer's muse. Some say they are always there, haunting the pale perimeters of the page, a specter in the shadows of the keys. 

“Cheat your landlord if you can and must, but do not try to shortchange the Muse. It cannot be done. You can’t fake quality any more than you can fake a good meal.” —William S. Burroughs, slightly more pragmatic and opportunistic than his contemporary Orwell...
“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Mr. Orwell calls his muse by a much less flattering name.
And whether the muse writes through the writer or the writer writes to woo (or soothe) the muse, well who is to say for sure. Sometimes muses are real people, lovers, mistresses, wives, Hollywood starlets, or a stranger on the street. Very often the object of some unrequited longing, so that the expression of the artist becomes one long arduous, sometimes tortured, confession of their desire. 

Writers Anais Nin and Henry Miller were each other’s muses.

I suppose I write, have always written, to quell the fester of feelings that buzz and hum and rise to a fevered pitch in my soul. But along the way I too found a muse. I say found, if that's how these things work and not the other way round. It was a happenstance (again, who can be sure?), a google search and stumbling upon the most poetic of words, fluid and wild like mercury, heavenward and earth-worn wise. Old like the stillness of deep water but new and present like your reflection in that same pool.

Not sure the moment, but at some point I realized that for the last couple years, almost every poem, every story, every wayward wandering of words that I fitfully spilled or spat upon a page, well they've been, at worst a clamor for attention, but always an earnest offering, a plea whispered for my muse to approve. It feels at times as silly and strange as staring at a star in the dead heavens and waiting for it to fall. In fact, now that I am writing those words, my muse is a shooting star (which is just a meteor they will tell you), otherworldly for sure, and talented and full of faith and wonder. And sometimes in the middle of the night, in whatever country I find myself in, when my world is muddled in mediocrity, when I am landlocked in this body we don't keep (to poorly paraphrase the utterly perfect Miss Newsom), when I cannot turn a phrase to save my life, I'll see if maybe my muse has some new words, I'll "squint skyward and listen" to see if my star is shooting, speaking in the beetle black and boundless night.  

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