That’s the challenge I’ve set for myself. Regardless of whether I’m working a double shift or working out or overworked, the challenge I’m setting is for me to write a thousand words a day. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but a good thousand words has every bit as much power as a picture and sometimes more. It just depends on what those words are. It also depends on what order you put them in. Funny little thing about writing.
An amusing story about writer James Joyce opens with him, dejected in his writing space. I picture him sitting, forehead on his desk, looking like he passed out in his pasta bowl. A friend comes in and asks him how many words he got done that day.
“Seven,” Joyce says.
“But I don’t know what order they go in!”
Whether or not that story is true is moot — I think many of us can relate to that. The words aren’t always the problem, it’s just that sometimes writing is like a two-year-old walking a Great Dane. You can have all that power on a leash, but if it decides it wants to smell that tree, you are helpless as the toddler as it drags you with it.
I usually surpass that thousand words in my blog alone, and lately I’ve been revising and rewriting prolifically as well. What I’m trying to do is exercise the writing muscle. Get it used to lifting weight around on a consistent basis so that stuff gets done. Sometimes it’s not easy — outside of work, I have a fiance who likes it if I notice his presence and a wedding to plan. One could say there’s a lot on my plate. In spite of that, it’s time to write. It’s time to let that Great Dane drag me wherever it wants to go, because he’s the muse.
My muse is a shapeshifter. I think that’s fairly appropriate, considering it’s me he’s hanging out with. I would never burden a human being with the title, so I’m stuck with what I’ve got. Sometimes he’s the Great Dane on the trail of some exciting new smell, and I’m just along for the ride. Other times he’s a telephone operator, connecting me with the characters when they ring in.
“Emmie. Jason wants to talk to you, and he’s really pissed. Something about overactive clams.”
Okay, the overactive clams bit is an exaggeration, but seeing as how that particular character is bat-shit insane, it’s not too far off the mark of something he would actually say.
Other times, my muse is an old granny who wears glasses with lenses the size of baseballs and as thick as Mason jars. The frames are a virulent crimson, and they sit askew on her leathery, wrinkled face. She still has all her teeth, but her mouth has the look of someone who’s lost them, and her smiles are often beatific, though glowing. She feeds me her tidbits in the form of butter cookies about to go stale and sweetened tea with lots of milk, served in glasses with no handles. Sometimes she wears a baseball cap that’s far too big for her head, the brim wide and flat. She often has cookie crumbs on her denim jacket.
My muse takes many shapes. I like the idea of having a muse rather than there just being one out there floating around in the ether. My muse fits me — yours might be an Aslan-like lion who roams about your apartment and roars when he thinks you’re not paying attention. Stephen King describes his muse as a man who lurks around his basement, gnawing and smoking fat cigars and poking through all his stuff until he feels like piping up.
My shapeshifting muse is the reason that picture a day happens. At its core, my muse is trying to reach you, gentle viewers. My muse has stories to tell, connections with other worlds that she wants to share with you. (Yes, her gender changes. Why wouldn’t it?) Your muse has different stories. Our muses might get together and have coffee sometimes, and because of that, our stories might have similar themes.
A lot of writers say that if you just write — every damn day, no matter what apocalypse threatens on the horizon — your muse will start knowing where you hang out. Your muse will come find you and start dragging or talking. It’s only a matter of time when you make the effort to open that conduit and hear what your muse has to say. A thousand words go by pretty quickly when your muse is chattering at you in your ear.
Mine knows that I live in the spare room of our little two bedroom apartment. He knows that my fingers are connected with the keyboard of my constipated dinosaur of an iBook, and that if he says something to me while I’m in here, I’ll hear it. Assuming one of the many trains that travel within a hundred yards of me isn’t blaring its horn at that moment, I’ll hear it. She also knows that she can find me between shifts, sipping the cheapest venti Starbucks drink I can muster and walled in by my emotional blinders to concentrate. She’ll sit down across from me and hand me some hot tea instead with some butter cookies, and she’ll start talking. That’s what she does. My muse knows where to find me. Sometimes he sniffs me out when I’m at work, wanting to drag me across the street by the leash while I’m trying to remember which guy wanted the IPA and if the table wanted sour cream on their nachos. It’s been raining a lot, and that Great Dane doesn’t smell better than your average soggy puppy.
There’s a lot of pictures buried in this post, which returns me to the idea of writing a picture a day. This is a thousand words — how many pictures? You tell me.
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