If Your Muse Refuse

By Yaacov Peterseil


          Having trouble getting your writing muse to pay attention to you? Sometimes, she or he (they come in two basic genders) needs a day off (just when you don’t) or sleeps late (just when you can’t) or is just being stubborn (just when you aren’t).
          Speaking for myself, there are plenty of times when my (somewhat matronly) muse energizes me with a theme or a storyline or an ending to a story that gives me that rush of satisfaction my writer’s psyche craves. It’s her timing that’s a problem. Too often, she speaks to me when I’m too busy to listen, or too tired to concentrate, or too annoyed to jot down the very words I tell myself I’ll call up later (yeah, sure).
          Take now, for instance. I’m in the middle of a writer’s block about a story I’ve been working on for 6.5 months. It’s called THANATOPHOBIA (an abnormal fear of death), and my hero, Yerachmiel Pur, has obsessive “visions” of being tortured. After Yerachmiel actually dies, he enters the next world only to discover that he’s one of 9 other Yerachmiels who share the same soul. A matronly mother figure begins explaining the purpose of his soul to him but as Yerachmiel looks around he suddenly asks himself,  “What’s wrong with this picture?”.  Abruptly, he makes a mad dash into the great beyond and then –
          Well, I don’t really know where he’s going. And although my sadistic muse has given me a pretty good ending, she stubbornly refuses to allow me to fill-in the blanks. She insists I write something else (like this article) or play with my grandchildren, or work on my book (four years and counting) about my years rabbinating inNewfoundland,Canada.
          “But,” I tell her, I want to finish this story.”
          “Sure,” she says,” just do it without me. I never really liked the story,” she insists.
          “But you put it into my head,” I counter-insist.
          So what do you do if your muse refuse…?   
          What I do is force myself, almost every day, to write at least one page which can bridge the gap between where I left off and the ending I’ve got planned. Each day I re-read what I wrote and delete it.  And each day my muse laughs heartily at my vain efforts to move forward without her.
          But I’m stubborn too. And after writing this I’m going back to finish my story if for no other reason than I want to show my muse I can live without her, for at least one story.
          I’d go on, but my wife just asked me to throw out the garbage and then go shopping with her before we pick up the grandchildren and take them to the zoo where we’ll feed them supper so they won’t eat too much popcorn when we take them to the movie theater.
          But then, I’ll finish Thanatophobia, even if it kills me.