Me and My Muse
Me and My Muse
We try to get along. I believe, however, that the tension of a push-pull chemistry is necessary for maximum quality output! There are times when I welcome My Muse into my life, and then there are times when I wish to escape her. (Yes, I believe My Muse is a “she.”)
My gift - of writing - emerged after an hour of sleep one night. Here is how it usually goes between Me and My Muse:
Me: "It can wait till morning. There are only 3 lines."
My Muse: "You have to write it now."
Me: "But I am tired. I want to sleep."
My Muse: "You won't sleep, not until you get these words safely down on paper."
By then, at least 10 minutes have gone by and I am fully awake. So I explain to Dear Husband that I must write. I get up out of bed and write while seated on the leather sofa in the family room. One bright light illuminates my keyboard.
On that night, I wrote a poem from 12:30-1:30 a.m. I then returned to the vacated lumpy spot in the bed and immediately fell asleep until 10:30 the next morning.
Life then resumed its normalcy, although I am beginning to think that the interruption of my routine by My Muse has become the norm. There is no predicting these things. The only sure prediction is that I will once again have to interrupt whatever it is I am doing to sit down and write. If I just sit down and plan to write, chances are My Muse will find something else to do!
This tribute is dedicated to the Russian Artist, an inspirational figure who has been the muse of many a writer.
The Russian Artist, painter or writer, is seldom understood in the United States, partly because so much persecution and secrecy have historically surrounded the artist in Russia. In some senses, he has become embalmed in the post-Soviet era. The citizens of Russia themselves must learn, or re-learn, their history, pre-1918, pre-Lenin, before the bloody Revolution made art into a state form of propaganda.
Doctor Zhivago, the one and only version, the
Original, happens to be my favorite film in the Modern Epic category.
This film depicts the Russian as real. The Urals represent the governmental regime that threatens to smother the Individual. It’s the Urals vs. the Individual: the Urals win. In the United States, the Individual wins. There are indeed “men to match their mountains” (a paraphrase of the un-erasable words by Sam Walter Foss, the writer/librarian from New Hampshire).
True art never dies. In a sense neither does the artist who poured her immortal soul into that piece of work to express everything that the Overlord tried to stamp out. Therein lies the “secret of durable pigments” of which Nabokov so achingly wrote. The Russian ballerina, the Russian ice skater, the Russian composer, the Russian writer, the Russian painter, the Russian poet — during previous eras, they all exuded an unparalleled artistic sensibility, a love of freedom, that can never die. Nabokov wrote Speak Memory because he knew all too well that the memory was the only gift that truly speaks.
And when the Citizen permits any pompous, pen-wielding bureaucrat to silence him or her, the essence of life, and of art, begins to die. Memory is the only intimate treasure that an individual, and a culture, can possess that endures the test of time, and the trials of that time. Perhaps the people who have lost their memory have lost their minds as well, and we in America now watch the liberals, in their catatonic states, lashing out at the people who threaten them — the individuals who cherish freedom, and memory.
Henrik Ibsen asks in “Peer Gynt”: “If you lie, are you real?”
The fomenters of the Left are, in a very real sense, not real.
Americans do not know the fear of living under the thumb of the corrupt criminals who are the Government — for 70 years, and then under the gun of the KGB thug who enshrines himself as the New Dictator: killing rivals; killing freedom from within; killing art — past, present and future.
No museums or art curators will deal with Putin. When Putin dies, then perhaps life and language and art will again thrive in Mother Russia. And Americans will come to know the pre-Soviet portrait artists and the art forms that have languished since the Wall fell. One wall came down; a different wall of tyranny was erected. And freedom, along with creative thought and true art, will be permitted once again in a land that has begun to savage the next generations.
Russia was always an empire, never a nation. That tragedy cannot be changed. But the Russian people cannot be blamed for the sins of their government. Hopefully, that statement will not often be said about Americans.
Parting is Not Sweet Sorrow
There are times when I must break free from the past in order to create. The impulse, or desire, has, at times, caused more than a few people to speak of me as restless, even impulsive. And yet I must confess that my need to take decisive action, to make a command decision, has always been the result of lengthy contemplation and methodical caution.
The élan with which I then make my move seems quite spontaneous and capricious, but the change in direction has been plotted and planned well before it is carefully executed. In fact, to me, it feels a bit boring and anti-climactic, so meticulously have I arranged the steps of the pathway from here to . . . there.
My mode and method of living have, of necessity, been in accordance with my need to create. My Muse understands these facets of my being better than I do. My loved ones understand it even more. It is not easy for me to think of myself while at the same time living within my self. I am often too much without an awareness of my gifts, and that deficiency, if you will, has caused me untold vexation and displeasure, even the quiet sadness of knowing I’ve been used by other people. The sadder knowledge is that those individuals used up whatever virtue remained in them.
In those instances, parting from the past has not been sweet sorrow, particularly when I come to realize that I must take leave, not of my senses, but of my present station, to execute the duty of fulfilling my art.
My truest self is that of an artist. At times, I must remind myself of that truth because for so many years I went purely on faith that I was gifted with talents to be developed and trained and taught; but I did not dare to think of myself as an artist. So many pretentious people had showered themselves with that appellation that I all but ran from it!
While I was fleeing the poseurs, I was blessed by teachers and professors who gave to me lessons of a lifetime. They knew what I did not know: that I was a budding artist. They thought it best not to inform me of their sense of my artistry. Many years later, I realized the totality of their gifts to me, some of which was doing what they had to do for me — without my knowing it.
My discernment of their magnanimity has struck me profoundly; to this day I feel a bond with each of those rare individuals who saw in me what I could not see in myself. They virtuously acted with benevolence, in quiet moments and with silent love. With utter unselfishness, they instinctively and consciously understood my needs as an artist in myriad ways that permitted me to grow. And growth is crucial to any human being, but especially to an artistic soul.
My Muse perceived their brilliance. My Muse now directs me in the best paths to take to honor their genius as well as mine. It is with some difficulty that I speak, or write, of my “genius” but I grant myself that liberty because that word, genius, applied to me, is a reflection and an extension of their genius.
I parted from them, one by one, in silence, because I truly could not say good-bye to any of them. Perhaps my refusal to say “farewell” was my gift to them, my way of saying: We shall meet again, in another place and time, through a vastly superior dimension.
Parting from those special individuals was not sweet sorrow because a measure within me, My Muse, to be exact, knew that there would be only the joy of creation, the bliss of actualization, the feat of fulfillment known as art.
It is therefore in exultant honor of my mentors that I offer these bits and pieces of advice and opinion from two other teachers who continue to deeply influence me and my Muse. Both men were Russian; both were writers of limitless talent, and of great soul.
Anton Pavlovich Chekhov:
It's not a matter of old or new forms; a person writes without thinking about any forms; he writes because it flows freely from his soul.
One had better not rush, otherwise dung comes out rather than creative work.
Write only of what is important and eternal.
If you want to work on your art, work on your life.
It is a bad thing if a writer tackles a subject he does not understand.
Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov
A novelist is, like all mortals, more fully at home on the surface of the present than in the ooze of the past.
To a greater or lesser extent there goes on in every person a struggle between two forces: the longing for privacy and the urge to go places; the introversion, interest directed within oneself toward one's own inner life of vigorous thought and fancy; and extroversion, interest directed outward, toward the external world of people and tangible values.
The good, the admirable reader identifies himself not with the boy or the girl in the book, but with the mind that conceived and composed that book.
The breaking of a wave cannot explain the whole sea.
17 December 2018
I awoke this morning at 7 or so. This awakening was not a matter of being fully awake. I did not open my eyes. My interior sight was “seeing” the opening paragraph of THE SILENT HEART, in words and in movement, the kind of action scene that opens a film.
I told My Muse that I would work on this writing later, after breakfast.
It’s always a nice wish, delaying the march of My Muse.
I tried to go back to sleep, but then character details for the male character in this scene, Isaac Riley, filled my consciousness. There is no escape, I thought.
As I half-dozed in bed, I planned my day in later shifts to accommodate this unscheduled creative activity at daybreak. I (accurately) figured an hour or so of my writing time would do the trick, or the magic, or whatever is needed to satisfy My Muse. It’s the week before Christmas and She wants me to start composing my first Western.
Watching a movie last night must have triggered My Muse. Holiday Affair, a 1949 flick with Robert Mitchum, Janet Leigh, and Wendell Corey, was a fluffy delight. That opening scene of Mitchum pouring what looked like Ivory Snow over a toy train on a track in a department store: it was so engagingly funny that the DVD got reverse-shifted so I could watch it again. And again.
I used to use Ivory Snow for hand-washing delicates. I wonder if the stuff is still around.
My Muse might have been (must have been) at work during the previous night’s film viewing adventure, It Happened on Fifth Avenue. That movie was light-hearted and sentimentally uplifting. I learned the name of a quick cuisine concoction that I’ve been making for many years: slum gullion.
There I was, thinking I was taking a break from creative work, and My Muse was taking notes!
And so, in all fairness to My Muse, at 7:45 of the morning clock, I said to Dear Husband, “I need my large pad of paper and a pen.”
“This sounds serious,” he commented as he got out of bed.
The opening scene of THE SILENT HEART has been in my mind for quite some time, at least four or five years. I hadn’t been saving the writing of it for some special moment, but that special moment came this morning, unexpectedly, at least for me, Debra. My Muse has undoubtedly been waiting for years to “roll the tape”. Why She chose my moments of awakening this morning, I can only surmise:
The genesis for this Western sprung from a dream that I had on Christmas Night 1995 (this thrilling tidbit shall be explained in an upcoming Backstory). There is a logic, at least in temporal terms, to the aesthetic demands of My Muse. She decided to grant me a holiday this year!
Yesterday, I worked for a couple of hours on my translation of THE DAWN into L’AUBE. I have come to discover that visions of scenes for my Westerns are somehow “embedded” in portions of this Master Book. My mind was working towards the Westerns even during the composition of THE DAWN.
Chapter 20 is a gold mine for inspirational and mnemonic retrieval, along with some wretched reminders of my working too quickly at the keyboard. I’ve found 2 run-on sentences that I had to rescue and revise into shorter sentences. They couldn’t breathe! This section of this chapter deals with the history of Château Vallon. I must have been racing through the medieval mansion to get outta there and reach Chapter 21!
Much of my fictional writing is unplanned but My Muse is always at her drawing board, even as I sleep. I did plan one certainty for my 2018 Holiday Season: last month I bought a new stack of 8-1/2 x 11 legal pads. Christmas Present for My Muse!
End of 2020
The Roadrunner: Separate Rooms
I’ve been “on the road” during the past few years, not running, but living in the midst of uncertainties and the mini-storage of most of my belongings, including The Books. This unsettled, mildly peripatetic existence involved living for 2 years in an all-electric rental house that was built in 1979, the year I moved to California. I was concurrently overseeing the very event-filled construction of the Dream House. My mind could not help but recall my much younger days of being footloose, and not fancy-free, but free!
During that gypsy phase of my life, I’d take to the highway, or freeway, very freely. The beginning of NORTHSTAR starts out with my character Shannon, in her Mustang, speeding on I-80. Such a scene was a frequent one during my single years, although I always drove within the Jimmy Carter-mandated speed limit.
My Muse always traveled with me back then, although I was scarcely aware of her existence. I presently more than acknowledge her existence. In fact, I have provided her with her own living —and breathing — space.
My Muse and I now have separate rooms, or so I’d like to think!
The construction of the Dream House, Larkhaven, took longer than anticipated, expected, planned, hoped-for, or wanted, but I am abundantly thankful that the dream, at last, became a reality. Building anything in the current state of the State of California is an adventure. I have therefore pushed forward, with pen and laptop in hand, throughout the mad and madcap merriment, every ghastly and giddy step of the way, all the way from the doom and gloom of the Great Recession — to today.
I literally had a dream one night, on 31 March 2005 of “The Sunroom in the Next House”. There was a fireplace, and extravagant square footage for dining. Upon awaking, I rough-sketched the image from memory. I showed it to Dear Husband and my children; I later showed it to my beloved Teaching Colleague. He became utterly fascinated with the idea of a two-story house for me. I pooh-poohed it, but he would not be silenced:
“You deserve a second story, with at least one room to write in, with a balcony, and a fireplace in the master bedroom.”
Our cherished friend is no longer physically with us, but when it came time for us to draw up plans for the Dream House in late 2017, that penciled-drawing got penciled into the architectural design. I felt duty-bound to grant to Self what this sweet, kind instructor and tender mentor had stated was my due. Discussions of how to build a 2nd story onto the Peach House had become a dedicated mission of “Uncle Roy”.
There was just one problem: he knew, and I knew, that my writing this novel named NOTTINGHAM, which grew into THE DAWN — meant that I would one day need a new home. He quietly commented sometime during the late 2000s that I was running out of room for a lot of things in my House Beautiful, and that certain pieces of furniture did not stylistically go with the other pieces of furniture in the Peach House.
“I know,” I concluded. “They’re for The Next House.”
The Next House became The Dream House, Larkhaven.
During the framing stage of construction, Bob the Contractor used to go upstairs to that dreamed-for 2nd story to sit and sulk in the room at the far end, down the hall, away from the Master Bedroom. He’d look out of the windows and contemplate — whatever he darn well pleased. I had originally scoped out that space as My Writing Room, but it soon became Bob’s Room, even before the second floor was completed. I therefore encountered a slight dilemma upon moving into my new house this past summer:
How to reclaim territory I’d not yet claimed!
The room across from Bob’s Room was to have been my Writing Room, but as I initially worked on its design, I realized that space is the Sewing Room. And it shall remain the cozy quarters for all of that wonderful creation with fabric that I almost prefer to writing.
My Muse is working on reclaiming Bob’s Room, starting with re-naming it The Buckaroo Room. Complete with bunkhouse bed and a small wide-screen tv, this inner sanctum is just as much for enjoyment and entertainment and relaxation as it is for Writing the Westerns. That kind of rivalry among priorities, and competition for creative dominance among my talents enormously enthuses and motivates my Muse.
May the brightest and strongest genius win!
“Genius”, my Wile E. Coyote stuffed animal with a red cape, was carefully wrapped up and put in storage for several years, awaiting his throne in my new artistic zone. When I purchased him at the grocery store checkout during Halloween of 1999, California was a lot more fun. Grocery stories also displayed a terrific sense of humor!
During that year, 1999, California was gearing up as part of the national horror buildup to the Y2K catastrophe — that never happened. I purchased at the same grocery store “Crash” — the Y2K Millenium Bug, for My Dear Young Children. They tossed the Cyber Bean Bag critter to the floor so often, and with such élan, that the battery-powered speaker thing (sewn inside) wore out, long before January 2000! Crash got trashed, but the slavish need for a Cyber Pal continued for some Millennials.
Genius, however, earned a prime location in my artistic sphere which, I gotta say, was none too spacious in the Peach House in Newcastle, CA. I positioned him atop some book-ended books on a shelf. He truly was an inspiration — reminding me of certain people, males in particular, from my unpleasant past, whose life ambitions were stomping on other people’s dreams. Some of them set out to sabotage me — the Roadrunner. I didn’t run fast or well, but I always managed to outsmart the loser-saboteurs at every turn and escape them — instinctively!
Being monotonously called a squirrel-ey blonde; a dumb blonde; an under-achiever; someone who never finishes what she starts; whose talents were squandered by the age of 20; whose life was a real shame because no one bothered to train her right, so she missed the boat and didn’t hit the big time by 21; who was too restless and couldn’t stay in one place; who wasn’t even a late bloomer because her bloom had already faded —
Well, those older adults looking down their negatone noses at roadrunner-me, they didn’t have a clue about me, the Pragmatic Dreamer; the Quiet Constant Striver; the Continuous Bloomer, the Challenge-Driven Personality., the Long-Term Thinker, the Engineer of Big and Bold Designs, the Trailblazer; the Pioneer Woman; and the Commander of Massive Battlefields.
It’s not easy living your life in shadow, being grossly mis-understood, mis-underestimated, condescendingly sidelined. Sometimes, however, enduring that stance is a survival skill of immense worth. Sometimes. a person needs to wait until the stars align for her time to shine. Sometimes, all of the ornery nastiness comes the way of a person who needs a counter-irritant every step along the way, so that he can outlast the snide perniciousness of others, so that he can rise to become the person he was born to be.
Sometimes, as Flaubert reputedly stated, “Talent is a long patience.”
I ought to know those truths — my Muse taught them to me, along with so many others.
My Muse and I now have separate rooms, but she is most
certainly free to enter my range, my home, home on the range — anytime she
wants. Not that I have any say over
it. She knows that my creative spark
depends entirely on Her!