My Muse is back. Unfortunately, she’s not a very good one. I imagine her sitting on a barstool with too much makeup, chipped nail polish and an unlit cigarette dangling from her lips. She bats asterisks of mascara at me and if I light her cigarette she’ll push a pen in my hand. It seems she’s only good for one-night stands or at best a weekend fling. Period.
And what would I write? Maybe I’d pen “Emma”, but I’d make her a prostitute and ruin the story. Or “Romeo and Julian”, the Capulets and Montagues sitting around, fast friends, with wife-beaters crawling up their beer-engorged guts and muttering that them faggots ain’t natural.
My Muse would be aghast, her chins quivering in disgust.
And the fruit of my labor? Two published books, both on computer programming. My first article in print? “Logic Programming in Perl,” published in the now defunct The Perl Review. Numerous technical articles on the web. I love what I do for a living, but my Muse keeps sneaking back and pinching my bottom for another flirtation with writing fiction.
Don’t get my wrong. I do write fiction. I wrote a screenplay, have an unfinished screenplay, an unfinished novel. A few short stories. All of it unpublished.
I fear my long-standing fling with my Muse has conditioned me to accept what I do have rather than what I could have. I mock her, but she knows how to show me a good time if I only let my guard down. She’s an escritorial fuck buddy I’m unwilling to introduce to my friends.
I think of writing as a dream. I also think of it as a supreme act of narcissism. Of vanity. Who am I to think that others will want to read what I write? And yet here I am, perversely, writing. I’ve stolen a quickie from my Muse. No wonder she doesn’t stay long. Why should she satisfy me if I don’t satisfy her?
Sometimes we go for long walks together and we plot our novel. How is this different from daydreaming? Writing is almost respectable, but until I set pen to paper or fingers to keys, even toying with respectability eludes me.
I’m a daydreamer who has succeeded by finding himself competent in a field he enjoys. And it’s not even that I’m the best in my field. I’ve worked hard to learn more, but harder to market myself. I get hired not because I am an astonishingly good programmer. I get hired because I am Ovid. Because my ability to write, though not noteworthy, is nonetheless more interesting than a few others in my field and people remember me.
I am known for my writing, not my technical ability. Despite this I rely on the latter and not the former. I know if I pay attention to my Muse, perhaps even trouble to learn her name, she’ll reward me. She’ll strip off her makeup, her fickleness, and open herself to me. Perhaps I’d be poorer and happier and writing about missing the technical challenge of programming, but at least I would know.
Until then, my writing will reflect my Muse. Sickly sweet perfume and trying too hard to please. My writing, though cloying, reflects how I think when the Muse is nearby. I’m a saccharine Faulkner. I’m artificial. My Muse and I grunt and groan and sweat and thrust and play and writhe and finally lie back in exhaustion, each secretly fearing that we’ve let the other down. And I still don’t know her name.