Wrestling with the Muse
by Alan F. Zundel
You may have noticed I haven’t written about my writing lately. Actually, my last post on the subject was two months ago, when I wrote about distractions and procrastination. Now guess why I haven’t written about it in a while.
I had my mind set on converting my screenplay into a novel, but the muse just wasn’t whispering. Not that I didn’t have ideas for the novel. I drove to Portland to do research for a new setting, and downloaded software that’s supposed to help you construct effective plots. But both of those could qualify as more procrastination.
Let me correct myself about the muse not whispering. I think the muse may have been whispering; I just didn’t want to hear what it was saying. It was saying I should start writing a sequel to my recent memoir.
I was happy with the first memoir, which covered my life up to age twenty-three, and a few readers even asked me to write a sequel. But the prospect of writing a sequel gave me mixed excitement and trepidation.
I couldn’t see how to structure the next several years of my life into a narrative with some kind of unifying theme. Plus I didn’t know where a sequel would end. I could write a massive tome covering the forty years up to now, but what kind of ending would it be with me struggling to write another book? Or having just finished one with that lame ending? Ironic at least.
But the main problem is that I’d have to write about certain people who became intimate parts of my life during the years subsequent to where the first memoir left off. Some of them are dead so no worries there, but others are still alive and one is my wife. How to write about them without being too invasive of their privacy or being murdered in my sleep is a real challenge.
So I convinced myself I should work on converting the screenplay into a novel because it has more commercial potential. I’m sure it does. A novel has broader appeal than a memoir and if it sold well enough it might help me market the screenplay. But alas, I kept stalling trying to getting beyond the first chapter or so.
Last month I finally gave in and began working on a sequel instead of the novel, but wasn’t satisfied with it and let it sit for a few weeks. I kept writing for my blogs but wasn’t working on either the sequel or the novel.
Then yesterday afternoon I had some time and thought I’d watch a movie so I’d have something to review for the blog. But during my meditation time that morning the muse started whispering to me, giving me the right opening sentence to start the sequel.
I spent that afternoon rewriting what I had written the previous month, banging out the entire first chapter. It was short, but it brought together the right themes. I like it; it seems to be going somewhere. I’m excited to see where that is. Of course I know what happened in my life then, more or less (more less as the years roll by), but what kind of story it would become was still an unknown.
That’s where the exciting part is. Once I start committing the muse’s whispering to digital paper, it just won’t stop. It keeps on whispering even when I take a break from writing to go take care of other business. Makes me want to get back to the computer ASAP and write it down, kind of like you need to find a restroom when you need to find a restroom.
I still don’t know how I will handle writing about certain people, but I guess I’ll trust in the muse to manage those parts when I get to them. Sticky parts are where the muse works best. It seems to like writing that is challenging more than writing with commercial potential.
Let’s be honest, I may never make any money at writing. Money would be wonderful, but I’m not in it for the money. I write because I have to. That damn muse keeps whispering to me, and I want to hear how it will tell the story it wants to tell.
Why it wants me to write about my life, I don’t know. It may sound solipsistic or narcissistic, but there it is. It’s whispering and I want to get it down while I can.
I’ll share that first chapter with you after a little tinkering around the edges.