Is there anything worse than waiting?
We’re waiting to find out if hubbie got a job, waiting to find out if someone wants to buy his car, waiting for the insurance company’s verdict on the car that’s apparently not ours. I’m waiting for books to be premium catalogue approved, waiting for Barnes and Noble to realise I increased the price on Baby Blues two weeks ago, so that Amazon will stop price matching them and losing me a dollar on every sale. I’m waiting for reviews, waiting for sales, waiting for inspiration.
The last one used to be the worst but now it’s the one I can handle best. I read a great post on the Write Practice blog this week, called What do you do when your Muse is on Vacation?. It discusses something called sitzfleisch, a German word which apparently means “to sit still and get through the task at hand.” (Actually I think it translates as “sit on your bottom” but you get the point!) The post explains that this ability to persevere at a task until it’s compete “is often the difference between a wannabe writer and a professional writer.”
The Write Practice post then discusses various ways of getting the writing juices flowing, including this quote from author Peter S. Beagle: “My uncle Raphael was a painter, he used to say, ‘if the muse is late for work, start without her.'”
My daily blog challenge this year has taught me it’s possible to write 1000 average words without one scrap of help from the Muse. They are hard words to squeeze out, harder to read back and feel the flatness and mediocrity of them. But at least they’re words. Unfortunately, the downside to publishing the daily installments in monthly volumes is that people read them without realising it’s an unedited first draft.
I had a fabulous critique on volume one from a follower of the blog and it included comments on foreshadowing, character development etc. Much of that has had to be accidental as I’m not a planner. Most days I’m lucky if I know which hostel Claire’s staying in or what activity she’s doing. The conflict, setting, story, character arc, that I’d usually hone (add in!) in a second draft, has to be eeked out, often while the Muse is off on a jolly somewhere without me.
When the critique pointed to installments that were flat or lacked conflict it made me want to go back and read about what else was going on that day. Was I writing five hundred desperate words at 1 am with coffee keeping my eyes open? Were the kids sick or just at home all day with their endless demands? The flat words were probably the ones dredged out one awful adverb at a time, because the Muse was at a spa having her nails done.
But some days, when I’m up against the clock, knowing hubbie is minding the kids or the darlings are trashing the playroom to get my attention, the Muse sneaks in and offers me her best work (the post a few days ago, with Kim’s suicide attempt, is a classic example.)
What’s the message in my ramble? You have to wait for lots of things in life. Don’t wait for your Muse. She might be there already, waiting to see if YOU show up to work.
Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:
The check-in clerk blanched as Claire’s despair swelled into a crescendo. Words piled up behind the sobs, until they spilled out unstoppable. Claire gripped the desk and stared at the woman through her tears.
“Help me, please. I’m out of cash, my best friend just tried to kill herself and I’m meant to start my new job next week. I have to get home. Don’t get me wrong, you have a beautiful country, but it isn’t home.” Her voice trailed off into a wail on the last word.
The clerk silently produced a tissue then picked up the phone on her desk.
“Get me flight number EK419. Now. Yes, I have a late passenger here, can we get her on? … I know the gate it closed. It’s an emergency.”
The clerk looked up at Claire. “Is that your only luggage?”
Claire rooted through her rucksack and pulled out her washbag. Looking around for a bin, she dumped the contents in it, before stuffing the washbag in a pocket. After a second’s hesitation, she dropped her water bottle in the bin too.
While she was emptying her bag of liquids the woman was in quick discussion on the phone. She hung up as Claire came back to the desk.
“Come with me.”
Claire grabbed her bag and ran after the retreating form moving surprisingly fast in four inch heels.
She pulled out her passport and tickets as she ran, and had them in her hand in time to show the bewildered security official as the clerk swept her past the queue to the front.
The same happened at the X-ray machine. Watching the force of nature in front of her, Claire suspected she could have been smuggling out a kiwi bird and the guards wouldn’t have challenged her. Claire didn’t know which part of her sorry tale had inspired the woman to fight on her behalf; she just knew she wanted to give the woman a hug. Or a medal.
Within minutes they were at the gate, arriving as the rear stairs were withdrawn from the aircraft. Face burning from exertion and embarrassment, Claire followed her champion to the foot of the remaining ladder.
“Here you are. You’ll have to check your luggage into the hold at Sydney. For now one of the stewards will store it for you.” And, producing her first smile since Claire had arrived at her desk, the woman gestured up towards the plane. “Good luck. I hope your friend is okay.”
As she climbed into the aircraft, Claire wondered if any other nation of people would have stuck their necks out so far for a total stranger.
I hope she doesn’t get into trouble.
A few passengers began a slow handclap as she boarded the plane. Claire ducked her head and tried not to cry. Something in her expression must have told of her grief, as the clapping stopped and a steward ushered her to her seat just as her colleague began the safety briefing.
Claire slumped into the vacant space and fastened her belt. As the reality dawned that she was actually on her flight, Claire felt her limbs begin to shake.
I’m going home.