An Apology to My Lost Little Orphan Muse

I’ve been writing literally since I was three years old, when I would dictate stories for my mother to write down & illustrate them with crayon.  My most prolific period was 8th grade when I wrote a novel about a girl who was friends with a dragon.  I continued to write throughout all of high school, but when I went to college, I just stopped.

WHY?

Well, I was depressed my freshman year of college, and that definitely puts a damper on creativity.  After that I just lost the habit.  After recovering from depression, I was always busy, always bustling.  Perhaps I felt that being in constant motion would keep my depression from returning.  And after graduating from college, I was consumed by the demands and responsibilities of adult life.  I rarely thought of my writing except to smile fondly at my childish foolishness.

Then, I finally got a good job, which didn’t leave me utterly exhausted at the end of every day.  (Thank you, dear Berrett-Koehler Publishers!)  I also met my fiance Ben, who unabashedly enjoys Disney movies and children’s toys and really made me rethink my prejudices about what it meant to be an “adult” and to be a “child.”   More time, more energy, and more willingness to explore my playful side laid the groundwork.

But it’s really Twitter that was the magical catalyst.  Loving books, I started following writers on twitter, writers of all kinds: aspiring, indie, traditionally published.  Their discussion around writing, their support for one another’s creative struggle, their creativity, kindness, sharing, and love, made me think…. “Writing was so much FUN! Why did I stop doing it?”

So, half a year ago, I made a birthday resolution to be creative for an hour a day, which I kept for about a month before backsliding into old bad habits.  Now I write on and off.  I say I’m struggling to “find the time” but actually, I’m struggling to find the courage.   I have about eight fantasy YA novel chapters and the sketchy outline of a trilogy, but it’s all very disorganized and all-over-the-place really.

Then I went to a writer’s conference this weekend, and shyly claimed writing as my “hobby” in many conversations.  I felt like I wasn’t a “real” writer because I was struggling with my creative side and not very dedicated to it.  But I realized to my astonishment that it was a struggle for everyone.  I wasn’t less “real” because I struggled.

I think I understand a few more things now.  If I’m going to have that same beautiful relationship with my Muse I had as an eighth grader, I’m going to need to change.  In some ways, my profession as an editor doesn’t help, because I’m trained to see what’s wrong with a work, what needs strengthening.  But you can’t always be looking for what’s wrong… eh, I should just stop babbling and share my conclusions with you.

Here they are.  In poem form.

An Apology to My Lost Little Orphan Muse

These are my pages, my lovely pages that I love.
I stroke the paper’s white dovetail softness,
Letting the little shiver run up my fingers.

Oh my lovely little pages,
With delicate black flecks of plumage along the edge of the wings, forming letters,
Forming words.

Words that coo at me and enfold me in their soft feathers,
I bite the edges of the words, feeling their sharp little points,
Their tender little peaks, oh how I love the tender, fragile strength
Of every little letter poking up into my mouth.

I love my little words; I cover my words with kisses,
Because, oh, you have to love something to set it free
You have to approach it with tenderness and sympathy.

Ideas are like frightened little animals;
And if you go chasing after them, they are only lost.
You have to sit very still, with food in your lap,
Let them come close,
Don’t even breathe as they nibble and munch the food out of your hand,
You’ll scare them away.

Come close, little ideas.
Let me feed you and love you and raise you up
To be great big monsters that go crashing through the world
Righting wrongs and setting things in order.

Oh ideas, I love you, I love you, I love you
If you come close, I’ll take care of you
I won’t pick you to pieces or be critical
I’ll love you for who and what you are
Oh my cute little, dear little, darling sweet ideas.

I understand if you find it hard to trust me,
My ideas, my words, my wings of thought.
I know I’ve beaten you away for years,
I know I’ve closed my ears to the poems you’ve been whispering.

I was afraid you see, a coward.
Afraid that if I took care of you
And wrote you down, I’d only fail,
I’d be unworthy,
I’d be nothing or less than nothing,
Not a voice, just another charlatan howling into the wind.

This is why people stop writing. They get afraid.
Not afraid of rejection, per se,
Just afraid of failing something greater than themselves,

Afraid of opening their heart and letting the winds of the world blow in
Afraid of becoming bigger,
Afraid of letting go,
Afraid of seeing all the colors of the world come brighter,
Afraid of starting to care again.

I know what it’s like to be an iron robot person,
Stomping my way through life, flattening all the little flowers
With my big rusty bucket feet.

ImageI put on my Japanese robot armor because
I don’t want people to know about that little nest of birds
That flutters and coos with fear inside my ribcage.

We’re all SO soft inside,
We have baskets of kittens inside our chests.
All that meowling and whining
And funny little kitten noises- who wants to hear that?
We’re supposed to be tough and strong!
We’re suppose to be robots working in the factories.
Flexing big iron muscles,
All day long.

When you grow up, you are taught to set aside childish dreams,
And focus on the grim business of making a living,
But what use is a living,
If you don’t feel alive?

I enter this deserted garden
Where the bird bath is choked with dead leaves,
And the walls are overgrown with brambles.
The sky is gray and cloudy.
I remember the happy days when this garden was
Full of flower and song.

Come close you sweet little dear ideas,

Come close to me and make my garden beautiful again

you set me free, dear words, I love you.
Forgive me,
trust me,
Love me again,
My lost little orphan Muse.

15 thoughts on “An Apology to My Lost Little Orphan Muse

  1. I am so glad you started writing again. I know how life gets in the way, and it’s easy to set things that feel less essential aside but for those that writing calls to, it’s so often what reminds us why we’re here. Your poem is beautiful and so true. I loved

    “This is why people stop writing. They get afraid.
    Not afraid of rejection, per se,
    Just afraid of failing something greater than themselves,”

    That’s exactly true. I wanted to yell out, “yes!!” (but my husband is sleeping next to me)

    I so look forward to all your writing that is to come :)

  2. It’s quite an interesting commonality between writers, that “struggling” aspect of it, and some move on to embrace it as part of their writing while others take measures to ensure that it is lessened as much as possible. I’m glad you have started writing, it is always an encouragement to see new writers popping up, especially when they are as skilled as you have proven yourself to be with that poem you wrote above. Your use of words is fantastic. Keep on writing!

  3. This is great Charlotte. I love you’ve started to write again and following writers is so powerful on Twitter for the very reasons you cite. They’ve certainly given me the support and encouragement to keep going and to even try new things I never thought I’d write. Good luck with continuing your creative journey. :)

  4. Charlotte, it has been a long time since I’ve seen you, but I can still feel your enthusiasm and strength even from across the country. Beautiful poem and I am so glad you are writing again, for yourself and for your little orphan muse. I think she’s been waiting for you to be ready again =)

  5. You can do it! I never really stopped writing because I was afraid I would fail at it, per se, but because of the time when I was younger I had an almost complete book (no, really, I wrote 80,000 words at 8 years old and I was almost done!) when the computer crashed. It was heart braking, worse than a break up because it was more like the death of a twin or myself. But I’ve found in the last year that I love writing still, and it does something important for me, and writing poems can’t always satiate my hunger for a great adventure. I encourage you to try NaNoWriMo, or there’s another one in April and one in July, because it really helped me to get back into the writing groove without paying attention to my own inner editor. You may like it! :)

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