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.
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,
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.
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.
Love me again,
My lost little orphan Muse.