“Take a breath,” said the little voice. “Take a few days off, only you will notice.” And it’s true: Almost no one would notice, in point of fact. But my problem is not overwork; it’s not too much writing and too much listening for the muse to sing. If that were the case, then taking a breath and a break would be a good suggestion.
My problem, as it pertains to the creative life, is underwork — lack of exercise, and my words grow flabby and overweight. And so I park myself in my writing chair and consider going back to the basics — the prose equivalent of playing scales on the piano. Mary had a little lamb and then moved on to the vegetables … Do re mi fa et cetera et cetera yada yada und so wieder.
When the muse settles in, I hope to be there, taking dictation. Let me not be found doom scrolling until my brain fizzles out. I can see how it could happen.
“Oh, muse, why won’t you call to me?” I would say, and her mocking laugh would scare the bejeebers out of me.
“I whispered a Nobel Prize for Literature in your ear, and you were seething over some troll’s bait,” the muse would chuckle. “I tried to drop a hero, whose adventures could pay your bills for the rest of your life, into your lap, but you were conquering another hand of FreeCell.”
“It can’t be,” I’d reply, knowing full well that it could be.
“Oh, silly mortal,” the muse would giggle, although she would be more heartsick than amused. “I haven’t just been calling, I’ve been shouting in your ear, while you drifted along with your brain in neutral.”
I imagine I would stand up and say, “You’re right. I’ve been remiss. Give me another chance, and this time I’ll listen.”
And she would sigh.
“That’s not how this works, but I will be here if you’re ever ready to fly with me.”
“I’m ready, I’m ready!” I’d insist.
And she would sigh, say, “I hope you will be, next time,” and sweep away.
The wind would go calm, and the mist in the air might be tears.