Category Archives: Writers Muse

Born Again and Again and Again

Born Again and Again and Again

By Cappy Hall Rearick

“I was standing in the school yard waiting for a child when another mother came up to me. ‘Have you found work yet?’ she asked. ‘Or are you still just writing?’”

—Anne Tyler

Aaaaaaack! Whether no one in the free world realizes it or not, writing is work. It is hard work, carved out not in one sitting but in painfully slow creative sentences until finally ‘The End’ is pecked out at the bottom of a page. Only then can a writer smile. Me? I’m usually too tired to manage even that. Digging coal with a pickaxe deep in a West Virginia mine might be tougher than digging ideas out of my head, but ten to one a coal miner sleeps like a rock at night. Me? Not so much.

When the clock strikes three a.m. and it’s blacker than the coal miner’s lungs outside, I am still wide awake wondering about that tenth chapter. Does the transition work, or did I squeeze it out praying for a decent fit? At four a.m., I might be pondering the third verse of a poem, thinking that the rhythm seems to be off, or the metaphor in the fourth line is better suited to a Dr. Seuss book.

In any case, the relief I feel at having finished a piece is short-lived because writing itself never sleeps. No bloody wonder Ann Rice was obsessed with vampires! The light of day brings me little relief because a fresh character appears even before I’ve had my fifth cup of Starbucks. In fact, at this moment, she is strolling into my kitchen wearing a floppy red felt hat and an attitude. Sauntering over to my near empty coffee pot, she drains it into a china cup. Her slurp is so loud it makes the skin crawl on last night’s baked chicken.

Indifferent, she turns in my direction and glares. I’m no rocket scientist, but I detect a challenge in her moves, and it’s pretty easy to figure out what she is expecting from me.

I shake my head; I look away; I take a sip of coffee from my garage sale mug that’s been sitting on the chipped enamel table in front of me. A few minutes go by before my eyes cut over to this person who looks as though her name should be Julia Margaret McKenzie.

She has positioned herself on the kitchen countertop and is swinging her crossed legs while her overly mascaraed eyes stare holes through me. Her singular look commands me to do her bidding, to give her the thing for which she came to my kitchen. But what might that be?

A life. She wants me to give her a life.

But I’m worn out and tired from writing. I don’t want to think about it today. I was too exhausted to eat supper last night, and I hardly slept. I am trusting Calgon to take me away from plot twists and characters. My brain needs a rest from floppy red hat-wearing characters.

“Get lost, Julia Margaret McKenzie!” My voice booms throughout the kitchen but it doesn’t faze Miz Julia Margaret. First she smiles, then she yawns and removes that ludicrous hat of hers, fluffs her bleached hair with bejeweled fingers, and then slurps again from my grandmother’s bone china cup, the thin one you can see through.

I squint my eyes and point an accusing finger at her. “Don’t slurp your coffee like that. Sip it. Like a lady.”

She looks me in the eye, her haughty attitude bulging from the shocking three sizes too small pink sweater she is wearing.

“Make me,” she commands with a smirk.

And those two seductive words are enough to get me to pick up my tired bones and drag them back to the computer where I peck, peck, peck on my keyboard for yet another day.

It ain’t rocket science, folks, but it beats digging coal with a pickaxe.

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I Should Wear a Warning Label

I Should Wear a Warning Label

By Sheila S. Hudson

I confess. I am a writer. I have been one for over 25 years. I am unable to stop. No amount of counseling has helped. I am hopelessly addicted to paper and ink.

In my research, I’ve discovered others suffering this same obsession. I propose a solution. In order to save our reputations and unnecessary verbiage, writers with this malady should always display and wear upon their person–warning labels.

Not just any label, but one befitting the mood and occasion.

And why not? We label cough syrup, cigarettes, craft supplies, food and nonfood items alike. Sometimes the label goes further and state the symptoms of abuse.

When I am working feverishly against a deadline, reasonable or not, a caution should be displayed in a prominent place like the front door or stuck on my forehead alerting all who approach of impending danger. Wording could be something like the following:

Contents under pressure.

Handle at own risk.

Caution. Approach with care.

Death or serious injury could result.

Fraternizing with an insecure writer can be a dangerous undertaking. All conversations, scandals, gossip tidbits or secrets are fair game and could possibly become part of a short story, feature, or newspaper article. A writer’s significant other is constantly at risk. That person is the last bastion of privacy to their friends and relatives. It may be up to them to advise guests and strangers of their situation. Some my spouse has used are:

High-risk area (writer has been spotted in area).

Beware of explicit lyrics and sexual innuendo (may wind up in print).

Do not puncture or incinerate (verbally or within earshot of the writer).

This visit may have harmful side effects.

A desperate writer can get 1,000 words out of taking the garbage to the Dumpster. During writer’s block, a freelancer may sift through personal experiences and “modify” a personal experience claiming poetic license with emphasis on “lie.”

Family vacations are not exempt. Vacationing with a writer is not “down time.” Writers never take vacations. I constantly scribble regardless of the local or temperature. My luggage is full of newspapers, travel brochures, and items of interest “just in case.” Writer significant others should use caution especially when traveling outside the United States. Some of the following may apply.

Never allow writer to operate machinery while under the influence of inspiration.

Too much stimulation may cause writing sessions for hours.

Do not mix writer with alcoholic substances.

Keep writer out of reach of children and pets.

Day to day routines can lose their luster for many, but a creative writer with too much time on their hands has been known to lift the mundane to bizarre and beyond. Living with a writer is difficult but be forewarned that it is anything but dull. The quirky lifestyle of a writer:

May be addictive.

Could cause drowsiness.

May result in serious injury.

Contains all new material.

Even the most conscientious discover innuendo creeping into supposedly unbiased and non-fictional reporting. It therefore lies in the realm of agent/ manager/partner/spouse (in other words YOU) to correct errors and rein in your writer when things get out of hand. This may occur at book signings, parties, or family reunions.

A writer on a word binge is no different from an alcoholic; he has no grasp on reality and cannot rest until his current manuscript is put to bed and another begun. The writer must begin another manuscript immediately else the blank page will mock both his dreams and leisure time. I know this from personal experience. That is one stress you do not want to add to your otherwise carefree life. For lifestyle happiness, I recommend basic cardinal rules.

Handle your writer with care.

Treat as highly explosive.

Do not freeze, refrigerate or expose to sunlight.

Never approach a writer who is sitting in silence and ask, “What are you doing?” The writer in question will take offense. Since our tribe is constantly tinkering with the layout of the next article or book chapter.

If you question them, they will be affronted and assume you are accusing them of daydreaming. Or, if you observe them watching a favorite television sitcom, you should never assume they are relaxing but rather untangling story formats, noting transitions, or watching for plot points and complications.

With more than fifty years of marriage under our belts, my husband suggests that I wallpaper my office with rejection slips. He wisely encourages resubmission of returned manuscripts and refuses to allow me to wallow in self-pity. He patiently reminds me that to be a writer means:

Some assembly may be required.

Batteries are not included.

Under penalty of law, this warning label is not to be removed!

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