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Hard Frost. Slow Dance.

by Laura Munson

This is the time of year when the muse is hungry.  Starved by a summer in Montana where the physical world bullies you to come out into it and join the dance that leads with mountains, and twirls with rivers, and rests in lakesóa spent tango.  And we find ourselves in fall.  The physical dance over.  Time to go home in the dark.  There is a lot of darkness now. 

This morning was the first hard frost.  I could see it on the roof by moonshadow, silver and glinting off shingles.  It was confirmed by the first light over the ridge as I stood at the stove making my first cup of teaóthe Mother cup.  The rest will be Writer cups, and there will be at least three more of them before itís time for another Mother cup.  I drink a lot of tea.  Green with jasmine.  The muse used to be thirsty for coffee.  I taught her that tea is a more graceful entrance into the act of empathy which all writers must take if our work is to find itself dancing with our characters and our readers.  Itís easier to find empathy with tea. 

So with tea and the first light, I go out to start the truck.  The frost has covered it, and I rebel against the ice scraper which is lost under life jackets and beach towelsósummer things. I sacrifice a bit of tea to get the windshield thinking about doing its job, rock pocks, hairline fractures and all.  I am not ready for winter.  I donít care how hungry or how thirsty the muse is to dance, in silence and dark, grey by day, and then dark again, for many months; many dark mornings with sacrificial tea rites.  I can feel myself brace against it this morning.  There is something different about this fall.

Itís been seventeen of these in Montana, and normally I meet the season and the muse with a warm embrace.  Relief, even.  I donít know why I am dragging my feet this year to this dance I love.  Itís not that I donít love what the muse covets, requires.  I do.  Writing is my practice, prayer, and way of life.  But itís like what my ten-year-old son said this morning, snuggling with me.  ďI donít want to go to school.Ē 


ďBecause thereís so much work.Ē 

ďBut work can be fun if you look at it like an adventure.Ē 

ďItís not fun when somebody asks you to do it.Ē 

I smiled.  ďYouíre right.  But itís possible to look at it like you get to be asked to do work, and you get to learn something you might not have thought to learn all by yourself.Ē 

He wasnít really buying it.  And neither was I.

Yes, there is something different about this fall.  And my son helped me see it:  this is the first fall that Iíve been asked to do my work.  I have jobs.  I got a book published, finally, after many failed attempts, and suddenlyÖI have jobs.  In fact, itís an embarrassment of riches, I have so many deadlines.  Iím not bragging.  Itís just that Iím worried.  I donít know how to do this dance.





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What I know how to do is this:  bow to winter by getting to work on a novel.  This time of year there are characters dancing in my mindís mountains and rivers and lakes.  They want out.  They want their dance on a parquet floor in a dance hall with a live band and pretty girls and guys with gyrating hips.  They have no patience for the world of book promotion and magazines and blogs and Facebook and Twitter and books begging to be blurbed.  They donít care if Iíve grown fond of the generous community of the internet and other writers, or that thereís finally a way that the writer can meet the reader without the publishing world.  They donít care that Iíve learned to use Twitter as Haiku and my blog as a daily writerly warm up. 

Most of all, they donít understand that a writer needs an income.  That Iíve been at this years and years and finallyÖmy dream came true.  They donít know that once youíve had a book published, you have a window of opportunity.  They especially donít want to meet the baby being passed lovingly through it.  They are jealous lovers, saboteurs of other dance halls but their own.  They want to sweat and grind and tip back their heads in pleasure.  They want to feel the drumbeat re-arranging their heartbeats.

And I fear that the work I have loved so much for so long will somehow suffer.  And in-so-doing, I will too.  Never mind my muse or my characters.  Or potential readers for that matter.

When I return from the Mother cup of tea, the sun is bright and the yard is a puzzleóbright green where the frost has melted, still stiff and sage-colored where it has not, a perfect shape of the shadow of my house.  I pause and smile:  natureís dance. 

The dance is perpetual, I decide.  The characters arenít leading the dance.  I am.  My work is to keep writing and trust that Iíll know which dance to dance.  Now tango.  Now foxtrot.  Now waltz.

I can bring these cups of tea, these yard shapes, these characters, and even my muse with me, wherever I am dancing.  And we will all be better for our other writing adventures. No one will go hungry or cheap for the drum beat. It is just slow for now in the way of novels. Iím sure that winter will change that soon enough.


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Laura Munson is something of a publishing phenomenon. After writing fourteen novels for which she could not find a publisher, she wrote an article that crashed the New York Timesí s website. Forty-eight hours later she had a publishing contract for her memoir, This Is Not The Story You Think It Is. www.lauramunsonauthor.com


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