Boozing the Muse
by Laura Munson
Steinbeck. Faulkner. O’Neil. Poe. Kerouac. Bukowski. Capote.
Dorothy Parker. Katherine Anne Porter. And so many many others.
Why is the muse so thirsty? I want to know the answer. Allow me
then, to muse upon the muse.
For the sake of this
pursuit, I’m going to make some assumptions/projections about
writers as a woman who’s been writing for half her life.
Writers think we have
something to say. And not just that. We’re not sure we’ll be okay
if we don’t say it. It’s that tree-falls-in-the-woods thing. What
if no one’s there to hear it? Do our words matter? Does all that
widening of the third eye count? Does all that standing in the
intersection of heart and mind and craft that is writing, risking
the soul’s “life” and “limb,” matter if it’s just a confluence of
country road? Crows and scarecrows and maybe a few crickets? Most
of us would say an emphatic “no.” We want the trajectory met. We
want our readers. And still…we write.
And here’s the thing:
we’re not supposed to complain about it. Because…it’s not like
anyone asked us to write. It’s not like we’ve gotten sword
taps on the shoulders by the Queen of Literacy. We’re just poor
slobs who get off on sitting in dark rooms staring at computer
screens making shit up. And without those computers and dark rooms,
we’d be poor slobs walking around asking someone if we can borrow a
pen to write on walls, and if someone objects, we’ll write on our
hands. But we’d still want someone to read our hands. And not for
fortune. We don’t expect fortune. Just a little daily bread and a
few people who say, “I read what you wrote. And it helped me.”
Some writers write to
understand. Others for the greater good. It doesn’t really
matter. It’s just that we have to. We can’t not. Sounds dramatic,
I know. But it’s true. And here’s the thing: it doesn’t have
to be our undoing—not being read, not being published. Unless
we truly consider it blood sport, and for some, maybe that’s just
the way it needs to be. But not for me.
Have you ever seen that
painting in the Met in New York of Joan of Arc being called to war
from her country life in the garden? Have you ever seen her face?
Have you noticed the ghost-like spirits over her shoulder? Looked
at her outstretched hand? She wants it. She can’t help but
listen. The voices are too loud. That’s my girl. That’s me. I
martyred myself for a long time with my writing. You wouldn’t know
it from the outside. But inside I felt so called to do what I
did/do every day, that there was a level of entitlement. And then
the inner turmoil and pain of meeting with rejection. A LOT of
rejection. How could the
world have a grid boasting cracks through which I would fall over
and over and over again? Especially with an agent. Especially with
such positive rejection letters. I knew I could write. I knew that
I had something to share. I just couldn’t make being
published happen. And I was miserable.
So I gave up. Not on the
writing. On the publishing. The alternative was to self-destruct.
And I didn’t want to do that. I have a great life. Who cares if
I’m a writer? I have a husband and kids and horses and land in
Montana and a house and a garden and friends and…life is good, just
like the t-shirts say. So after a huge publishing deal fell apart,
my father died, and I found myself in a red wine daze crying on my
office floor, I decided that it was total insanity, basing my
personal happiness on things outside my control. What I could
control was: writing. Creating. Submitting when what I wrote was
good. And then letting go.
Writers don’t have to
martyr themselves. That’s a story we tell ourselves. We aren’t our
writing, as much as we’d like to think we are.
Our writing is of
We need to create a new
paradigm for writers. Writers may walk around with empathy as their
middle name, channeling the human experience, but the beauty and
heartbreak of that can be filtered through the fine mesh of an inner
agreement that we do not have to suffer because of it. We can go
with the pain. We can use the pain. Just like we can use the
joy. And to feel the pain does not mean that it then has us wanting
to numb it away. It does not control us. We control us. And I’ll
say it again because it took me a long time to understand this: we
can control what we create. And then, I believe, it’s best to let
go of the rest. The real freedom lies therein.
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 Times’ s website.
Forty-eight hours later she had a publishing contract for her memoir,
This Is Not The Story You Think It Is.