Recently, my Muse decided to go on strike.
Alarmed at my dearth of words, the ones as a writer I rely upon, I do some checking and sure enough–there’s my Muse, picketing the corpus callosum, that creative center of my brain.
“So what’s the deal?” I ask my Muse. “Why are you striking now? I have a novel to finish, stories to write, poems to pen, experiences to chronicle. Can’t we discuss whatever issues you have?”
But my Muse ignores me and keeps marching, picket sign held high. “On Strike” it said, with no further explanation. No matter how I implore, beg and cajole, my Muse remains mute. For a writer, nothing’s worse that a Mute Muse!
Desperate to continue my often-bumpy writer’s journey, I recall something I learned in a college course many years ago, a solution to the dreaded “Writer’s Block”: Just keep writing!
So, as my Muse walks that line and I stare at a computer screen, the modern equivalent to blank pages, I am reminded of exercises we did in junior high school typing classes, the ones designed to nimble our fingers and hone our typing skills.
One was, “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.” Nowadays, of course, in this era of political correctness, it would read, “Now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of their country.”
And then there’s the one where all 26 letters of the alphabet are used: “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog’s back.” That one has always conjured in my mind an interesting visual:
We are in a huge stadium where track meets take place, bleachers filled with enthusiastic spectators. On the track at the finish line, Lazy Dog lies in repose, seemingly oblivious to the noise that fills the air around him. At the starting block is Quick Brown Fox, prepared for the race of his life. The gun pops and Quick Brown takes off, running down the track flat-out toward Lazy Dog. As Quick Brown races onward, the crowd roars and Lazy Dog, still languishing, perks one ear, opens one eye but does not move. Quick Brown reaches Lazy Dog and, airborne, sails over Lazy Dog’s back, clears his goal and executes a perfect four-paw landing. The crowd goes wild! Quick Brown Fox, laurel wreath draped around his neck, takes his victory lap, acknowledging the accolades of his adoring fans. Lazy Dog stirs but does not move. He is, after all, Lazy Dog and he has once again fulfilled his purpose in the world of typing exercises.
As I contemplate this scene in my mind’s eye, I detect a motion, turn and there stands my Muse, picket sign at her feet, hands on her hips.
“Is that the best you can do?” she asks, rolling her eyes.
“Well, yeah,” I reply. “How else am I supposed to fill up this blank screen you’ve left me to deal with since you pulled your walk-out?”
My Muse shrugs. “All right, all right, I’ll talk. But I’m telling you right now, I want some better working conditions.”
“What?” I respond. “So now we’re re-negotiating our contract?”
“Ah, you get it at last! Yes, indeed, it’s well past time. So, are you ready to listen to my demands?” Clearly my Muse is ready for me and she places her list before my waiting eyes.
Soon we come to agreement on the essence of her complaints. We cover normal work hours (subject to interpretation in the Wonderful World of Writing), vacation time, sick leave, lunch and coffee breaks, overtime and perks. Just as we are to sign the contract, I think of one last item on the table.
“Listen,” I tell my Muse firmly, “I want a No Writer’s Block clause.”
“You want what?” she gasps. “A clause precluding writer’s block?”
“Yep,” I respond, “that’s it. I’m getting pretty tired of words failing me at the most inconvenient times, especially when it’s your job to keep the words moving from my left to right brain across the corpus callosum, that source of creativity you have charge of.”
“Well, okay,” my Muse sighs resignedly. “But that means we’ll have to go back and revisit one of our contract provisions.”
“And that would be?” I ask.
“The one,” she replies, “covering overtime.”