It's done. Finally, wonderfully, surprisingly...done.
Yes, I am getting out all the adverbs I held back on as I wrote last night. Relievingly. That's not even a word...so there.
It took about nine hours. I have to write in...places, like Denny's or coffee shops. Not all the time but for some reason being around people makes it flow. Blame it on working at a newspaper or maybe growing up in a large, busy, chaotic family. So, I got home around 4:30 a.m. My bed has never felt so good.
On the drive home, I was thinking about the muse. Stephen King had a great little article about writing and the muse in the Washington Post, last week, I think. I love his idea of what a muse is...a dirty, grubby, unsociable little creature.
I know that a lot of writers believe in muses, or like to pretend that they do. The idea goes all the way back to ancient times...Greece and Rome, and probably before. And if I was ever touched by the muse, it was last night.
It began as a struggle. I had my ending all plotted out, all ready to go. Something didn't seem quite right, though. I wrote, and crossed out, and wrote, and crossed out, then re-read what had come before. Something wasn't quite...lining up. I stabbed my pen into the page, tore out my hair in frustration, and then, finally--just freaking wrote already. And it came.
Oh lord, did it come. The words flew magically, leaping onto the page from my mind. Characters went places that I didn't even know they needed to be, and did things that I didn't plan for them to do. And it was better than I'd planned...oh, so much better. Everything just lined itself up perfectly. Questions I had yet to answer for myself were answered on the page, seemingly with no intervention from me.
Yes, it seemed as though something supernatural was occurring. As though something outside myself was guiding my hand, my characters, my words. So, when I finally wrote the last word, I wondered: had I been touched by the Muse, that poetic, romantic myth handed down from generation to generation?
The answer is no.
I was touched by story. By the story I've been trying to tell for the past six months. I finally understood, well and truly, Teresa Nielsen Hayden's words: "Plot is a literary convention. Story is a force of nature." That force wrought itself upon the page, and the goal I've been working toward for the past six months came to fruition.
I can understand the need for the Muse myth, though. I understand that when the magic happens, we sometimes need to put a human face on it. To imagine that some ethereal being, clothed in wispy fabric, is standing behind us and guiding our hand. Because then we feel like we do understand what's happening, when the truth is that we never fully will. It's a lot like fate: some like to believe that everything is predetermined, because then...well, then life makes more sense. It makes more sense if everything has a purpose, if there's a complex design, always just barely hidden from our prying eyes, working to arrange the events of our lives just so. For a reason.
It also makes us feel less alone. I can hardly feel the full weight of this task, and my life, on my shoulders, if someone is standing behind me and guiding every movement.
But the weight is mine. And last night, for once, I bore it well.
And I finished it.
If you don't feel that you are possibly on the edge of humiliating yourself, of losing control of the whole thing, then possibly what you are doing isn't very vital. If you don't feel like you are writing somewhat over your head, why do it? If you don't have some doubt of your authority to tell this story, then you are not trying to tell enough. --John Irving