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When Inspiration Won’t Come–for mice

December 11, 2013


Sometimes I am all out of writing. There’s not an idea or a plot or a character in me. No story to tell, no cool idea for a pattern of words to convey, and no patterns like snowflakes of words to be dropped on pages or screens to melt unseen minds miraculous.

Sometimes I’m just sick of my own stupid cleverness. Sometimes I’m allergic to the alphabet.

At other times I want to write but can’t. That scenario is a bit different from the feeling of being word-sapped or language-sick. To happily want to do what I am unhappily unable to do is to shuttle between motivation and exhaustion (and not a few unnecessary adverbials).

It may seem oxymoronic, but I think most writers know the feeling only too well.

What do I do when I find myself the mouse in such cheeseless mazes? Do I invent my own cheese? Do I swear off cheese, becoming an apostate to its tangy, fatty charms for an hour? Do I imagine my maze a resort–a lagoon of sensuous reprieve from tired pursuit?

Or maybe I think to change myself, wiping the sweat from my perspiring tongue and reminding myself that I am a mouse and not a man, after all. A mouse and not a monkey or a mongoose. Not a magpie or a minx. Neither moose, mule, nor Monte Iberia Eleuth–but a mouse, damnit!

And then I’d be resolved. Yes, that would do it. In the dizzying wake of my newly stirred species pride, I’d be resolved.

The problem is my resolve would have less to do with writing than with fighting a bloody war to the death against the chinchilla. Because that is where all such boasting about the obviousness of being goes. Towards fascism and war–and usually against the chinchilla, because let’s face it, a mouse is simply no match for a Monte Iberia Eleuth.

Thus deflated, my bellicose mood abated, and yet cheeseless, I’d walk the maze a while. Just over the horizon of the wooden walls still smelling of the grad student’s knock-off cologne and ubiquitous coffee, sugared to diabetic emergency levels, I’d wonder about a life I could be living, huddled against the wall with trusty laptop or journal whirring away with creative activity.

I’d write about sad mice and powerful mice and the ordinary ones placed in extraordinary circumstance. I’d write about mice love and mice misery; about mice families and the dissolution of mice dynasties that never were. There’d be mice who were more like millipedes (but never like the Monte Iberia Eleuth) and there’d be stories that would seem on their surface to have nothing to do at all with mice and their scheming, petty, grandiloquent and cheese-ful worries.

But then it would occur to me. To know one’s self is to be true to one’s situation, no matter what. And this is the golden rule of the artist. To be true to the moment. So for the health of my dreaming, I would refuse to dream myself away from this desert of inspiration, this muse-free maze of squalor. I would face up to what is and not what could be. I would be a mouse in a maze with no hope for cheese.

And if I pretend hard enough, who knows what the reward would be? A sliver of Gouda, a pawfull of Swiss? Or, dare I dream it–the golden horn: a pound of Nacho, thick sliced and bright as the morning sun.

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