Saturday, June 04, 2011

Swim in other people's words

"I've decided that you are far too exhausted to create anything right now," my Muse declares while she watches me struggle to type without the use of my right thumb.

"I'm okay. I'm getting used to this." I adjust the sling on my hand. "It just slows me down is all."

"I'm not talking about your hand, although that is the most apparent symptom of exhaustion."

"Really... I'm fine."

"Stop typing and look at me."

My hands freeze above my keyboard and I am suddenly aware of the acute throbbing in my thumb. Swiveling my chair around to face her, I pretend not to feel any pain. "What do you have to say?"

"You have that look in your eye, the same one I saw on Frida's face when she stopped sleeping because she couldn't stop painting."

"You were Frida Kahlo's muse?"

"No. I am friends with her muse and I visited from time to time. She's not the only one. Sometimes you artists push yourselves too far, as if you think you're going to run out of time to create something."

"You're the one constantly nagging me to keep writing."

She sighs. "It's true. I've pushed you too hard, I fear. I was simply trying to keep you writing despite the ridiculous amount of time you spent in graduate school."

"It wasn't ridiculous!"

"Let's not argue about that. You're missing the point." She holds out her arms to me and I stand, taking one of her hands in my good, left one. Leading me to the mirror, she says, "Look at yourself."

I see the dark circles under my eyes against my too white skin, the lank hair, the dry lips. I see the weariness in my dull eyes looking back at me in the mirror. Looking down, I see my right hand encased in a black brace, the swollen thumb isolated for protection. More than just my hand, I feel how much every muscle in my body aches from fatigue.

"What do I do?" I ask.

My muse smiles. "Rest."

"Not gonna happen. I'm a mom."

"Rest your mind. Don't worry so much about writing or revisions or deadlines. Swim in other people's words for a while and soak them up. Take in creativity, because your own energy reserves are on empty."

"But I have two pieces I have to write."

"Write them next week if you must, but don't start any new projects. You need time to refuel that vast pool of artistic energy you normally have. Anything you try to create right now will be utter crap, anyway. Plus, if you don't let your hand heal, you'll be in much worse pain and unable to write at all."

Looking back at my reflection, I murmur, "Swim in other people's writing..."

"Yes. Look at that stack of books you've been wanting to read." She nods her head toward the 30 books I have stacked in an uneven tower leaning against the end of my bed. "Read three of those before you even think about revising your play."

"But I have so little time and so many ideas..."

"Pooh! You have plenty of time. You're only 44. Why are you trying so hard to burn out before you're 50?" She leans her hands against my dresser and stares into the mirror, her eyes narrowing as she looks at me. "And lets not forget who gives you all those ideas. If you ignore my advice to rest, I won't help you with any of them."

"That's blackmail!"

"Call it what you like." She walks to the stack of books and picks up The Traveling Death and Resurrection Show. "Start with this."

I catch the book she tosses me.

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