Enabling Erato- Finding a Muse in Today's Hectic World
Search For A Muse
Throughout history artists, scientists, and kings have searched for those mythic creatures said to inspire and guide mere mortals. There are several variations of the myths told of the fabled muses, but one thing is clear. We search outside ourselves for new ideas. As poets or writers we attribute our inability to produce stunning works of literature out of thin air as “writer’s block.” The truth is we aren’t looking hard enough for our inspiration. It’s in the world around us; television, relationships, nature, history, the potential for greatness breathes through every aspect of our lives. We just have to reach out and grasp it.
What Will Make Writing Ingenious?
The first thing to consider as a writer or poet is always originality. You want to evoke emotion in your reader comparable to the emotion you felt as you set the words down on paper. Not every writer is a creative genius. It takes work and practice to develop this skill. It is possible to take another writer’s ideas and make them your own through a metamorphosis I call trans-jumbling. Most of us writers do this at one time or another, especially with poetry. We like someone else’s words so much that we adopt them, jumble them around to suit our own purposes, and then present them as our own composition. This is not plagiarism. It’s just your own derivation of the same idea. This is why it’s important for writers to be well read. Trans-jumbling is an eminently acceptable method of invoking your inspiration and I suggest you use it.
Poetry is synonymous with originality. The most banal poems are the ones we’ve heard a million times before. There’s a point when “roses are red, violets are blue” just doesn’t excite anymore. That being said, there are really only four subjects in poetry; life, death, love, and upon occasion, pure enjoyment of the language and our own cleverness with it. So how do we keep coming up with fresh material? As long as there has been language, there’s been poetry. Quite simply, there is an infinite amount of ways to trans-jumble words and come up with unique compositions. Finding your muse is as simple as discovering a new way to look at the world through prose, interpreting the world around you so that other people can experience the same things. So next time you see or experience something beautiful, interesting, or horrible, write it down. Flip through that thesaurus and find more words to describe the experience. You won’t regret it.
An important thing to remember with fiction-writing is that there’s no step-by-step instruction to the perfect story. Stories are all very dissimilar in the way they emerge. They develop as you write them and eventually find their own way to an ending with very little assistance from their author. That’s why the first step of your effort is the most important. Where do you get your ideas? Often your first step should be to create your character/s. Once you have characterization, you can give the individual motivation to it and from there; setting, tone, dialogue, and dramatization usually follow easily enough.
Example: I’m going to write a story about a young woman named Abby Swift. She’s joined the Army right out of high school. Her character traits are: rebellious, strong-willed, tough, sexy, empathetic, and a good sense of humor. Because I’m writing a military story, I’ve got lots of different options for time and place, but I’m going to set this story in basic training on September 11th 2001. Now I’ve got a really great starting place for my story.
Example: Jeremy Blodgett’s short story “Not Even Angels Are immortal” presented a character named Charlie McLaughlin. He’s a priest who just found out his high school English teacher is dying. His character traits are: introspective, sympathetic, searching, and moody. The setting is a major city and the time is years after he enters the priesthood.
Here's the Story I started to show the beginning of a good novel. (hopefully)
Not So Swift
I stick my head outside, glancing quickly around the doorframe into the quad. The night air hits my lungs with all the impact of a fist. The company area looks different with the absence of the relentless September sun. Shadows shift over the light grey concrete pillars that hold up the sleeping bays above and I take the time to examine each one, to make sure that we’re alone. Seeing no wide-brimmed Drill Sergeant’s hat in the immediate vicinity, I motion quickly to my battle buddy that I’m headed out. She nods vigorously, her head saying “yes” but her eyes definitely say something different. I take another deep breath and slip out the heavy metal door into the night. Fisher catches it soundlessly behind me. Am I really jeopardizing my career over something so stupid? Absolute obedience is the number one quality to have around here followed closely by, “just don’t get caught.”
I duck across the quad, trying to hunch and shorten my long slender frame as much as possible. Finally, I spot it. Deliverance in the neon glow, the hungry slot waiting for change, “Powerade” in huge letters across the front and a smaller sign, on an old piece of cardboard. “Drill Sergeants Only.” As I pause before the machine, I hear a giggle and squint back across at the back entrance, flicking my long, dark auburn hair out of my eyes impatiently. All my partners in crime are there now, choking the doorway, watching me.
“She’s actually doing it!” I hear in a loud stage whisper. My shoulders straighten self-consciously and I drop the first coin into the slot. As the first bottle falls, I grow nervous about the noise of it, sort of a “rattle, rattle, clank… clunk, clunk, clunk.” So I start putting the coins in faster until the bottles are falling in almost a steady stream. The noise is deafening. There’s no way he could miss that.
The last one finally falls and I finish scooping them up into the laundry bag that I’d tied earlier onto my standard issue BDU belt. Then I scamper back across the silent uncertainty to my waiting fellow soldiers. They jump on the bag at once, not even waiting until we get back upstairs, oohing and aahing like these sports drinks are liquid gold. Maybe they are. It’s been five weeks without anything but a little milk at chowtime and the grimy water the permanent party soldiers hang out in sling bags every morning for us to refill our canteens. I’d fallen asleep crying, in the second week, desperate for for water or any liquid devoid of the mineral aftertaste or sickly sweet flavor of mildew.
We all flee backup the narrow whitewashed stairs to the third platoon sleeping bay and instantly stop as we enter. Fields, a small, gamine, freckled girl up front loses her hold on the bottle she had been clasping reverently in both hands only a moment before. It clunks to the floor and we all follow its progress as it rolls across and thunks into a shiny, sturdy pair of black jungle boots. I run my gaze up camouflaged legs, bloused crisply at the tops of the boots. Next comes The BDU jacket, summer weight, barely disguising a broad, well-defined masculine chest. Finally, my gaze meets coffee-colored eyes that snap out at us all from beneath the jutting brown brim of a drill instructor’s hat. He stops the roll of the light blue bottle with one foot, and takes in our group. My glittery defiance, Fisher’s sheer terror, and the panic as the entire group turns to me. My idea, my problem I guess. His mouth works as if he’s still trying to decide whether to be pissed off or just laugh. Apparently he’s decided on the first because he opens up his mouth and just bellows.
“Swift, my office, yesterday!”
Great, I’m in for it now.
I stand quietly, calmly waiting for Drill Instructor Knight to acknowledge me. His shorn head is bent over some paperwork on the heavy oak desk before him and he seems hard at work. We both know that’s a lie. After all, we’ve been sleeping together for a couple of weeks now, ever since the company entered White Phase and he caught me smoking on the back stairs.
I take the opportunity to study him now, while he’s not watching. An extremely large, powerful man, I remember how scintillated we’d all been in the first week of basic training, watching him demonstrate the perfect pushup, muscles rippling under the cotton of his P.T.s. Just now, I’m feeling rather smug. He looks up and catches me checking him out.
“Abby, are you trying to get me sent to Leavenworth?”
“No Drill Sergeant!” I snap to attention exaggeratedly.
“Cut the shit, Abby! I can’t let you off this time! Too many of you little cohorts were in on this one with you.” He sees my attention wander from his face and down his body, and snaps his fingers to get my attention. “Are you even listening to me Abby Swift?”
“Sorry, just got distracted boss.” Almost purring, I drop the soldier girl act to move around and rub his tense looking neck. I lean in and inhale the clean scent of soap and a very faint hint of tobacco. “Won’t happen again.”
“See that it doesn’t.” Terse, but his jaw is starting to unclench and he’s rubbing back against my hands, groaning slightly. “Oh God, that feels so good, Abby…”
I lean over, making sure that the soft warmth of my t-shirt covered breasts brushes across his arm. “Yes Curtis?”
“I’ll make sure they go easy on you.”
“That’d be great, Sarge.” He tenses slightly as my hands run down over his firm pectorals and move on, across hard abs and on down, lower still. “That’d be great…”
“Really freakin’ great.” I mutter to myself as I stumble for what seems to be like the millionth time in the last hour. It’s 3:30 in the morning, still pitch black, and the whole company is on the move in two long lines, road march formation. I feel heavy, weighed down as I am by a 40-pound rucksack, 8-pound rifle, and the Kevlar helmet on my head. It itches and I’m getting a god-awful headache. Guess I should’ve bought the grey foam padding they were selling at the PX. The flashlight bumps my leg yet again and I barely stifle a curse. This is my punishment. I have to be squad leader. Each platoon had roughly sixty soldiers to start, and originally there were four squads of fifteen. Now each squad has about ten to twelve. This is not an honor, no one with any brains at all actually wants to be squad leader. You have no real power and get blamed for everything. I heard Fisher fall out a half hour ago, but didn’t turn back or try to help her, too intent on my own burning muscles and aching shins.
I see Curtis watching me, glancing back over his shoulder every five minutes to check on my progress and make sure I’m ok. The next time he does it, I make the blowjob motion with my mouth, tongue in cheek. He glances around nervously, to see if anyone else saw, but the other two Drill Sergeants are too far away, and the other soldiers are to exhausted, intent on the path ahead. I smile laviciously and he shakes his head at me. I almost laugh aloud and pick up the pace, trying to draw even with him, making the soldiers behind me move faster and cuss under their breaths at my back. We’ll be at the range soon and I hope I’ll get another opportunity to tease him. It’s so fun to watch his reactions, my Drill Sergeant Knight in shining armor.
On the BRM range now, in the prone position firing my M-16 at black targets that pop up randomly and fall immediately when my bullets hit them. I’m on fire today, this is my second go-round and I‘ve only missed two. A heavy breeze threatens the neat bun that sticks out from under my helmet and playfully caresses my cheeks, giving them a rosy flush. There’s a storm due soon and I’ve heard that we won’t be marching back, instead, piling, almost on top of each other, into the cattle trucks with our baggage. Storms quickly turn deadly in South Carolina, lightning and rain pours down so savagely. The sun is still shining punishingly now, though. Sweat rolls down the length of my body, pooling behind my knees and at the small of my back. Three soldiers in our company collapsed from heatstroke already today, and if the humidity doesn’t let up, there’ll be more. Better them than me. Curtis has been busy manning the foxholes on the other side of the range all morning, so I haven’t really gotten to see him.
Drill Sergeant Stevens, a big black bear of a man calls a cease fire and I put up my rifle, carefully making sure to eject the clip and bullet in the chamber. It’s an automatic guarantee of expulsion from the company to be caught with live ammo in your weapon when you aren’t actually on deck, firing. He orders us into formation and I make sure my squad is all accounted for and dressed up right in the proper order. Then we wait expectantly. Head Drill Sergeant Cooper paces impatiently and then speaks.
“Today the enemy has taken the offensive against the United States of America. “ He pauses for effect. “They’ve flown our own planes into New York and crashed them into the World Trade Center.” Dead silence. “The Twin Towers are gone.” The entire company erupts into sound, calling out questions, and generally expressing their outrage. Cooper Holds up one hand, trying to forestall further noise. I look around at my friends, hell, family, confused as to why they wouldn’t be quiet and listen. Cooper finally gives up and roars over the hubbub. “Soldiers! We’re going to war!” Whatever he says next goes unheard under the cheers and whoops of my fellow soldiers as I stand dumbly, unmoving.
Knight’s on duty again tonight. I listen to McKenzie, a blonde girl whose clear blue eyes I always compare to my own hazel ones and envy, cry herself to sleep. Her mother works in the twin towers and she wasn’t able to get to the phones on our half-hour of free time. They were too clogged up with other worried soldiers calling home. Even after our long day, a lot of the others aren’t sleeping. I can’t either, the image they showed us when we got back to our quarters keeps playing over and over again in my head. A plane, sun glinting off its wings merrily, spiraling gently down towards a proud, strong tower, like a bird coming in to roost. Instead of landing, it crashes into the tower’s side. The tower gradually folds in onto itself, floor by floor. In the meantime, another explosion rocks the other tower as another plane hits. Everything after that kinda felt like a blur to me until now, until this moment, when the girl on the lower bunk is finally quiet and I am alone with those images.
Image… hah! Image has always been important to me. I pretend so hard I don’t care what anyone thinks, just dance on through life looking out for numero uno. The truth is, I don’t really want to get close to anyone. I never share the real me. Do I want to die without anyone ever really knowing me?
I slide down from my bunk, bare feet hitting the cold tile with a hollow sound and I look to see if the fireguards have noticed me out of bed. But they are huddled together, whispering, at the small desks before the white boards at the head of the room. I’m fortunate that out of the sixty bunk beds occupying the huge bay, I got the one nearest the rear exit and bathrooms. If they do notice me move that way they’ll think I have to pee or something. These two don’t even look up as I slink out and down the stairs. The promised storm is full force and almost upon us. The wind cuts through me like a knife, and I can hear the soft rumble of distant thunder, see the bright flashes of lightning over the jutting roofs of the next regiment ‘s barracks.
Curtis is there, waiting for me in front of the desk. I fling myself onto him, grabbing tight, and bury my face in his coarse uniform. He pats my back hesitantly and makes soothing noises. I turn my tearstained face up to his and he doesn’t need me to say anything, he understands. Scooping me up as if I weigh nothing, he strides quickly into a small room in the back of the office where a small cot was located. We’d never made it there before. I’ve always preferred the sturdy desk and the thrill of the possibility of discovery. Now, however, there’s certain deliciousness to this, being held close to his chest and carried to bed like a little girl.
He doesn’t look at me like a little girl though, when he lays me gently on the cot and pulls back to survey me. He scorches me from head to toe with eyes turned dark in passion, as if trying to decide which part of me to devour first. I rise up off the bed to claim his mouth and he follows me back down. Soon, I am lost in him, his hard beautiful body, shining milk chocolate skin, and spicy scent. He is all male, all passion, and in this moment… all mine.
Poetry Composition Article
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