“I’ve lost my muse.”
So laments The Bard himself, as portrayed by Joseph Fiennes in Shakespeare in Love. It was one of my favourite movies through my teen years, and my VHS copy was well worn… yes, I realize I’m dating myself with that admission. The loss of Shakespeare’s muse, the Elizabethan “cure” of writing Mistress Rosaline’s name on a slip of paper so it would return, even the cheekily Freudian therapy session (“It’s like trying to pick a lock with a wet herring”). It’s entertaining, and ultimately it’s no big deal. We know Will goes on to meet the lovely Viola de Lesseps, regain his creative genius, and pen the most famous love story of all time.
That’s in the movies, though. That doesn’t happen in real life. It certainly doesn’t happen to me. At least that’s what I thought… until it did.
For the better part of a year now, I’ve experienced a major upheaval in my life. Complete with choices, setbacks, challenges and repercussions, I’ve faced an overwhelming tide of emotion. I face it still and will do so every day for the rest of my life. I’ve never been one to shirk my responsibilities, and typically I have a lot of balls in the air that I juggle happily. But over the past several months, I’ve not only dropped those treasured balls, I’ve given up on trying to scramble after them and pick them back up. I’ve been able to do little more than slink off to bed, pull the covers over my head, and listen in darkness as my balls roll away. I know that the farther from me they get the more likely it is that I will lose them forever. And still I pull the covers tighter. I don’t even have the desire to plug my ears so I don’t have to hear them disappear.
One of those balls I juggle is—you guessed it—my writing. My fulfilment, my creative outlet, my passion and drive to put to paper all the stories in my head.
Losing my muse has, for me, been a different experience than suffering from writer’s block. I’ve faced writer’s block before. Many times. That struggle to land on a story line for my next book, or the inability to drag myself through a chapter or section with which I’ve grown bored. These are familiar setbacks in the writing process, and they are always temporary. With writer’s block, when I struggle, I find a way to buckle down and power through it.
Losing my muse, though, has meant not even having the energy to bring myself to the computer. There was no buckling down because I had nothing in the tank to buckle down with. Every day I didn’t pull up my work in progress to hammer out as little as a page, a paragraph, a sentence for crying out loud… it was evidence of my failure, and I couldn’t even make myself care. It has, in short, been frightening to realize that I’ve grown used to the despair that I might never find my muse again.
You might be tempted to think that, because I’ve managed to write this post, I’ve found her. That I’ve come through the worst of it, and my muse and I are reunited and inseparable once again. Sadly that’s not the case. Not entirely, at least. She’s still there, off in the distance, and I catch glimpses of her every now and then. She peeks out at me like the sun from behind slow-moving clouds. And there have been many clouds in my sky of late. But they’re growing less frequent, less dense. And she keeps peeking.
I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned from this experience—and it’s one which I continue to learn—is how to accept that the upheaval I’ve faced has left me with scars. They’ve changed me, to the point where I can’t be who I was before I had them. I will never “overcome” my challenges, never “put them behind me.” Those concepts are too simplistic, too idealistic. Instead, what I’ve learned is to acknowledge my scars, and to let them be a part of my new emotional and psychological landscape. They are there, they will always be there, and I have to learn new techniques and new approaches to everyday tasks because of them. My scars both weaken and strengthen me, but that’s perfectly all right. Either way I grow because of them.
I’ve lost my muse. But even so, I’ve learned that she is not gone.