The Muse and the Piano Tuner
I learned a lot about the writing muse from a piano tuner.
After half an hour of plucking strings, the piano tuner called to me. “Okay, I’m done.” He rippled through some swing tune, no sheet music of course.
“Wow, you’re good! Do you play professionally?”
He shrugged. “I’m in a band.” As he stuck his tools into his satchel, “You a writer?”
I raised my eyebrows. “How did you know?”
He pointed to the book face down on the piano. “This is you, right?”
“Oh, yeah. Crummy picture.”
“So, you write full time?”
“Not full-time. As much as I can.”
He asked, almost shyly, as if it might be too personal. “Do you have to wait until you’re in the mood to write?”
I shrugged. “Well, no. If I waited, I don’t think I’d ever do it.”
Suddenly, his face cleared. “Oh, yeah, I get it. It’s like when you have a gig. Doesn’t matter whether you want to play or not. You just show up and play.”
Show up and play and the Muse might too
Show up and play. I know there’s a lot of stuff writers believe about waiting for the Muse to strike. Or I suppose ‘visit’ would be a better word for such a sought-after commodity.
With hand to head, they vow they can’t write a word unless inspired by some external force. And thus have a perfect reason not to, because that Muse, she’s not much into house calls.
However, many famous authors didn’t seem to wait. Tolstoy said, “I must write each day without fail, not so much for the success of the work, as in order not to get out of my routine.” Victor Hugo wrote from dawn to 11:00 every day. Agatha Christie saw writing as a job.
They discovered what all writers, I believe, need to understand. The Muse isn’t going to show up until you do. It’s like Moses and the parting of the Red Sea. As a friend much more learned than me pointed out, the real learning from that story is that Moses and the Israelites had to start wading into the Red Sea before God parted it. That is, they had to show their commitment and faith before God would step in.
As the piano tuner said, you need to show up and play. It is when you are actively engaged in writing that the Muse or whatever the magic consists of, can show up. So, don’t wait for It to strike. Invite It in.