Judy, Author of Killer Frost, a Muse-Inspired Book
Interview Between Judy and an Adoption Worker for the Muse.
Exercise suggested by Michele Berger at the September Triangle SinC meeting based on an exercise in Deena Metzger’s Writing for Your Life.
An adoption worker comes to interview me on my capacity to “adopt the creative.” I’ll call it the Muse. She wants to know why I want to have the Muse here, living with me.
Judy: I have already been living with Her for years. You think it’s time to make it official?
A.W.: Don’t you?
Judy: It’s fine with me. She can be a little whimsical. Are you sure she wants to live with me permanently, for all the rest of my life, even if I live to be a hundred, which is my plan, if the gods allow it?
A.W. If you want it, she’ll want it. She’s your Muse, no one else’s. Where would She live if you didn’t adopt her and make it official?
Judy: You’re right. Of course, I want her.
A.W. Why do you want her?
Judy: If I had to choose, I’d say She’s what I want the most of all the gifts I could have. I haven’t given up on having a new love life, but She’s the companion I want most urgently. She’s the one who feels necessary. I have this sense, what my reporter friend Susan calls my “drive,” that I need to write, have no choice but to write; that the only unique thing I do, that no one else can do, is write my truth, how I see the world, my vison of human life, with whatever wisdom I’ve learned along the way, mostly by suffering and learning from poor choices. I like this passage I found in George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda:
Among the heirs of art, as at the division of the promised land, each has to win his portion by hard fighting: the bestowal is after the manner of prophecy, and is title without possession. To carry the map of an ungotten estate in your pocket is a poor sort of copyhold. And in fancy to cast his shoe over Edom [Palestine] is little warrant that a man shall ever set the sole of his foot on an acre of his own over there...
The most obstinate beliefs that mortals entertain about themselves are such as they have no evidence for beyond a constant, spontaneous pulsing of their self-satisfaction–as it were a hidden seed of madness, a confidence that they can move the world without precise notion of standing-place or lever.
–Daniel Deronda, George Eliot, p. 213.
Judy: I have “an ungotten estate in my pocket.” The Muse is my inheritance, but I have to earn Her, too.
A.W.: How do you do that?
Judy: By listening to her, following her guide, trusting her sense of what I need to be writing and when, and committing myself to take care of her. After all, she depends on me. If something happens to me or I neglect her, She dies.
A.W.: You’re absolutely right about that. One correction. Taking on a Muse full-time doesn’t mean you have to neglect your own need to be loved and valued. There’s a reason why you can’t quite give up on having a love life. You know how to love. When you can love, you need to love. You also need to experience being loved, not only for your abilities and your writing and your Muse, but for yourself. Keep that in mind. Stay open to that, okay? It’s a balancing act, but by this time, you’re smart and savvy enough to manage it. Plus, it’s very good for your Muse.
Judy: Hmm. I hadn’t thought of that. I’ll do my best. I do half expect something very good and surprising to turn up one of these days in the love life department.
A.W.: Tell me how you plan to take care of your Muse now that you’ve committed to making the relationship permanent?
Judy: I’ve had my rituals, keeping my diary in the morning; using my Saturday night-Sunday morning time to write in my diary and then write a poem. I set aside time to work on novels. I need two-three months pretty clear to do that. Two for sure to write it, and another month to plan my novel, using Elizabeth George’s ideas in Write Away. I’m thinking now that even with this busy September-November time promoting Killer Frost, I can do some of my planning–maybe all–in minutes snatched here and there, and I’ve begun plotting my next one, set in Angelica’s Eatery. I’ll keep up my rituals as well as I can. Since I have a lot of weekend events, that will be a little harder than usual.
A.W. That all sounds good. Supposing your love life blooms. Can you manage that and your Muse, stay healthy, get your sleep and exercise?
Judy: That will be harder. When new things happen, I sometimes lie awake worrying.
A.W. Then how do things actually turn out?
Judy: Better than I would have expected. Usually I worried for nothing.
A.W.: All change brings stress, but generally do you manage your stress?
Judy: Pretty well. I write in my diary, and doing whatever I was worried I couldn’t do, always helps. I find my way to a new place. I learn how to put the new cord on my weedeater. I kill chickens for the first time.
A.W.: You’ve answered the question about how you’ll care for your Muse and yourself, too. How will you provide the money you need, the dollars you need after your social security?
Judy: I’d like to do it eventually through book sales. Meantime, I’ll teach writing classes and chicken workshops.
A.W.: How will you feed your Muse? What is the food She needs, and will you keep her well-fed and happy?
Judy: She needs time. She needs me to let go of other things for awhile, name and let go of my problems and worries. She needs me to listen, to start writing and see where it leads me, to pick up the threads that are niggling at me below the surface and see where they lead. This conversation has taken place when I expected to write my Sunday morning poem. But the Muse took off as soon as I began answering these questions.
A.W.: Good answer. Trust me and give her free rein when you’ve set aside some time. Then she won’t wake up up at 3 A.M. Give her complete satisfaction as often as you can, and she’ll let you sleep through the night, even sleep with someone else. Will you have to relinquish anything else to make this all work? You’re asking a lot of yourself, you know.
Judy: I do get a little set in my ways these years. I’ll have to keep prioritizing carefully, not shut off possibilities too fast when they take me by surprise. Per Lynn Hayes’ astrological musings, we’re in a period of major change, that now exact square between Uranus and Pluto. I’ve been trying to think of what in my life that’s outlived its usefulness that I need to let go of, and what new I need to embrace more completely. The new is, I think, becoming a more widely known writer. I believe Killer Frost will attract a lot of readers. I have my first public appearance with the book next Thursday at the Pittsboro Farmers’ market, and then my book launch here Saturday, September 22. So far people are liking the book, which has been tremendously reassuring. The old I need to let go of I’m still struggling with.
A.W.: Your best guess?
Judy: Be less of a recluse, maybe. Let more people come close. Use the interruptions inevitable this fall as I promote my book to become more adaptable. I can adapt, but I struggle with it. Be more gracious and forgiving. I’m working on that.
I’m putting some hard truths in my cozy mysteries. Summon my courage to face the consequences. I sense them coming. Whenever I’ve put my truth out there in word and deed, someone gets very angry at me. I don’t like it. But this time I have to gird up my loins and go into battle, to defend both me and my Muse, my truth, as I see it, even if, as Muriel Ruykheyser predicted it might, when one woman told the whole truth about her life, the world splits open.