The Temper Tantrum
I should simply be happy that she showed up for work today. At the same time as I did. She’s made only the rare appearance over the chaotic summer. Chaos has a way of sending her pouting into a corner.
My “Little Miss Muse.”
Not an angel, by any stretch of the imagination, so don’t let the graphic fool you.
More like a mischievous winged imp. Coming and going as she pleases. Concocting self-proclaimed brilliance and dumping it on me—usually at two o’clock in the morning when I’m no where able to process what she’s doing.
Rarely when I sit down to begin a project.
And especially not when I’m trying to finish one.
She’s that part in all of us—especially alive and well in younger children—that generates ideas (brilliant, genius, dastardly, dangerous) that seem to “come from nowhere.” Those sparks of thought that raise our eyebrows and sprout goofy grins.
Those what-were-you-thinking moments.
Sure, on our own, we’re relatively intelligent, logical humans.
And many of the humans I know are way beyond relatively intelligent.
But that creative part comes from somewhere deeper. Darker. Dreamier. Sometimes deadlier…
And though my Little Miss has made an appearance today, she’s is in some sort of a mood. And according to her, all my ideas—the ones I’ve worked so hard on without her grand assistance—suck.
She might be right, but a sucky-and-done job trumps brilliantly incomplete. At least in my logical left brain thinking.
I’m in the middle of a writing project. I want it off my mind. I want it done. So I can take Little Miss out for a grand adventure. And I promised her I would. Later.
But not right now.
Right now, I’d like her to supply a couple strokes of genius to the current work in progress. I’m not asking for much. Just one or two tiny little sparks. Whatever color she prefers. Red? Pink? White? Doesn’t matter. Come on, Little Miss.
Buuuuut… Nope. She’s currently having none of it. “That’s a sucky plan.” She’s got me in chains.
She’s a toddler.
With a massive IQ, much higher than mine or anyone I know. She’s the most brilliant, able-minded, fantastical being that ever existed. At least that’s what I tell her to make her feel good. Prime the pump, so to speak.
Bribery with this particular creature requires more than chocolate chip cookies or a shiny new toy from Walmart.
Nope. A massive ego dangles from her massive IQ.
And she’s got a temper to match.
Today she’s locking up my process. I have a small, simple outline. She has plenty of room to play. Like putting a child in a playpen.
Not even a playpen.
More like putting a child in an acre’s worth of beautiful backyard where towering oaks guard a babbling brook. A simple fence surrounds the serenity and allows ample room for exploration and ideas and...
But she wants to see what’s over the fence.
Stick her fingers through the wire.
Kick the fence post until the earth that holds it gives up.
Jump the gate and take me with her into the great unknown.
Away from my outline. Away from my plan.
And run naked through the field toward the pond.
So I tell her her ideas (sans the nudity) are awesome, I jot them down on the legal pad next to my computer, and I promise her we’ll revisit those marvelous works of imagination.
But right now, we need to focus on our work in progress. Which, by the way, Little Miss Muse, you helped me come up with to begin with. Wouldn’t you like to finish this?
Nope. The chains stay on.
Other authors have described their “muses” as blue-winged birds, gently floating on the breeze, bringing them morsels of goodies to put into their stories. Or cats. There are lots of cats, purring and chortling out helpful bits of advice.
Stephen King has “boys in the basement” that send up ideas. But in his analogy, at least they’re somewhat contained, not running amok with cigars hanging from drooling mouths dripping ashes and slobber onto unfinished manuscript pages.
But he’s also been at this writing gig for decades. I wonder how long it took him to build that basement? How fortified is it—steel, concreate with rebar, kryptonite? Do any of his boys ever attempt a coup? Would he sell me the blueprints? Things to ask should I ever meet the man.
My muse? She’s a toddler.
Jumping the fence and spinning on the other side in the wide openness with firecrackers in one hand and a lighter in the other. “Chase me, chase me. Before I set your soul aflame and render you useless, you meager human slave.”
Fine. I give up.
What would you like to do today, Little Miss?
And off I go, after the firecrackers and lighter have been secured and the clothing zipped and buttoned. I take her by her tiny hand and let her lead me off track. Just for now.
She smiles. Takes a few steps. And holds out her other hand.
So I give her back her firecrackers. She tucks them under her armpit.
The lock turns slowly. She smiles again. A sinister grin with a cocky little tilt of the head. She holds out her hand.
I give her back the lighter.
The chains fall off.
And a new story line starts as sparks—not red or pink or white, but a dark purple of her own choosing—fly from the keyboard.
I sigh and settle in for the ride, simply happy we’re both still clothed.
And that she showed up for work today.