Monday, August 15, 2011

Muse Bait

By Kathleen Bradean

Some writers talk about their muse. I don't have one. What I gather about muses is that they're never around when they're needed, mercurial in temperament, fickle, cruel, demanding, and only want to crawl into your lap with you're too busy to deal with them.

Apparently, muses are like cats.

I have cats. Rather, they have me. Cats are not muses. They know that they were worshiped as gods back in Egypt, so they expect to be treated as such. They also believe that human civilization has been in a long downhill slide ever since cat worship ceased, but for a moment, let's forget cat's deep disappointment with human failings and get back to the muse thing.

My cats have never helped me write anything. That was my second clue that they weren't muses. The first clue was when I printed out a copy of the first novel I ever wrote, and one of them peed on the manuscript. That's being a critic, not a muse.

So during one of my writing dry spells, I decided that I needed one of those old fangled muses to inspire me. Writers talk about their muses, but they're never clear about how they got one. Maybe they tell you in those fancy MFA (master of fine arts) classes, but since I don't have time to do that, I decided that I'd try bait to lure one to me.

First, I got an aubergine crushed velvet fainting couch and swooned. Peering through the lace hanky clutched in the hand that pressed to my forehead, I looked for a toga-clad woman.

All I spied out of the corner of my eye was pure cat contempt.

Then I found a big flowy poet's blouse and a beret, because as Charlotte pointed out weeks ago, berets are to writers as work boots are to carpenters. I posed gazing out windows and sighed loudly while holding a quill.

The quill was declared an enemy of the house, attacked, dragged under the bed, and covered with cat spit.

Obviously, appearing artsy fartsy wasn't good enough bait. I needed to show the muse that I was worthy of her attention. So I did a little research and fond these charming quotes about the process of writing:

“Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” Gene Fowler

And this

There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein. ~Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith

Aha! Blood! (And you thought I'd never get around to the topic) That must be the super secret muse bait other writers are using!

I hoped they meant metaphorical blood. Otherwise, Stephen King would be exsanguinated by now. So I sat down at my computer and started to write. I wasn't inspired yet, but kept glancing around to see if maybe a muse had been lured by the sound of me trying to metaphorically bleed over my keyboard. That's when I made the mistake of direct eye contact with one of the cats. She took that as an invitation to jump into my lap and knead my thigh. It isn't easy to type with a cat between me and the keyboard, buy I kept at it because frankly, I couldn't wait for a muse anymore. The cat started purring loudly. I struggled on. As I typed, visions of the story began to unfold in my mind. Then her claws sank into my leg and drew blood. But I was so engrossed in the story by then that I didn't let a few drops of blood distract me. I gently set her down on the floor, pulled closer to my keyboard, and started typing with purpose.

So maybe cats are muses after all. Funny. No one ever mentions the hairballs.


  1. Ah, this is brilliant! You obviously know cats all too well.

    I have scars all over my arms from years of living with felines. Someone who didn't know me might assume that I did indeed try to open a vein.

    Nope. Just the feline influence.

  2. Cats and one of my favorite writing quotes (Red Smith)-- love this post, Kathleen! So true and so funny. Thanks for the Monday morning smile. :-)

  3. I LOVED this! By the way, which was the incontinent cat? It couldn't have been my cat... Not the trickster cat...

  4. D.L. It was Mara, The Big Butted Cat (yes, that was his full name). You never met him. He loved Cheetos (hence the big butt) and peeing on my stuff. We came home from work one day to find he'd passed away in his sleep, but before he passed, he pissed... all over my side of the bed.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.