Saturday, July 2, 2011

Words came halting forth...

Ahh, Sir Philip Sidney, author of the Astrophil and Stella sonnet sequence--how I appreciate you today. In the first sonnet of his sequence about the lover Astrophil and his quest for a kiss from his beloved Stella, Sidney tackles both the inspiration for writing and the dreaded writer's block. The great lover begins "Loving in truth and fain in verse my love to show..." and what better reason have we to write than love? (Money? Fame? Pleasure? Because the voice just won't stop if I don't? Because if I don't, I've given up, and I don't give up, or at least I don't give this up? But I digress...) Perhaps, he muses, the lady will see his suffering in the lines, take pleasure in his poetry (hopefully not his pain, though sadism on the part of the beloved may be a part of love poetry), know of his love, and requite it!  Hooray.

But, he cannot write. (Alas!) He tried looking at others folks "leaves" but their "feet were but strangers in his way." Reading the current genre just isn't helping.  Trying to learn the craft doesn't work. Indeed, inspiration "flees Step-dame Study's blows." The more he studies, the less he can write.

Finally, he announces that, like a pregnant woman struggling to give birth, he is "helpless in his throes!" But wait, his Muse addresses him directly!  "Fool," says his Muse to him, "Look in thy heart and write!"

And so we have one of the most concise and lovely renditions of one of the most problematic myths about writing. Look in your heart and write. It will just come pouring out. Perfect and immaculate in its design. If your "words come halting forth," then you're just not looking in your heart. Or, if you are, maybe you're just not a writer.

Funny. That I know of, Sidney doesn't have a poem in the sequence about REVISION.

So, in my own writing lately, my words are "halting forth." And the ones that do come out, seem less than what I want. But, no fear, like Sidney (or perhaps like his narrator, Astrophil), I have a Muse. And my muse speaks to me.  His words are not quite as iambic as Astrophil's, nor are they as kind. And after hearing them, I do indeed pour more words on the page. I finish scenes, finish chapters, delight in the fact that I can open a new document and start a new section.

Unfortunately, my muse is not particularly original. Indeed he has spoken, I think, to the muses of many great and successful writers that I know, and cribbed merciless from them. (Perhaps the other muses ought to corner him to discuss the finer distinctions between references and plagiarizing.)

What does my muse say?

"Fool," says my muse to me, "get thy butt-in-chair and write!"

1 comment:

  1. Yup. That's it exactly. (Though you're not halting that much - I believe you wrote 6,000 words yesterday.)