The Tale of the Melting Muse

by Dame Toni

I hate heat.

I actually have panic attacks when I get overheated. So, of course, I live in a house cooled by no more than window fans, and drive a car on which the air conditioner gave up the ghost in 2009.

And, yes, I lived in Miami for seven years, but I was very good at avoiding heat. I went running before sunrise, never parked anywhere without shade, and kept my house at a temperature that would allow me to store raw meat on the kitchen counter.

I’m writing this from a Barnes and Noble, the FOURTH place where I’ve gone today in search of cool air. My favorite coffee shop was closed for vacation, Dunkin’ Donuts was too crowded, the coffee place after that didn’t have enough AC to overcome the bakery ovens (and I drove past THREE closed-down indy coffee shops on my way there) so I finally ended up at a B & N nowhere near my home. By the time I got out of my oven-like car, I was pretty close to a complete nervous breakdown.

So, now I’m supposed to WRITE.

We all have those days when our muse flees, but on hot summer days, my muse tends to show up. Then, she wilts. Or melts, like the Wicked Witch of the West when doused with that fateful bucket of water. Or that bucketful of fateful water. Or whatever.

Oh, get over yourself–we’re all hot!

The point is, I don’t get to quit writing because I’m sweating. Or because my nose is running (I also seem to be allergic to something that pollenates in early August). And I don’t WANT to quit writing when my muse is in full residence. But the actual mechanics can get tricky. I’ve been known to write on an AlphaSmart which has been sealed in a giant ziploc baggie while floating on a raft in the lake. I’ve sat in a wet bathing suit in front of FOUR fans, taking periodic plunges when too much water has evaporated from the lycra.

Like most writers, I’m often asked about my motivation, or my reasons for deciding to write. I once heard a writer say that, if you’re capable of quitting writing, you should quit. The only reason to write is because you can’t NOT write. And, if that’s the case, we’ll write in a wet bathing suit or, when the opposite problem occurs and the heat goes out in the winter, in four layers of wool with gloves with the fingers cut out.

When my friend’s arthritis got too bad to write, she taught herself how to use voice recognition software, including all of the formatting and punctuation commands. Another friend typed the bulk of her first novel with one hand while breast-feeding colicky twins–it was the only time she could sit down. Another quit her high paying career and took a job operating a drawbridge, so she could hand-write her manuscripts in the booth in between letting boats through. I know a guy who wrote his entire novel while commuting by city bus. One of my critique partners, who has special-needs kids, set up a desk in her bedroom closet so she can snatch a few moments of peace to get the words down.

Kind of puts a little muse-melt into perspective, doesn’t it?


  1. says

    Great post! It will be a long, long while before I get the image of you floating on a raft, writing on a Ziplocked AlphaSmart out of my head. If there’s a will, there’s a way, I guess. LOL Wish I’d thought of that.

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