What is it about ironing that’s so damned inspiring to me? I don’t like it. I don’t like it one bit. And yet, I always seem to get my best ideas while doing the very thing I dislike.
Me: I don’t wanna!
Muse: (Poking me in the ribs with her big stick) Stop winging and do it already. I don’t have all day.
Me: (Glaring at her over my shoulder as I set up the ironing board) I’m busy. I got stuff to do.
Muse: (A harder poke. This time in the stomach) Stop wasting my time. And get on with it. I’ve got places to go, people to inspire.
Me: (grabbing a very wrinkled shirt and slamming it down on the ironing board – after I catch my breath)
Muse: Now, about this story you’re trying to write. Just how does Michael become a fallen angel?
Me: (pouting) You tell me. You’re the muse.
Muse: (nodding at the sleeve of the shirt) You missed a spot.
Me: Right. ( ironing and thinking) Michael. He loses a bet. At Buried Pleasures. That’s how he does it.
Muse: Big deal. Lots of people lose bets. Most people lose bets. That’s gambling, that’s not a story. That’s boring. How does he lose? Who is he playing? What does he want?
Me: (carefully ironing the seam along a pair of trousers) He’s playing poker with Magda Gardener. He bets his wings.
Muse: (rolling eyes and giving me another poke) Cliché much? Pa-lease! Don’t waist my time. An angel losing his wings is the oldest ploy in the book. Tell me the story. Go over it again from the beginning. Out loud.
Me: (Starting another shirt) Well, what if he keeps winning, even though he wants to lose.
Muse: That’s better. That’s better. Tell me more.
Me: (Repeating more slowly the plot so far)
Muse: … Aaaaaand …
Me: (cramming a shirt on a hanger and grabbing for another – a little more violently than necessary) … And, I don’t know. I don’t know already! That’s my problem, isn’t it?
Muse: (Poking me hard in the ribs) Think! It’s what you have that brain for, isn’t it. You might try using it.
Me: (Grinding my teeth and rubbing my poor bruised ribs while offering up a few whispered curses to whatever writing god decided to send me the sadistic Muse from hell) Can’t I go for a walk to get inspired?
Muse: It’s raining, and you’ll just get distracted. Besides you have to do the ironing anyway. Focus. Focus! What’s more important to an angel than wings?
I iron another shirt. My head hurts from thinking. I drink some more tea. I iron another shirt and another, careful to get all the wrinkles out. All the while Muse simply watches me. At last she grabs a glass from the cupboard, pulls out the bottle of Glenmorangie and pours herself a generous amount. She sips and watches and taps the end of her stick on the floor.
I iron and iron and iron while I go over the plot so far out loud. I go over it again and again and again.
And suddenly it happens — that Eureka moment that, for some dumb-assed reason, comes only when I’m ironing.
Me: I have it! I know! (nearly burning my finger with the iron before setting it upright and pushing it away to pace the kitchen a couple of times) I have it! I know what’s more important to an angel than wings. I know exactly what Michael has to lose, and I know that once he loses it, he can never, ever get it back.
Muse: (Lifts her glass and salutes me, then downs the rest of the whisky) Good girl. (She never has to ask. She always
knows when I really do have it. She sets down her empty glass, pats my arm and smiles) Now finish up here and get busy. The story won’t write itself.
And just like that, she’s gone – off to poke someone else in the ribs and drink their whisky. My Muse may be sadistic, but she’s effective. And suddenly I don’t mind. I got exactly what I needed for the story and the ironing is done to boot.