By Margaret Lucke
Sitting alone in my office, I drum my fingers on the desktop. I sort papers from one stack into another and back again. I stare at the blank page on my computer screen.
Where could she be?
Finally I type two words: Chapter Twenty. At least the page isn't blank anymore.
What if she never comes back? What will I do then?
Just as I'm about to file a missing person report, my Muse comes strolling in, wearing a flower lei and drinking something pink and frothy out of a glass topped with a paper umbrella.
"What?" she says when she notices that I'm glaring at her.
I say, "Where the heck have you been?" or words to that effect.
"Such language," she says, turning away. "Just for that, I'm not going to give you a sip." She starts to walk out of the room again.
"Wait!" I jump up and run to the door, blocking her exit. "Don't leave. I need you."
"You don't have to get all excited. I just went out for a little walk."
"Looks more like you took a swim. All the way to Hawaii."
She swirls her hips in a hula move. "I need to recharge my batteries sometimes, just like you do."
"You were gone for days. Weeks. No goodbye. No postcard."
"What's the big deal, anyway?" To my relief my Muse walks to my desk and sets down her glass. I'm so glad she's back that I want to hug her, but that might just drive her away again. She's nothing if not temperamental and capricious.
I sit back down in the desk chair. "I'm trying to get to the last draft of my novel. You know that."
The last draft is my favorite. Writing the first draft is hard work. It means figuring out who these people are whom the Muse has set running, or sometimes slinking, around inside my head, and then cajoling her into explaining what they're up to. For the next draft--and the next, and sometimes another--I have to take the huge mess that we created in the first go-round and turn it into something logical and coherent. Not to mention suspenseful and compelling. But the last draft is easy; it's polishing the diamond you squeezed out of that big lump of coal.
"You're already up to the last draft? Good for you." The Muse claps her hands. "See, you don't really need me." She leans over my shoulder and stares at the computer screen as she reads the words aloud. " 'Chapter Twenty.' Really? That's it? All you've written is those two words?"
"Well, I'm still working out the details of the scene in my head … "
"Last draft!" She snorts. "When I left you had just finished chapter nineteen. You haven't done a thing."
"I've been busy," I say in my defense. "And you were AWOL."
"If there's one rule about writing I've tried to drum into your thick skull it's this one: There's no way to write the last draft until you've written the first one."
"I didn't say I was there yet," I mutter. "I said I'm trying to get there."
My Muse heaves a sigh of exasperation. "Get out of the way," she orders as she pushes me out of the chair. She sits down and begins to type: The detective's heart pounded as she crept into the creepy old house. Could the killer be hiding inside?
"That's terrible," I point out helpfully.
"Of course it is," my Muse says. "It's first draft stuff. We'll fix it later." She takes off the flower lei and puts it around my neck. "Here. This is getting in my way. You might as well finish my drink, too."
"Thanks," I say. "I mean, for coming back." The sweet scent of jasmine and plumeria fills the air. In my next novel, maybe I should send my detective off to a tropical island.
"I never really left. I was hanging out in your imagination the whole time, just like I always do. That place could use a good dusting, by the way."
My Muse scoots over in the chair, making room for me. She pats the seat. "Sit down," she says. "Now let's get to work."