Sunday, August 1, 2010

Why I Answer the Call of the Muse

 By Peggy Webb

I’ve been asked a gazillion times to describe how I write – what’s my schedule, how many hours do I spend in front of the computer, do I have a daily page quota, am I a seat-of-the-pants storyteller or do I use detailed outlines. But nobody has ever asked me why I write. Not ever. I’m talking twenty-five years!

Today was a thinking day, a day when I took the advice of my coffee mug – “Dance as though no one is watching you. Love as if you have never been hurt before. Sing as though no one can hear you. Live as though heaven is on earth.” (souza).

The first thing I thought is that I must be crazy to shut myself into an office all day every day with nothing to keep me company but a stack of Hershey bars and two cute but diabolical dogs (Tashi and Jo Jo) who are constantly plotting ways to sneak off and leave smelly surprises my Oriental rugs. I mean, that’s insane? Right? Just think… I could be in an office that belongs to somebody who doesn’t allow dogs and Hershey bars, and I’d never have to worry about stepping into you know what or gaining weight from too much chocolate. I could get up at seven, have a nice breakfast, put on a suit with pearls, drive into town, and have somebody else tell me what to do all day.

Wait a minute. I don’t want somebody bossing me around. And what if I want to sleep late? Or show up at work in my pajamas? Or skip breakfast and have bacon and eggs at noon? Or stay inside because it’s raining and I don’t want to get wet , I don’t want to start the car, and I don’t want to spend twenty minutes driving on the same roads with surly people who haven’t had a morning cup of coffee. Certainly not in a mug that gives good advice.

The second thing I decided is that no normal person would write the equivalent of a term paper every week. A thousand plus pages a year. It’s just plain crazy. I could be sitting on the front porch swing drinking sweet tea, weeding my flower beds, making cakes for the church bake sale, babysitting for the neighbors, shampooing my Oriental rugs.

But wait. Southern front porches and flower beds are filled with mosquitoes, and they make big red welts that itch for two weeks. And I don’t make cakes because I’m allergic to wheat gluten and besides, if I’m going to all the trouble to cook, I want to eat it myself. And I raised my kids so why deprive the neighbors of the joys of raising theirs, not to mention that I don’t want little muchkins banging on my antique baby grand piano? And why spend hours on my hands and knees scrubbing rugs when I can take them out to be cleaned?

Not to mention the fact that if I were on my front porch getting eaten alive by mosquitoes while planning to make a cake I’m allergic to, who would introduce the fantastic characters running around in my head to my many wonderful readers? Who would tell their stories? Who would have the pleasure of sitting in an author-friendly bookstore getting to meet the fantastic people who read the stories?

Before I could come up with number three, I decided that questioning my own reasons for writing had circled me back around to the only logical answer: I write because I love it. I can’t picture myself doing anything else. I can’t imagine leaving my beloved characters in the lurch and letting their stories go untold.

I’d love to hear why you write, why you read. I’d even love for you to share a good gluten-free cake recipe!

Peggy Webb and her unicorn muse are currently writing the fifth book of her laugh-out-loud Southern Cousins Mystery Series while Tashi and Jo Jo plot revenge for not being the center of attention. Elvis and the Memphis Mambo Murders, third book of the series, will be available September 28, 2010.


Karin Gillespie said...

I loved this essay, Peggy and it made me laugh out loud. Hope you have a nice time at RWA.

Carla Swafford said...

Peggy, sorry for coming here so late, but love your post. I heard your beautiful voice in every word. Hugs.

Andy Mort said...

Great post, Peggy. This is something I've been thinking about a lot too as a musician. It is very easy to get caught into a mechanical way of approaching it all, which sucks the fun and love out of it. When the truth is as creative beings it's just something you've got to do. You don't write because you're sat at a computer, you're sat at a computer because that's how you're going to be creative. When you're writing as an artist it is an expression, not a job. Good work.