While my wife is away tending to her mother, Mrs. Shasta Waddlepuss is looking after me. She makes certain I wake early and get to the keyboard, so long as I attend to my duties at her cat bowls and litter box first. She keeps me at my desk by plopping her not insubstantial self on my lap to hold me in place, and puts up a noisy fuss should I attempt any kind of getaway. She is a taskmaster.
Shasta fancies herself my muse in the long tradition of cats inspiring writers. She cocks her head slightly as if listening intently when I describe my latest writing dilemma. She purrs her approval when I announce the completion of a first draft of a story. And she’ll give me an I-told-you-so stare when I get an e-mail with a new freelance assignment.
However, compared to Cathie, Shasta is a lousy muse. Certainly my wife has been known to plop on my lap, though her intention is seldom to keep me writing, And, truth be told, I don’t think I’ve heard Cathie ever purr her approval about anything I’ve written in first draft form. Still, she is my undisputed perfect muse.
For nearly 40 years Cathie has patiently reviewed literally hundreds of essays, articles, short stories, and even drafts of novels. She’s given me feedback on the logic or lack thereof in my arguments and storytelling. She questions my dubious organization. She corrects my grammar. And, oh boy, does the Comma Queen nitpick my punctuation.
The best muse not only inspires work, she critiques it. She suggests better words. She knows when a sentence should go or if a new one is needed. She improves upon the execution of an idea rendered in prose.
In this regard, Cathie is perfect. But more importantly, she does so without sarcasm or spite. Each piece she reviews is taken on its own merits. If I take a stab at science fiction, she doesn’t roll her eyes and state the obvious that I don’t know enough to attempt it. If I decide to take on the political establishment in an essay, she doesn’t point out that my ramblings will not be heard let alone embraced. She accepts my sincerity and delivers a sincere analysis.
It’s her openness that has helped make me a success as a writer. Never once has she warned me that I was out of my league or I’d be better off not taking chances. Her only goal was to make whatever I set before her eyes into better work.
I’m the luckiest writer in the world to have such a muse. And I’m pretty lucky as a husband as well.
© Mark Everett Hall 2011