An Open Memo To My Muse
October 25, 2020
(footnotes at bottom)
To: My Muse
From: Paul Schindler
Re: Where’d You Go and Why’d You Return?
From age 6 to age 19, I was a prolific producer of fiction. I now understand it was your output pouring through me. Short stories and radio scripts, mostly, but it also included my lost literary work, Vernon Jones, Super-Scientific Detective, a 240-page novel I wrote when I was 14, (1) my Lost Literary Work (2). I know it spent years in my father’s filing cabinet, but by the time I went looking for it 20 years later, it was gone. I was never at a loss for a plot, dialog, or a quip in my youth.
While we’re at it, couldn’t you have forced me to write an essay, Why a Writer Needs To Learn To Type, or one entitled “Why A Writer Should Go To A General High School And A Liberal Arts College Instead Of A Technical High School And A Technical College. And, while we’re at it, did you have to push me to polish that last joke for the senior radio play? Perhaps I could have spent that time polishing my unsuccessful Stanford application essay…
The outpouring continued through my first year in college, when I wrote the book for a 90-minute musical tragedy, Sam Patch,, The Greatest Story Ever Told So Far, then spent the summer writing scripts for the New Eugene Oregon Show. That fall, I began my first love affair, and you checked out. Why?
Between September 1971 and January 2020: 10 million words of non-fiction. Nary a word of fiction. (3). No ideas, no plots, no short stories or scripts. I noticed your departure as early as that fall, and suggested my first theory to my first lover. “Maybe all that writing was sublimation of my sex drive?”
She joined the long line of women who have talked sense to me in my life, including the several MIT women who applied clear logic to their helpful commentary. “That’s possible. But it may also be true that you just don’t have as much free time. There’s me. There’s your work at MIT.”
True, I had never before had a woman in my life to whom I devoted so much time. And after 12 years of cruising through school on auto-pilot, MIT offered me my first nearly insurmountable academic requirements.
So, whether it was sex or a lack of free time, you were either gone or I was deaf to your entreaties.
Then, despite still having a woman to devote my time to, in 2020 I found myself with free time on my hands, and you came roaring back in, not with a whimper but a bang.
I still don’t know why you left, or why you came back (those dear readers with theories are welcome to weigh in). Probably just free time, but that explanation seems prosaic.
(1) I wrote it on my mother’s portable Olympia typewriter, using hunt and peck because I never learned touch typing. I worked so many uninterrupted hours, and had to strike the keys so hard to make a carbon that I gave myself what we now know to be Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Thank God a minor case, cured with the only known therapy at that time: a summer with my right arm in a sling. I still hit more keys with my right (dominant) hand.
(2) Not burned or destroyed, just lost like Garrison Keillor’s manuscript in the Portland train station, or the suitcase in Joe Haldeman's science fiction novel The Hemingway Hoax, which centers on a suitcase with writings by Ernest Hemingway which was stolen in 1922 at the Gare de Lyon in Paris.
(3) One could quibble that most of my poetry this year has been non-fiction as well, but let’s not quibble.