Making sense of the muse

I’ve heard Pulitzer Prize winner and renowned Alabama author Rick Bragg speak several times about “the muse,” that source of creativity a writer relies on to put words on a page.

He has not spoken of “the muse” glowingly. Writing, like anything else, is a job, he says. It’s hard work. You write for creativity, yes, but you also write for a paycheck, to get the job done. “The muse” isn’t a job requirement. I’ve always tried to subscribe to that notion.

I’ve written cramped in my car in the parking lot of a What-A-Burger, in crowded gate areas at airports and on metal stadium bleachers. “The muse” resides at none of them. But when I was approached for this column, I struggled for ideas. I suppose I needed “the muse.” It hit me while steering a zero-turn mower in my front yard.

I was in the midst of a self-imposed Twitter hiatus because the vitriol on that social media platform is enough to make you crazy. The politics. The backlash. The hate. It can be maddening. Sometimes, you must look up from the iPhone. And that’s what I did. We should all do it more often. When I looked up from that zero-turn mower, I saw kudzu vines, the same ones that helped me in a past story lede about growth in Trussville. They were my muse.

Kudzu vines are strong. They have herbicides sprayed on them, weed-eater line hack at them and lawn mower blades spin through them. But every time, those vines grow back.

Call them a metaphor for life. Bad things happen to them, and they come back strong. Every time. I love that a simple glance upward taught me this. And I hope it continues this month as we go to the polls to elect the next President of the United States. This year has been so full of political bitterness, and I hope we can all remove our Republican or Democrat glasses for just a little bit. We’ll all see clearer without them.

I hope we look up from the iPhones and check out the kudzu vines. I hope we see the sky and the leaves changing and the birds. I hope we see and experience what’s truly important.

For this column, I wanted to tie in Rick Watson, whose columns appeared in this space before his untimely death in July. I read his last column for inspiration.

The last line he wrote, which fits beautifully: “The older I get, the more I want to hold and suck the marrow out of every day. Life is too short not to enjoy each and every day.”

How’s that for a muse?

Gary Lloyd is the author of six books and is a contributing writer to the Cahaba Sun.

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