Short Story: Feeding the Muse

"Some days, Simon, I really loathe you," Mariel said, with just a hint of genuine venom. She dropped the Writers Digest on the table, its cover and front pages folded back to reveal a page mostly consumed by a photo of Simon at his writing desk. The image was full of deep shadows, moody, and deliberately included the dark, heavy bookshelves that surrounded him, their worn hardwood planks supporting hundreds of hardback classics, sheaves of loose papers, and the occasional occult or funerary artifact - a human skull here, a hand of glory there. Block letters above it pronounced Simon to be the "Modern Master of Horror and the Macabre." Simon sipped his espresso double-shot latte and produced a wry smile. "It's not my fault if you can't keep up." She twisted her mouth into a sarcastic kiss and pretended to fix her lipstick with her middle finger. "Some of us just refuse to sell our artistic integrity on the open market," she said


I love creating. To a lesser extent, any sort of creativity moves me, but using words to create characters and share their stories is what really ignites my soul.

But why?

I've never asked myself that question before. I don't know why I get so jazzed about a cool character that winds up in a challenging situation; why letting that character show me how they'll get out of that situation gives me some sense of fulfillment. Of all the things I do and have done in my life, why does this one, in particular, feed some deep need within me?

I know that this is a phenomenon I've experienced since I was a child.

I still recall the first stories I ever wrote - derivative, two-page tales of Han Solo and Luke Skywalker rescuing Princess Leia from a variety of  precarious situations. I'm sure they were trite, with hackneyed themes and lacking a multi-act structure or any real plot or character development, but hey - the author was only 12 years old. Cut the kid some slack!

My first heroes - real-world ones, not James Tiberius Kirk or Jim West - were writers. I looked up to people I'd never met, like Louis Slobodkin and Susan Cooper. They were doing something I subconsciously found totally amazing: creating worlds and characters and stories from the aether. It was a thing that I just assumed only a Writer (note the capital "w"), someone who'd been given the keys to the inner circle, could do, and I was in awe.

I still remember the exact moment that it was revealed to me that the keys that granted entrance to the inner circle were mere words - specifically, that my words could be my key. It was sixth grade - Mr. King's class - and for the first time, I was tasked to write something other than an essay or paper about someone else's fiction. I was tasked with writing my own piece of fiction.

My mind was blown.

Write my own fiction? Can I even do that? I thought. Surely, that can't be legal; I must be violating some secret commandment from the Writing Gods.

But even while my disbelieving side dissented, deep in my psyche, a smoldering ember burst into flame. It ignited my imagination, and my brain began to burn with ideas. I would be like my heroes. I would create worlds.

Since that day, in the late summer of 1978, I've been doing just that. Whether for myself or for others, for my own satisfaction or for compensation, I've been creating worlds and sharing them for 30 (!) years.

Of course, none of this answers the question: "Why?"

Why was I drawn to writing? Why do words and the things we can create with them have such a profound impact on me? Why do other things move other people in similar ways?

I'm not qualified to answer that question. I'll let the psychologists and philosophers wrestle with it.

What I do know is this: I love writing. I love creating worlds with words. I love the challenge of being a writer. I love the need that burns within me to create worlds and characters. I even love the hurdles - the occasional, frustrating lack of creative motivation, the ups and downs of trying to move from semi-pro to pro, the hits and the misses - that come with being a writer.

Maybe, someday, I'll understand why.