Where is my muse

We all have days when we feel our contribution to the world, to the greater good, has little or no value. Self-doubt moves in and gives us a serious internal beating. These types of days may fall with greater frequency during these strange uncertain times we find ourselves in, when we don’t know when we can safely venture outside our own home, outside our own communities and engage with the world. Some of us find creative ways to do so, to help our neighbours, to reach out with support. It takes a certain kind of courage to do so, while many of us are hampered with shyness, our introverted nature keeping us quiet.

I spend a lot of time at my desk with pencil in hand, paper in front of me. It is a solitary undertaking. When I’m not writing, I’m crunching numbers for a few small businesses, preparing year-end financial statements and tax returns, another solitary undertaking, a bit like a Bob Cratchit character from the creative genius of Charles Dickens.

The beauty of writing is I can leave my reality behind. I can climb onto the page with my characters and help them find their way through the perils that befall them and in helping them, I often help myself. It is an escape in moments and an engagement in others. I recently read an introvert’s reflection on writing where he said a writer must “abandon shyness” when creating her/his story. Most writers are introverts, it has been said, and shyness comes hand in hand with what some consider an affliction and others feel is their strongest asset. When others read our work, or we publicly share what we have written, it is a bit like stripping naked in front of strangers and I don’t think many of us would be comfortable engaging in such an activity.

Strangely, despite all the time required in lockdown with the pandemic, many writers and other artists have found the time difficult, their muse silenced for longer stretches than normal and their daring to “abandon shyness” a bit crippled. When I needed inspiration and to step out of myself, I used to go to a favourite coffee shop or to the library to feel a connection with others. Sometimes on special occasions I would take myself to the Halifax Library, a wonderful space, almost as inspiring as the Fort Frances Library. Almost. There I would feel the voices from every bound book reach out to me, urging me on, assuring me I can “abandon shyness”. It’s almost a year now since I’ve been able to engage in that way, to tiptoe into the world of others and soak up the sounds and sights, to read the faces and the posture and the stride of others and look for the stories those gestures tell. I miss my library and I’m a wee bit tired of my own company.

I can’t help thinking of my great grandparents, building a home and a life in the Crozier wilderness with limited access to neighbours and town. Winter would be hardest and most limiting. They lived in a very small space that first winter, my grandfather age eight, his sister age six, when John O Stewart brought his family north from North Dakota in 1895 to start over, to begin again, to create something of value, starting with a 16’ x 12’ log cabin he came ahead to build in 1893 on the southwest quarter of Section 28 in Crozier. They would have been in a winter-imposed lockdown and it would have been significantly more difficult than what I face every day. My grandfather shared the details of his life and what he witnessed around him, and I often crawl into a comfy chair and read his story. Perhaps, that is where my urge to write comes from. I like to think it is a genetic predisposition that flows from one generation to the next, keeping us all linked. All too often, those who came before, leave us without having shared their stories. So, today I will “abandon shy” and get on with my story-telling and hope it has some value when I have finished.