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My muse is desperation. She is longing, fear, regret. I cannot understand her; I dread her. Most mornings, I wish that she would abandon me to plague some other lowly writer. I want her to cease her constant questions and images. I want her to let me sleep, to let me wake, just once, under my own power. I want to be inspired, but I also want to be productive, efficient, focused.

My muse is nothing like the near-naked women clad in white robes and silver light that I first witnessed in paintings and ancient poetry. My muse is a shadow of me, a plague. She is an uncomfortable memory of struggle and chaos, of mistakes and regrets, of fear – she is the  antithesis to everything I wanted my art to embody, to become.

I dreamed that I would be soothed and comforted by her. That she would pacify the raging doubts and uncertainties, that she would provide much needed direction and guidance. She does none of these things.

My muse is doubt and rage and fear. She expresses every challenge, embodies every doubt, fills every desire with questions and uncertainties. I am afraid of her, and I wish that she would leave me alone.

I need her, however. The world needs her.

Because, my muse embodies the struggles that define me, that motivate me. She will not let me look away or forget or ignore. It is too easy to forget, to move through the present without giving thought to the past. All those voices, all those moments, could so easily be lost and buried.

I would rather forget some things. My research into trauma, narrative, and memory has taught me this. I want to forget, even though my muse forces me to remember. These dark times and dark stories.

Like an old poet, his book of poems soiled in fluid and earth, drying out in the sun. .

I can’t get this image out of my mind – she drives it in. I can’t sleep. This need to write, to be remembered, or rather, to be the means by which memory can persist and live on. We are nothing but the stories we leave behind, nothing but the weight of our lives pressing against the fabric of another’s. We are nothing but carefully crafted fictions, poems, recited, remembered, uncovered. We march and march towards uncertainty, scribbling out our lines, narrating our moments, until we are black and silent and the marching ceases and all that is left is to either fade into relics or be discovered, read, remembered.

Perhaps this is what I take with me, what my trails in the mountains, my adventures in teaching, and my struggles as a writer have amounted to…

It is not our work that defines us, but our fear,  our muse, that terrifying creature buried deep within our subconscious that never lets us forget, that forces us to embrace struggle and chaos, to approach the darkness, cowering, but always seeing, always remembering what was, what we are, what we are here to do.

We are here to be inspired and terrified by the possibilities within our world, both past and present.