selection from “Contented”
I questioned how content any artist or writer should be. It seems that an artist must struggle to produce work, as humdrum as that idea has become. But to struggle doesn’t require a week-by-week or day-by-day existential pounding. Struggle can be as harmless as asking how do you paint this line or how do I write this sentence. Thomas Mann recognized this when he wrote, “A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” Or, as Steinbeck reminds us, “there is nothing more intimidating than the blank page.” Take a muse. A muse, as the word itself suggests, inspires desire. To desire a thing implies we do not possess it. When Homer chants, “Sing to me o muse of the man of many twists and turns,” he seeks from the muse stories of Odysseus. He is also trying, with the help of his muse, to write a poem, which he, Homer, most desires. Why? Because it will be a struggle to write the poem. Homer knows this. So, he better plead for help.