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When Your Muse Abandons You

And takes almost 6 years to return

By Caitlin McCollPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 4 min read

Back in the fall of 2015, I was writing my National Novel Writing Month novel for the 6th year in a row, and as with the previous 5 years, I was confident I would be a winner (I normally end up writing about 80,000 words which is 30k over the 50k goal you need to reach to be declared a winner of NaNoWriMo).

But then my world got all shaken up and turned upside down. My mom was dying. And with that, so did my muse. My mom passed away on December 15th of that year (a day after she was originally slated to be released from hospital, but things obviously didn’t turn out that way). Death really puts a stopper on...well, everything really. For me anyway. Not only did my writing muse abandon me, so did my running mojo. I’d been a keen runner the previous few years after losing a bunch of weight, and ran my first (and only) half marathon, a handful of 15k races (my fave distance) and a boatload of 10ks (5ks were basically a warm up). I remember after my mom dying, running on the treadmill in the gym at work with tears streaming down my face. Running + crying doesn’t really work. So that’s when my running dried up as quickly as the ink flowing through my veins.

And it stayed that way. The inkwell of my writers’ heart had truly run empty. I just had zero motivation. And the NaNoWriMo story I’d started, a Post Apocalyptic novel called Radio Silence? That was dead too. Plus, I’d kind of been stuck with the story anyway, so that was even more of a reason for me not to pick up my pen (well, my keyboard) and continue again.

Grief sucks. I don’t know about you, but for me that’s when my Muse packed up her suitcase, said some sort of goodbye I probably wasn’t paying attention to, and slammed the door firmly behind her. I was too upset to try and beg her to come back. Maybe if I’d done something, anything to convince her to even come back and visit once in a while, it would have been better. Perhaps I should’ve kept a notebook of stuff that popped into my head as writing inspiration, even if I wasn’t ready to write anything just yet.

So the years ticked by, and every so often a little voice in my head whispered faintly ‘write!’. But she was too quiet, and writing seemed like too much work. The fun and enjoyment of it had gone, and anyways, what could I write about? So I shrugged it off.

But then, back in December 2020, something happened. I’d been a reader of the online website/’magazine’ Elephant Journal for a few years. I loved their articles. But one day, I happened to notice something on their website I’d never seen before. A button at the top of the page said ‘Create Post’. Huh? So I clicked it, and it turned out you could actually write for them!

And my Muse suddenly knocked loudly at the door again. Looks like she’d been standing out there awhile. So I let her in (what else could I do?). I’d never written non-fiction articles before. Only ever fiction and poetry. My first love. But my Muse smiled and nodded at me and said ‘give it a try’. So I did. And it opened the door and ink began to fill my veins once more. It was the perfect way to ease back into writing. Writing articles is short and sweet. Something that had quick results. Write it and then it’s done in a day. And so entirely different from writing novels and short stories, that it didn’t seem to be like work at all! It was fun! It didn’t even really feel like writing, to be honest. More just like having a chat with anyone who wanted to read my words.

Also for the first time, large numbers of people were actually reading (and liking) my writing! And that’s when my Muse gave me a big hug, a high five (we’re GenXers where that was a thing) and told me I was back in the game. So I’ve been writing articles on Elephant Journal now for almost nine months, and I’ve now discovered Vocal to continue to share my works with another amazing writing community, for which I’m forever grateful.

Over this past summer my Muse tapped me on the shoulder and shoved the pages of my Post Apocalyptic story I’d started but left incomplete after my mom died, in my face and waved them around. No, no, I said to her. Not right now, I’m enjoying articles now! So she walked away dejected but was persistent and popped up every few weeks, until, finally, I caved, and in August, I opened the story up. I’d already somehow written the 50,000 words required to win NaNoWriMo! I just needed to wrap it up.

So I began to read. I read it as a stranger. It didn’t seem like my words, since it had been so long since I’d written them and seen them (5 and half years). I couldn’t even remember what the story was about (except that it was post apocalyptic and took place in Seattle). When I got to the end I knew how I wanted to end it. And so, over a weekend, I did! And a huge weight lifted off my shoulders and my Muse was jumping up and down ecstatic. I’d finished it! After all these years, with it looming large over me, whispering ‘finish me’, I finally did.

And now I’m sharing it on Vocal and I hope everyone who reads it enjoys it!


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About the Creator

Caitlin McColl

I hope you enjoy my writing! Your support means a lot to me!

Find me various places here.


My Series

My Short Stories

My Novels

My Poetry One & Two

Aeternum Tom Bradbury

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