Writers on Writing #58: Tina Tocco
My Muse laughs.
Cackles, actually. Guffaws. Topples off her chair with a ka-thunk. She’s neither my champion nor my colleague. She refuses to be my crutch. She pricks the back of my head with a #2 pencil like Jonathan Silverman in the second grade. She was never issued a package of gold stars, and made me watch as she flushed her Write On! stickers right down the toilet. I no longer entertain the fantasy that she will sock me in the arm, hold me close, tell me to get a good night’s sleep—it’ll all seem clearer in the morning. She balks at cooperation, collaboration, and motivational speaking.
And when I maneuver my words—line them up, call them back, sound them out for my reader’s ears—she laughs.
He wore a pair of bright yellow trousers and a black shirt, which he thought looked very chic.
He wore a pair of bright yellow trousers in something of a mustard hueandthat rode up under a black shirt, which he thought looked very chic.
He wore a pair ofHis yellow silk trousers, in something of a mustard-orange hue, that rode upslipped under a black shirt, which he thought looked very chic.
My Muse is not to be confused with Inspiration.
She has forced him to become her adversary. Whereas the more popular pixie Muses will apprentice beneath him, consult with him, bring him on as a partner, she hangs out a sign: PERSISTENCE NEEDED--INSPIRATION NEED NOT APPLY. But he’s magnetic, always knows the right thing to say, even if he’s not the type to stick around for breakfast. And if she picks up on my longing, spots him giving me the eye…
Since when do you wait around for the boys to call? Anyhow, you never did strike me as a girl who’d give it up for a few pretty words.
One finger pops me between the eyes, striking that tangle where ideas are squeezed together by Doubt.
Don’t wait, she says. Fight.
His yellow silk trousers, in something of a flaming mustard-orange hue, were slipped under a black cotton shirt, which (since he was brain dead) he thought looked very chic.
My Muse is a hypocrite.
She insists Inspiration is not my type—claims I’ll get hurt when he leaves—yet she ditches me at crucial moments. She is always out on a school night, doesn’t refer to my schedule of contest deadlines or classes. She can be a bouncer at a hip club, mindful of shady influences; she can pull up a trite phrase—a stranger with candy—and see if I take the bait. She is the teacher who says to shoot for a B, then asks why I didn’t get an A. She is the coach who will cut me from the softball team, but would drop dead if I played lacrosse.
His flaming silk trousers, which were in something of a flaming mustard-orange hue, were slippedslid up under a black cotton polo shirt, which (since he was brain dead) he thought looked very chic.
My Muse is in bed with Doubt.
She has taken to tallying the price of stamps. She balances my checkbook and checks off my birthdays. Her head shakes every time I lick an envelope and let it go; every time I don’t. I have put her in charge of my fan mail—efficient notes from editors who love my work so much, they cannot bear to see me part with it.
His flaming silk trousers, which were in something of alike mustard-orange hue, something like pink, slid up under a black cotton polo shirt, which (since he was brain dead) he thought looked veryin chic (if brain dead) fashion.
My Muse does not play well with others.
She isn’t union. She works alone. She picks my friends. Words she will not loan to me spark if her sisters draw near. Those people, she calls them. Cloying pixies who shack up with Inspiration, who would never fraternize with Doubt. Yet when I revise against intuition or time—she’s off. Out. Takes her toys and goes home. Looks for a good time my dreams don’t yet provide. I don’t blame her; I won’t protest. She’ll return when Inspiration strikes. And she’d never approve if I wasted words on good-byes.
Tina Tocco’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Harpur Palate, Italian Americana, Clockhouse Review, Inkwell, Border Crossing, and The Westchester Review, among other publications. She was a finalist in CALYX’s 2013 flash fiction contest. In 2008, her poetry was anthologized in Wild Dreams: The Best of Italian Americana (Fordham University Press). Tina earned her MFA in creative writing from Manhattanville College, where she was editor-in-chief of Inkwell.