Thirteen years is a long time to wait for a whisper in the ear. In 1998, I had won a major screenwriting competition, optioned a script to a high profile producer and was working on story development with him. I figured my career was on its way. Two years later, I lost my brother to a terrible disease, alcoholism. After his death, my ability to write dissolved, story ideas didn't come. When a friend asked me to help write a historical piece with him, I tried to force it. Coercing the muse doesn't work very well.
I went back to school, got my teaching credential, and vowed never to attempt to write again. For thirteen years, the only thing I wrote were exams. The strangest part was I didn't even miss it. It was as if that part of myself had been surgically removed.
Until one day in my astronomy class we were discussing the electromagnetic radiation and how ghost hunters use EMF meters to supposedly detect them. The discussion carried on after school, into the following days and weeks as one of my students and I "what if-ed" until a story was knocking at the door of my frontal lobes. I would have let it go, but this student was like a rock in my shoe. The outline for Three Wells of the Sea emerged.
Where does the muse hide? I think she hides in other people, in relationships and experiences we haven't lived yet. It took four years, but a novel came out of that wild idea in my astronomy class. And since then, the floodgates are open again and the stories flow with occasional snags. But every time I finish a story I wonder. . . is this my last?
Aram Saroyan once told me, "You write because you have to." It's an excavation of our own soul. Let's keep digging.