Today’s guest blog is from my good friend Deborah Derrickson Kossmann.
My muse, fickle creature, has decided to go on holiday. Well, that’s not exactly accurate; she is hanging around dangling her white fairy feet in the pond of my unconscious. She looks like those pictures in Kingsley’s poem about the water babies. Her foot is lazily splashing me while I’m ducking, trying not to get wet. Partly I’m avoiding her playfulness because of the demands of the external world. I’m a psychologist and that job often seems to take precedence over my writing.
My muse chuckles as I write this, “Liar,” she whispers, “You just don’t want to do it. You don’t want to hear me.”
There’s a writing deadline looming and I need to explore something uncomfortable, something that will stir everything up emotionally. On some level, I’m just plain tired. I’m sometimes weary of swimming in my pond (which on a less charitable day takes on the greenish tinge of cesspool and doesn’t look quite so carefree). I can always find distractions from writing.
So what makes it difficult to write? Everything and nothing right now. It feels like the effort of it, the weight of pen to paper is too much. So it’s not that the writing itself is hard, but that the energy it takes to swim in my unconscious isn’t there. I feel like it’s been all used up caring for other people and diving into their unconscious ponds.
Does the muse want to play hooky or do I? She dangles her legs further into the water and jumps, “Chicken,” she laughs. “You aren’t usually chicken.” My muse loves adventure. She’s the one who dove into the water hole during the trip to Kenya, loved the risky man, or climbed inside the bobcat cage at the Zoo when I worked there. She’s not afraid of dying or hurting or danger. My muse dips under the water. Right now it seems like there’s nothing there except murk.
“You don’t want to see right now,” she tells me. She’s always got a little sardonic grin on her water baby face, like she’s got me. She knows I’m bullshitting her. But I know she’ll wait for me. She really is very reliable. When I make a writing space, she does usually show up. When I was slogging through graduate school she waited years.
What lies underneath in my unconscious pond? Some time ago, I read in a newspaper that explorers found an entire Greek city preserved underwater. The picture that accompanied the story showed a black-faced mask, half buried in sand. The water must have been very clear and still for them to have discovered something so old. We carry all this richness inside ourselves.
We take a deep breath. My muse grabs my hand and dives under. She and I go down and down, exploring.
Deborah Derrickson Kossmann won the Short Memoir Competition at the 2007 First Person Arts Festival in Philadelphia. Her essay, “Why We Needed a Prenup With Our Contractor” was published as a “Modern Love” column in The New York Times. Her other essays have appeared in journals and magazines including Tiferet, A Journal of Spiritual Literature, Psychotherapy Networker, and Families, Systems, & Health. In 2004, Deb received a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Poetry Fellowship. Her poetry has appeared in Runes: A Review of Poetry, Cape Cod Literary Voice, Iris: A Journal about Women, Conscience-Catholics for a Free Choice, The Mad Poets Review, and Philadelphia Poets. She is currently working on a book of poetry and a humorous collection of essays. Deb is a clinical psychologist in private practice.