In the prologue to the immortal epic poem Paradise Lost, John Milton calls upon the muse. His request:
"Invoke thy aid to my adventurous song, That with no middle flight intends to soar. . .while it pursues Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme. . ."
Did you catch that? Milton needs the help of the muse because he intends to write a poem so powerful and beautiful that it will transcend all known literature. Milton certainly started out with a lofty goal; and he lets his audience know that if they take the time to read Paradise Lost its going to knock their socks off. He's going to write the best darn thing anyone anywhere has ever [or will ever] read. But Milton was not being arrogant. If you ever have read Paradise Lost, you'll probably admit that he accomplished exactly what he set out to do. What a way to begin an artisitic endeavor! OK, Milton already had to his credit "Upon the Morning of Christ's Nativity, " "La Allegro" and "Il Penseroso" (all just Paradise Lost warm-up exercises) so he had a good idea of his own capabilities. Even so, I have always admired his gusto in those first few lines. He is the fearless, intrepid poet who pursues his art with complete and utter confidence.
My nearest and dearest know that my own grandest desire is to write; and it would be my wildest dream come true to eventually get published. I can think of nothing more satisfactory then to see my own work sitting on my own book shelf in print. My greatest fear is not being rejected by a publisher, but never even completing a novel. What if I come up with a great idea- write five good chapters, and never pick it up again? I know myself well enough. I'll have every intention of coming back to it later, but when when when does later ever come?
I have spent much of my summer reading fiction from an entirely different point of view. Instead of analysis as a reader, I have been thinking as a writer (if these were my characters and if this were my plot I would. . .) Let me tell you, if you haven't read from that angle before, you should try it. You will gain a whole new appreciation for the skill it takes to develop plot and character. You even learn to admire fine details like chapter headings and divisions. It is easy to read as the smug overweening critic, but much more daunting when one reads as a peer.
I have decided that writer's block might have more with fear than with lack of ideas. If only I could have 1/1ooth of the muse Milton did. . . Maybe it's time to put down the book and pick up the pen.