Thursday, 11 December 2014

Where the hell is my muse?

Seriously, where is she/he/it whatever it is that enabled me to write decent stuff?

I've looked under the bed, behind the sofa, in the cupboard and can't find that damn muse anywhere.  It's been years since I've really sat down and written something...anything creative. My writing as of late has all focussed on my fitness or recipes to support my fitness. The creative muse has gone and abandoned me it seems. 

Really? Has it? Or have I just locked it away?

I have a myriad of excuses for my writer's block, but I won't bore you by listing them all. Anyone can make excuses. I hear excuses from my students all the time, but excuses are just that...excuses. They are not reasons. Well, no, I take that back. They are reasons. This last week Richard Sherman, cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks, posted on Facebook, "Excuses are the reason not everyone can be successful.... If you want success then replace your excuses with ambition."

So my muse is lost because I no longer have the ambition to write? Was my muse really just my ambition to write? Hmmmmmm....

I wonder. I wonder if I started dragging out my old work, the pieces I wrote and actually liked or at least tolerated enough to share, would I find that lost ambition and begin to create again? Would it finally make me add more to My Luck With Cars and Boys? Would it make the poetry that dances around in my head tap its way out though my finger tips? Would I finish all those stories that I start but never really complete?

So here goes. Piece number one. I wrote this about mix tapes seven years ago, and it was decent enough for my friend, Richard (hey that's two Richards in one blog post!), to add to Rock'n'Roll 2.0 at the time. This was one of my last pieces of written work before my writer's block locked my muse away.


The Mix Tape As An Expression of Love

I just recently finished reading High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby, and it started me thinking about when I got my first mix tape from a boy. We were 15. We, the whole lot of us lil' wanna be punkers, would all get together and hang out downtown in 'Bland' Rapids, Michigan. I was trying to be all cool and show off on his skate board when I fell and scraped my leg pretty badly. After helping me up to a bench, he pulled the tape out of his Walkman and placed it into mine. "I…uh…made this for you last night. Hope you like it." My heart soared. I listened to that tape over and over again. I had never felt so much love while listening to Black Flag, the Butthole Surfers, and the Dead Kennedys before. Every song held a meaning for our relationship. I now had a better understanding of how he felt about me thanks to one 90 minute Maxell.

I loved making tapes and would make individual mix tapes for friends on their birthdays and for Christmas presents. I would spend hours with my music collection all over the floor trying to figure out what the recipient would like and how to best put the compilation together, fading songs into and out of each other. I was quite proud of my work. Inevitably I would call the tapes, "Stuff-n-Things for…" and then try to do something funky to the cover. For lovers, however, the creation of the mix tape was more difficult.

The last compilation tape I made for a lover was about eight years ago. Tapes were beginning to be old news at that point, but my boyfriend at the time had a tape player in his car, not a CD player. Making that tape was an agonizing feat for me as I wanted to give him something he would enjoy with songs that subtlety expressed the growing deep affection I had for him. On top of this, he was moving and I wanted to express some sadness without being too depressing. I didn't want to freak him out or scare him away with an overwhelming display of affection. In the middle of making it I called my friend, Julia, and asked her opinions. Should I put this song on it? Would he think this if that song were on it? What about this other song instead which expresses the same sentiment, but…? Julia is a very patient person.

So, he moved 300 miles away, and we attempted a long distance relationship. Having summers off, I went to visit him intermittently-a little over a week there and then about a week at home. It was during the second or third round of my visits that I began to feel insecure about our relationship. I had a feeling things were not going to work out. Plus, I knew at that point that I would be leaving the country, perhaps permanently. His plans were similar to mine, but our destinations were not the same. Trying to distract myself, I went through his music collection pulling out albums I didn't own. "Make a list of what you like, and I'll make you a tape," he said, and my mood lightened. He must really love me; he was making me a tape.

He gave me the tape the next time I came to visit. He even put some artists on the tape that I had not requested, such as Bruce Springsteen. Being from New Jersey, he is a huge Springsteen fan. While I have an appreciation for Springsteen's song writing talent, I do not consider myself to be any sort of fan at all. However, I found myself listening to the tape over and over again searching for some hidden meaning in the selected songs and their order, and I was disappointed. There didn't seem to be any deep feeling or hidden meaning behind it. It was just a group of songs that all sounded good together, just an ordinary tape like that you would make for a friend. And, indeed the platonic nature of the tape was the giveaway. We broke up on my next visit.

After that I made one last mix tape…for me. It was called "The Ultimate Break-Up Tape." I very carefully selected songs to express the stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. It was a kick-ass tape if I do say so myself. I later gave it to another friend who went through a break-up.

And now the mix tape is practically extinct. Its end is due to the onset of Mp3s and the like. Making mix CDs is easy, a bit too easy. It's so easy in fact that you can make the same one for many people. I have a friend who compiles all the music he has purchased over the year and makes a Christmas CD, which he gives to away. While this is a great answer to the traditional Christmas card, it does seem to be about as personal as one of those Christmas newsletters detailing the events of people you only ever hear from once a year. I now make CD compilations for people, but it just isn't the same. There can be no replacing the mix tape with a mix CD. In my opinion the mix tape was a true expression of feeling due to the toil put into the making of it. I find it sad that it has now become obsolete.

I also find it sad that I no longer own a tape player.

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