Pulling Hen’s Teeth

Belinda here.

I write Morning Pages – anyone familiar with the work of Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way/Vein of Gold/Walking in This World) will understand. Three pages of ‘stream of consciousness’ to free the mind and subdue the internal censor; to be done before anything else (other than making a cup of tea of course…)

This morning I wrote something about being ‘disenchanted’, or rather about avoiding becoming disenchanted. And that made me think that if I wasn’t to be disenchanted, I surely needed to be enchanted. 

I haven’t been writing much recently. The forthcoming Down Under Fantasy Realms anthology was a great push because, having signed up, there were expectations to be fulfilled. But it was, at times, a bit like pulling teeth. At other times, finding the right words, or the right ideas, or the right combination of words and ideas was like trying to find hen’s teeth. By which, I guess, I mean the whole thing has been something like pulling hen’s teeth. I’ll leave you with that image for a moment …

Anyway, what came out of today’s Morning Pages exercise (finally – after months of scribbling pathetically about where my muse had poddled off to and when might she deign to come back) was that I needed to be ‘re-enchanted’. I needed to allow myself to be charmed anew – captivated by life, enraptured by nature, lured by the glamour of words. 

Actually writing when not entirely in the mood is part of that process. It’s not fun but it can be done. Afterwards it feels wondrous. You look back and are amazed: how did that happen? I wrote that … how did I write that??? See? Magic!

Listening to the right music can help too. I made a genuinely magical discovery recently and I have no idea how I missed this gem for so many years: Steeleye Span’s Wintersmith. One of my favourite folk rock groups, whose lead singer makes the best concept albums (King Arthur for goodness’ sake!) with an album based on the work of (and featuring!) Sir Terry Pratchett himself. And it’s delightful (in the absolutely literal sense). The point is, I listen to that and I want to write; just as I do when I dress up as Dame Melissa Applebee, my steampunk persona (she’s an apiarist, and the curator of a marvellous library) and, perhaps more oddly, when I cook. In fact, quite often when I’m preparing food I imagine myself as a jolly, plump woman in a faraway kitchen catering for warriors needing to be fed, perhaps bearing wounds for me to tend after ladling out my stew, or I’m a girl awaiting travellers arriving with tales to tell or rare spices to add to my recipes; or else I am an urchin child allowed to peel the potatoes and in return bring the scraps home to my family, whereupon, allowing an even more down-on-his-luck traveller to share our meagre meal, my fortunes will be reversed and I will set out on a great adventure … possibly involving finding some hen’s teeth. 

The point of all this rambling is that, on reflection, the muse is lured back by intention and by awareness. She too needs to be enchanted … by the fairy gold of ideas that will turn to dust in the morning (if not written down quickly). She delights in the whimsical, and is enthralled by the small details – or rather, the awareness of the small detail. When we are fascinated, so is she. And when we are amused … well, then all is well with the world.


2 thoughts on “Pulling Hen’s Teeth

  1. It definitely sounds like your muse is returning, Belinda! Lovely post. I’ve been going through a similar dull phase where my muse has seemed absent without leave. I’m going to take your advice and see if I can become ‘re-enchanted’. I loved your musings on what happens when you cook! Some new stories there, surely?


  2. Perhaps … certainly a new scene or two for the WIP. Food – it’s always inspiring, isn’t it? What’s your favourite food scene in a book you’ve read?


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