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Saved by the Beer: Trusting your muse will find you 5 min read

Saved by the Beer: Trusting your muse will find you

It was a Monday. All day long, as his mother always says. Nothing terrible had happened nor had anything remotely redeeming happened either; it had simply been another day for Brad. But it was behind him now, as day had faded into night, and he remembered that he was a

By Cary Littlejohn

It was a Monday. All day long, as his mother always says. Nothing terrible had happened nor had anything remotely redeeming happened either; it had simply been another day for Brad. But it was behind him now, as day had faded into night, and he remembered that he was a college senior. Life, today’s monotony notwithstanding, was good. He was no longer stressing over the rigorous reporting and writing classes that had defined the past few years of his life at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. No, he was just a few credit hours away from graduation, and tonight, on this Monday of Mondays, he would spend the evening drinking beer with his buddies. And so they drank.

When it was time to call it a night (for it was a Monday after all), Brad stood to leave, but he was sideswiped by a wave of dizziness. It seemed as if he’d had a few too many. No worries; his friend George hadn’t been drinking, and even though they didn’t arrive together, George lived at Brad’s apartment complex. A few other of the guys could use a ride, too. Brad didn’t mind, and George was more than willing to drive Brad’s car.

They walked out to the parking garage, and Brad remembers how much he laughed. He doesn’t remember exactly what they were saying, but he remembers the tiny tears that eked out of his eyes from the force of his laughter. He remembers how loud they all were, how the laughter echoed off the walls of the mostly empty parking structure. As they approached the car, Brad wrestled the keys out of his pocket and threw them to George. He pushed the unlock button on the remote, but no lights flashed, no noise sounded. It happened so quickly that Brad took no notice, as he reached for the rear passenger door and swung it open.

One foot on the floorboard, he was halfway into the backseat, face still damp from the tears and struggling to catch his breath from the laughter, when he noticed them. Golf clubs.

Brad wasn’t a golfer. He’d never golfed a day in his life. But then…wait…was, was this his car? In an instant, he knew it wasn’t; it couldn’t be. The laughter stopped. He sobered up quickly. Stop! he shouted, waving his arms like a third base coach trying to signal a runner to go back, go back, go back! This was all wrong, and they needed to get out of there as quickly as possible. In his rush to get out of someone else’s car, he left his freshly opened beer, still ice cold and sweating in the warm September night.

Now, I have no idea if even one percent of this is true. It’s not likely though, since I just made it up. Four hundred-fifty words, just like that, and regardless of the quality of the actual scene, they’re the best 450 words I’ve uttered today. Why? I’ll tell you.

Sometimes, it pays to simply trust. I’ve been thinking about writing all day, about wanting to write, but for the life of me, I wasn’t able to think of what I’d actually write. Forcing the issue didn’t seem to be getting me anywhere, but then the universe delivered inspiration by way of a Silver Bullet.

I don’t mean the dictionary definition of the term. I mean the beer – a Coors Light.

Before you jump to the most logical conclusion and assume that I simply drank a Coors Light and my writer’s block evaporated, let me tell you it’s actually much stranger.

Tonight, as I returned to my car from hours in the library stacks reviewing print issues of Esquire magazine from the past twenty years, I walked across a mostly empty parking structure. I noticed a couple of college-aged guys near the middle of the structure, but my car rested at the far end of it. I mention this only to point out that I was paying attention to my surroundings.

Almost to the car, I clicked the remote to unlock the door. I can’t describe exactly what it was that didn’t sounds quite right, but a thought scattered through my mind that possibly the door hadn’t been locked. I didn’t really think much about it, to be honest. That was until I opened the back door.

I threw my backpack in the floorboard and just as I was about to close the door, I noticed something: a silver aluminum bottle, lid missing. I touched it. Cold. I lifted it. Nearly full.

It filled me with a prickly feeling – not quite fear but certainly one of discomfort. I took the beer out of the car, looked it over, and placed it on the wall in front of my car. I walked around to the rear passenger door, as if the view might be different from that side or the mystery somehow explained; it wasn’t. As I came back around the car, I noticed a young woman getting into her car, eyeing me somewhat suspiciously. I looked around, turning a full 360 degrees for good measure, and deemed the case unsolvable.

And just like that, I had something to write about. Now, my fictional explanation for the mysterious beer in my back seat isn’t particularly good writing, but how sweet is it that it exists at all?! Stephen King yelled at me this morning through his masterpiece On Writing, where he said, “But if you don’t want to work your ass off, you have no business trying to write well — settle back into competency and be grateful you have even that much to fall back on.” And for me, the biggest fault is not actually doing the writing. I hide behind the classes in journalism school that required me to write so often, buoyed by the fact that some were published, but deep down, I’m not practicing the craft daily. In many ways, I’m simply seeking to fall in love with words again, to relearn the muscle memory of fingers flying across a keyboard with reckless abandon and not hating what’s left on the page. For me, the answer is a daily writing routine. It’s not new or original, but it’s definitely something I’m not currently doing. Its importance can’t be overstated.

King said:

“Don’t wait for the muse. As I’ve said, he’s a hardheaded guy who’s not susceptible to a lot of creative fluttering. This isn’t the Quija board or the spirit-world we’re talking about here, but just another job like laying pipe or driving long-haul trucks. Your job is to make sure the must knows where you’re going to be every day from nine ‘til noon or seven ‘til three. If he does know, I assure you that sooner or later he’ll starting showing up, chomping his cigar and making his magic.”

Tonight, the muse found me; a beer provided the prompt, and I just filled in the rest.

I’d complained about it being a “Monday all day long” to my mom on the phone earlier; “Brad” came from Brad Pitt, whose cover story in GQ is all Twitter wants to talk about today, and because he famously was a journalism student at Mizzou who dropped out a few credits shy of his degree; his good friend became George (Clooney) because Ocean’s 11 is the coolest movie ever made of two handsome dudes just hanging out; the garage was half-empty; I always struggle to get my keys out of my pocket; the beer was sitting directly in front of my golf bag (for whatever reason, I counted the clubs when I realized, “Hey, someone was in your car.”).

My faith was rewarded. I spent much of the day stressing over what I would use to jump start this push to get myself writing every day, and it wasn’t until 10:30 p.m. that I found an answer. But the best part to me was that I’d stopped actively searching. When I was sitting there today with a single spotlight shining down on me imploring me to “think,” no thoughts would come. It took loosening my grip for the day to reveal its wonders to me. These thoughts are not profound, except to me, for whom they are. It’s just a great feeling, and I was excited to tell someone. Such is the beauty of writing, right?