Posts Tagged ‘Roger Ebert’

A muse named Art

January 11, 2011

Andrew Hicks

The blank page is the writer’s worst enemy, they say. I don’t know who “they” happen to be, because I’ve never actually heard anyone say that. I think the writer’s worst enemy is probably fire. Fire destroys paper, it destroys computers, it makes the temperature in the room too uncomfortable for the writer to think of anything creative, and forget trying to get yourself readership when the building’s on fire.

But the blank page is a bastard. Starting to write — to really productively, thoughtfully write — is sometimes a process that can take days or even years. The fallacy is making yourself think that, when inspiration strikes, that’s when you’ll blaze a trail of words. Roger Ebert had a great quote along these lines: “The Muse visits during, not before, the act of composition.”

Many times, I’ve sat down to write this blog and, after finishing the post, ended up deleting the entire introductory paragraph or two. Because the true writing starts when the Muse arrives, and the Muse doesn’t usually feel at home until the words are already pouring out.

I do realize how stupid I sound writing about the Muse and even capitalizing the word. I’m mainly referencing Roger on that one. I’m the guy who got a good gut laugh from learning that Carlos Santana is visited by a muse named Art. That’s not short for Arthur. It’s short for All The Great ART That Ever There Was, Featuring Rob Thomas.

The reason I broach this topic, though, is that prior to my commitment on January 1st to produce a blog a day in 2011, I wouldn’t have even cracked the laptop lid to write a post on a day like today. It was an easy, routine, pleasant, somewhat dull day, and nothing leapt out at me as being worth capturing.

I’ve got a few cute kid stories stacked up, I’ve got some interesting backstory I haven’t touched yet, and I could always just write about baby poop and Beefaroni for 350 words, but muse or no muse, I can’t bring myself to go down that path today.

So this is what stream of consciousness writing looks like for me, I guess. This is the writing you get to read when I have to write and either don’t feel like I have anything to say or don’t want to say the few things I do have to say.

A muse named Art. A blank page. Poop. Beefaroni. “Real” words to follow tomorrow. Maybe.


Silas in the hand-me-down bouncer.

Mr Mom, meet Mrs Donkey

November 8, 2010

Andrew Hicks

The babies and I have been back home for a week and a half, and it’s wake-to-sleep childcare, house chores and writing for me, with some lazy patches in the middle. I’m enjoying it, and the days when I wasn’t surrounded by my tiny progeny seem distant already. Silas is a calm, sweet-natured baby with occasional fussy times. Sarah is an adorable, curious little chatterbox who is almost always amused, loving or both.

Lately, Sarah’s been really cracking me up, too. She grabbed one of her favorite books, opened it up and pretended to read, “One time, there was a story. The end,” and closed the book. I’ve since made those eight great words into a catchy Nate Dogg chorus. Ask me to acapella it if you ever run into me at Karaoke by Kris in the bowling alley lounge.

Another hilarious Sarah exchange came just after she’d woken up, bright-eyed from a good night’s sleep, and was lowered into her highchair to eat some breakfast. She stretched out her arms, threw her head back and announced, pseudo-dramatically, “Sooo tired.” I replied as if she was being silly: “You are not,” and she insisted, “Am!” Does Reader’s Digest still pay people like $300 for Very Cute Little Kid jokes? I admit, I used to love all the Reader’s Digest domestic niche-joke columns: “Humor in Uniform,” “Life in These United States,” “My Time in Juvey,” etc.

Fictional armchair philosopher and ADD sufferer Jerry Maguire would insist that we live in a cynical world, but it really doesn’t seem like it when I spend an unseasonably warm fall afternoon hanging out in my big backyard with my little play-buddy. Stuff like that truly is “what it’s all about,” even more so than the Hokey Pokey. My heart melts when Sarah excitedly calls out “Daddy! Daddy!” Although, I admit, sometimes I’ve already heard “Daddy! Daddy!” a hundred times in the last ten minutes, and I start to wonder where Mommy! Mommy! is hiding herself.

More than anything lately, Sarah likes to sit in my lap and have me read her books. Sarah’s current favorite little-kid book is called Mother, Mother, I Want Another. Very basic, intriguing little plot for a toddler. Baby Mouse is put to bed and, as mom’s leaving him to sleep, he asks mom, “Can I have another, mother?” Mrs. Mouse freaks out: “What? You want another mother?! Whatever will I do?”

Mayhem ensues as Mrs. Mouse dashes off to grab, one at a time, Mrs. Duck, Mrs. Frog, Mrs. Pig and Mrs. Donkey, and they all sing lullabies to Baby Mouse. Finally, Baby Mouse explains that their lullabies were great and all, but he really just wanted another kiss from his mother. Ohhhhhh… all the Mrs. Animals say, and they all realized they were yanked away from their families for a completely false emergency. Baby Mouse should’ve spoken his ass up sooner.

Good lessons here: Misunderstandings are a waste of time, clear communication is necessary, and damn, does Mrs. Donkey have some bad breath.  Sarah right now likes MMIWA at least as much as famed film critic Pauline Kael enjoyed Chinatown, “with its beautifully structured script and draggy, overdeliberate direction.”

Sarah subscribes to an activities magazine for preschool kids. It transfixes her even though she has no clue yet how to play the counting games and run her little crayon through the mazes. Her favorite thing to stop, point and shriek at is the tiny cover art of some PBS semi-all-star Christmas DVD they’re shilling in an ad. This particular picture, like an inch tall, is buried among lots of other visual noise, but Sarah is repeatedly drawn straight to it. And she’s always excited to point to the mini-image of each little kid mascot when I ask, “Which one’s Thomas the Train? Which one’s Barney? Which one’s Fireman Sam?”

Sarah’s good at pointing to those little head-and-shoulder shots of popular children’s characters that sometimes appear on the front and back inside covers of kid books. And she’s pretty accurate at identifying the purple horse, black sheep and white dog in the sophisticated children’s masterpiece Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Sarah right now likes BBBBWDYS as much as Roger Ebert hated Mad Dog Time. “Watching it,” declared Rog, “is like waiting for the bus in a city where you’re not sure they have a bus line.”

Single me would bitch-slap married me for spending 800 words on the redemptive beauty of being around my children. I’ve already been accused of selling out, although to me the key component of selling out involves receiving money. Maybe I’m selling out on consignment. I should ask Mrs. Donkey what she thinks… What? Oh, Pauline. Her name is Pauline, not Mrs. Donkey. I always forget.


Sarah swings.