December 11, 2023 | Rome, Italy

Checking on the water lilies

By |2018-03-21T19:05:57+01:00May 24th, 2015|First Person|
But is she hiring?

y father worked for Mobil for his entire professional life. Somewhat affectionately, he refers to it as Mother Mobil. When my brother eventually retires from Northwestern Mutual he too will have worked for one company for most of his adult life. Despite generational and technological changes, corporations and loyalties to them still exist.

Personally, I’d like to pledge to working for the Muse of Writing, but:

  1. She’s not hiring full-time employees;

  2. The benefits are barely tangible and,

  3. I can’t seem to get an appointment with her to clinch the deal.

And so I dance. I swing, foxtrot, and tango. I write short stories, translations, and blogs. I dance from one job to the next, from one form of communication to the next. It’s not confusing. I feel no split. I think of it as an exercise, rhythm training for the long-term event that will take up all my thoughts and concentration.

Even though I’ve had my share of success, the Muse continues to resist. She knows reviews of my literary translations have been mentioned in major publications, but she doesn’t care. A short story of mine recently won a minor literary prize, which made me happy, but it didn’t make me a writer (or get me an audience with the Muse). I’ll be giving a lecture on literary translation in Rome in June but that doesn’t mean I’m successful. I promote wineries and museums and artwork to well-connected people on behalf of clients, but that doesn’t make me a sommelier or a dealer or a patron of the arts.

The benefits of working for the Muse are few. They do not include health care, travel perks, hotel stays, free cars, or cash. They do include headaches, malaise, self-scrutiny, doubts, anti-social behavior, odd longings. For me, conflicting thoughts are run-of-the-mill. A usual freight train of thought goes something like this: “I want to throw a party for all my friends with a live band and a porchetta!”

This, in turn, is modified to: “Maybe a simple dinner with a few close friends would be better.”

After a few seconds, it becomes: “I wonder how my water lilies are growing. Let me go find out.”

But when push comes to shove, the Muse is a good boss — even if you’re just freelancing for her. She accepts dreamy attitudes and encourages gardening (and any other reflective pastime or sport). There’s no dress code, and four-legged household pets are her consuls, ensuring you stick to routines.

So if you know her and have an in with her, please tell her that I’ve tried calling – I really have — but that her phone is always off. Tell her that I’d be thrilled to work – or even consult – for her on a more regular basis. I know I’ve been a little too pushy at times and some texts come out garbled. I’m learning to be more delicate, hoping she’ll hear me.

“I left a bowl of milk on the desk to tempt you,” poet Mark Strand lamented in “My Life by Someone Else.” I tried that once to beckon the Muse of Writing but my cat got diarrhea. And I got nowhere.

But I do keep trying. My jumbling has become more orderly, as my editor can attest. In fact, I can now confidently say, “You’ve come a long way, baby.” Just don’t be surprised if this assertion is immediately followed by another voice that says, “Now let’s go check on the water lilies.”

About the Author:

Stransky lives Tuscany and wrote the "La Una" column between 2014 and 2017.