Friday Fable: The Inspired Writer

You may know the old story of “The Mule:”

Mule photo by Juan Gnecco at
Mule photo by Juan Gnecco at

A mule who was used to lazing around munching grass for months on end, began to jump and gambol about one sunny day. It felt so good to stretch and move! “I feel invincible,” the mule thought. “I bet I could run for miles without tiring. My mother was a racehorse, after all. Speed and agility are in my blood. I’ll show the world the awesomeness that is me.”

Drunk on sunshine and endorphins, the mule took off down the dirt road. Her hooves pounded the ground, her blood coursed through her veins, her heart drummed in her chest and filled her mind with an undeniable beat of “I. Am. Awesome!”

She kept running for just as long as the awesomeness coursed through her, which was, oh, about three minutes, at which point she stumbled to a halt. “Oh my god, I’m so tired, I must have run halfway around the world,” she thought. She looked back, expecting the farm to be a distant glimmer on the horizon, but there it was just half a kilometre back, and looking pretty darn inviting with its troughs and haystacks and furry friends.

My photo (but not my ass).
My photo (but not my ass).

The mule trotted home on sore feet and aching legs, thankful that she hadn’t said that bit about showing the world her awesomeness out loud. “Oh well,” she thought. “My mom may have been a racehorse, but my dad was just an ass.”

And the moral is: There are two sides to every truth, so think of both before you head off down the road.

That is a good old tale, but if Aesop were a modern slave to the written word, he might have called his fable, “The Inspired (and Possibly Drunken) Writer:”

(I have no photos of drunken writers.)
(I have no photos of drunken writers.)

A writer who’d grown soft and lazy over summer vacation had a glass of wine with lunch and began to create a story. It felt so good to use her brain, to play with words, to let her imagination roam! An image popped into her mind of a key that could open a secret scroll on which was written the name of God, the meaning of life, the location of the fountain of youth, and the theory of everything. “That could be a good YA novel,” the writer thought.

She began to pace and gesticulate wildly. It felt so good to be creative! She poured another glass of wine and turned on her computer. She sat for hours, typing 80 wpm, on fire with her ideas. Her novel turned into a prose poem about a girl who’d been born with a magical key hanging from her neck but she’d lost the key when she was bitten by a gorgeous vampire on her 16th birthday and now she had to find the key to break the vampire’s curse and save the universe. “Genius,” the writer thought, pouring more wine.

She set her story in post-armageddon Africa and made her hero the daughter of an outcast who was aided in her quest by a fallen angel, a baboon, and a suicidal priest who turned out to be the girl’s biological father. “No one’s ever done that character combo before,” the writer thought. “Especially not as an epic poem. This is so inspired, it must be the divine speaking through me. I must finish this masterpiece tonight. Where did I put the Jack Daniels Honey Liqueur?”

The writer churned out pages for just as long as she felt inspired, which was, oh, about three hours, at which point she ran out of booze and began to doze off at the kitchen table. “God, I’m exhausted,” she thought. “I bet Milton took years to do what I did in one night. I’ll just have a read-through.”

She printed out her epic masterpiece but was shocked to discover it was 67 pages of mostly boring scenes of a guy thinking to himself or walking around yelling at his father while his pet baboon cheered him on with platitudes, interrupted by flashbacks of vampire battle scenes and clunky confessions of love. The whole thing was choppy and senseless and boring and, worst of all, it rhymed.

It may be best to compose your awesome epic while inspired and sober.
It may be best to compose your awesome epic while inspired and sober.

“But it was awesome in my head,” the writer thought. She stuffed the pages in a drawer and went up to bed, her breath rancid, her skull aching, her eyeballs itching. “It’s not so easy getting it on the page.”

And the moral is: Just because the creative process feels great doesn’t mean you’re creating something great. Alas.  

And that’s my Friday Fable. Have a great weekend. Why not go for a run or write an epic? Really, who cares if they turn out less than perfect? Doing it will feel great. And there are worse ways to spend an afternoon.

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