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Pamela Fagan Hutchins | Fickle is the muse.

Writing in my backyard during the nicest week of the year in Houston, two laptops ago, on Lil Red.

Sometimes my fingers fly and still can’t keep up with the words pouring out of my head across the screen. Literally, the characters dance ahead of me across the lines, turning, stopping, taunting, tongue out and thumbs in ears with fingers waggling, the little scoundrels.

Other times, my fingers hover uneasily, waiting for divine inspiration, guilty with inactivity, searching for something to deliver if not to the screen then to my stomach in compensation. Maybe if we feed the muse, she will deliver unto us again?

She doesn’t, but my butt grows bigger in my cushy black office chair, the one I bought at a yard sale for $25, and the most comfortable chair I’ve ever owned. But I digress. Aย  bigger butt? Not the desired outcome.

In May, I wrote 70,000 words. In mid-July, I submitted a completed novel based on those words to my editor. It is now finished, it is beautiful, it is the best thing I’ve ever written.

“Holy crap,” I thought. “I’ve figured this writing thing out. I can DO this.”

I sat down again in mid-July. I flexed my fingers. I wiggled them, waggled them. I placed them on the keys.


I adjusted my position in my seat. A few pages of wooden, colorless gibberish spurt out like literary baby poo.

I ate some slutty brownies. I repositioned my tush in its throne, the seat a bit tighter now, but for a good cause. I ground through 20,000 words of garbage over three weeks. I cried. I cried some more. I bought new running shoes. I went out to run and came back inside. I was too fat to run in 100 degrees.


It’s August 15th as I type this post. My rough manuscript is due September 1st. At least, it was. I begged for an extension. Now I have until September 10th. Meanwhile, real life caught up with me, ate up my window of writing opportunity. A visit from the MIL for a few weeks. Kids home for the summer. The day job rearing its ugly head after a blessed break.

All of this overtook me and left me high and dry, until I thought I left my laptop cord at my parents’ house. Now, it turns out I didn’t actually leave it there. Hold that thought. But the belief that it was missing was critical. Because I bought a new laptop six weeks ago. A different laptop then the piece-o-crap that I typed my last 6.5 books on. That laptop got fried by an aftermarket power cord early in its life, and even the greatness that is MicroCenter could not restore that laptop to its original awesomeness. It also has a piece of duct tape where a key I have learned to live without used to be. It looks pretty classy. Cheapass that I am (thanks, Dad, I got all my best qualities from you), I refused to give in. I soldiered on through problems interminable for another year with that thing. Then I wrote “the end” on Saving Grace, sent it to Meghan, and bought a shiny new machine.

Oh, it’s beautiful. It is sooooo much easier to use than the old one. It has a name: the Zenbook. Peace flows like a river from its keys. So happy was I about the new possibilities of the Zenbook that I rented an office, to create further peace in my world. The office is quiet. Cool. Dark, like I crave, vampire that I am. The Zenbook and I should have been HEROIC under those conditions.


Should have been.

Alas, we did not live up to expectations.

And then…then…then, I thought I lost my Zenbook power cord. For three angst-ridden hours, I was forced back on to the machine that so tortured me, I didn’t bother naming him. I had gone in 2010 from my adorable Lil Red to the “nameless horror” to the peace of my Zenbook in 2012. I booted up the slug. I suffered through a morning of forced updates, check disks, troubleshooting flaky internet connections, and locked screens. It felt oh-so-familiar. I thought again about the files I needed to sift through and backup.

A thought snuck through my gloom (traitorous brain) reminding meย of all we –this piece of junk and I — had done together, despite its many and obvious shortcomings.

I rebooted yet again, after uninstalling a program that is a recurring bug on the infernal machine. It pops up every three months, and by pop up I mean literally while I have a PowerPoint slide deck projected onto a screen in front of a room full of paying customers, a “please choose your language” box pops up. Whereupon inevitably one person in the class is an IT guy and he says, “Looks like you have a virus. I can fix that for you.” And on break I let him think he does so, knowing full well I’ll see my little friend again next quarter.

And that’s when it hit me. That’s when I just knew. I couldn’t finish my WIP novel on the Zenbook. The fickle muse wanted me back on whatever-the-hell this machine’s name was. I would have to put the 2.7-pound, sleek, fast, unbuggy Zenbook away for now, and beat my head against the ten-pound, clunky, slow, infected monstrosity that … that … that…had yielded the best thing I had ever written only two months ago.


I am vanquished. I admit defeat. “Katie #2” (as the WIP pupa aka Leaving Annalise” is called with confusion and affection amongst my editorial team {Meghan, Eric, Heidi, Allie, and me}) shall emerge from her chrysalis on my battered silver monster.

“Let the words begin again,” she said. And it was good.



p.s. Oh, and lest you are worried about the missing power cord, you can put your mind at ease: Allie found it for me this afternoon. In my laptop bag.


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27 Responses to Fickle is the muse.

  1. Heidi Dorey says:

    When I read this I see you as the woman on the mock cover.

  2. I don’t know why it is that old worn out things tend to make us that much more able to create.

    I am finally after a year able to type at my desk in the new office. Although the good procrastination monster – like rearranging the furniture – is always poking me in the shoulder. Do it. Do it, now.
    But the last time I rearranged my desk with the computer on it – I started a fire. Hence the fire alarm over the monitor and the TUNDRA (fire stop chemical) sitting on the shelf behind me.

  3. Ally says:

    I hate it when the power cords hide in the laptop bag. I just may have experienced this once. Or maybe twice.

    It’s not really defeat, it’s just reverting to a comfortable place for creation. Or something. You need some writing mojo for your new machine! :)

  4. Vidya Sury says:

    ๐Ÿ˜€ This only happens to my glasses. I am usually wearing them when I look for them

    Your laptop is a divine being. Go forth and publish! :-) I have an ancient that bugs the s out of me too – and after I struggle on my new desktop, firing up the little beast always clears up the mental glitches. Wicked machine.

    Hugs – I had a good laugh over your ole laptop!

  5. How timely this was! I spent the majority of today . . . ahem, YESTERDAY . . . trying to get my iMac “fixed”. It’s been running terribly slow, for months, and shutting down applications often requires “force quitting” them. A very sweet man in Portland, Oregon spent at least two hours with me and reassured me, after I’d done all the different “repair disk” this and “reinstall” that’s that he instructed me to do . . . he reassured me that I would be good to go.

    Um. No.

    Ah, well. She’s up and running again. Albeit, somewhat slowly. I resisted the temptation to melt the numbers on our Best Buy card with a brand-new Macbook Pro and your post has convinced me to hold on to the faith in ol’ Bessie here. Thanks. :)

  6. every time I read the title “Leaving Annalise”, I can’t help but chuckle at the alternate title. I actually laughed aloud at home once, and wanted to explain it to Tracey, but there were kiddos nearby…
    I find similar inspirational surges when i listen to older music. And by older i mean Mozart, Haydn, etc.

  7. Ann says:

    Comfort zones – we all have them. Glad to here you found it.

  8. […] read the rest of “Fickle is the Muse,” CLICK HERE, which will take you to the original post on Pamela Fagan Hutchins’ blog, […]

  9. Tracy says:

    Ahhhh- it’s funny what becomes “home” to us, isn’t it?
    I used to have a pen like that. I cranked out a whole year on the Dean’s list at school using it…when I used to write, and not type.
    That was actually only 5 years ago. I hated WORD.
    I lost the pen. Sometimes I still look for it.
    I’m glad you’re feeling inspired:)

  10. So here I am in a Mississippi hotel on my OLD 2006 Gateway huge laptop, fussing all the way. I guess I will quit fussing since you are right – I’ve done more work this week on this heavy thang listening to old rock-n-roll than on my newer but still old desktop. I love your Zenbook (looked it up). It may be my next laptop. So sleek! Another very funny post and look into the warped mind of Miss P. I just read that certain house plants help with creativity – fill your dark gloomy vampire room with some plants!

  11. Bill Dorman says:

    And it was good.

    My laptop, which is also might office laptop is just about kaput. They have order me a ‘notebook’ for the time being until we decide what we are going to do in the Fall. Hopefully the inspiration won’t leave with the ‘old’ machine………

  12. Eric Hutchins via Facebook says:

    I thought I was the Muse???

  13. I can totally related about the old laptop. I am currently typing on one but this your laptop makes this one look shiny brand new. I hope you met your deadline and that all is well with the clan.

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