The Awakening of the Muse

Double Deadline Friday

All writers need inspiration to get the creative juices flowing. I have just had a Double Deadline Friday on my MA Professional Writing course at University College Falmouth.  Deadlines gird the loins but sometimes the spirit is lacking. David Lodge wrote a piece for the Guardian Book Club last month and spoke of the myriad range of influences that helped to develop the plot of one of his best selling novels, Small World. Amongst those he listed were: Homer’s Ulysses;James Joyce;Excalibur ( Film by John Boorman”);T.S.Eliot’s The Waste Land; Arthur Kingfisher.

 I thought it would be interesting to look at one of the pieces I submitted for Double Deadline Friday, ” A Shaft of Light” a short story of a man revisiting his childhood with slightly surreal and ghostly undertones. See full version of the story.

This is what I came up with:


 Macbeth- a text I studied for GCSE; Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold; To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf;The End of the Affair by Graham Greene; A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens;The Ice Lovers by Jean McNeil;The Bees by Carol Ann Duffy;The Sense of An Ending by Julian Barnes.


Sicily Unpacked BBC.


A performance of Metamorphoses: Fables from Ovid at Tremough Performance Centre,University College, Falmouth.


What he Wrote by Laura Marling ( a beautiful haunting song) allegedly based on love letters found from a First World War Soldier, stationed at the front, to his wife back in England. 

A Photograph

Bar Girl in a Brothel in the Red Light District, Havana, 1954- Eve Arnold.

Arnold captures and transmits that elusive quality that Cartier-Bresson defines as “The silence in somebody.”


The Clashing Rocks of Greek Mythology.

Some of the influences are easily detected in my piece:  the Catholicism of Graham Greene ; the three ghosts of Christmas; the three witches of Macbeth. Others like the sound of Laura Marling and the photographs of Arnold; they must work at a more indefinable subconscious level, but I know they helped to awaken the dormant muse as Double Deadline Friday approached.

Second Chances in Life


2012 sees the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens on the 7th February 1812 in Portsmouth. Accordingly there will be a surge of interest in the great writer. Claire Tomalin has written the definitive biography of Dickens and in a recent article, Ignorance and Want, in the Guardian Book Club series, edited by John Mullan, demonstrated the continuing relevance of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to today’s world

Scrooge, the main character, is given the chance on Christmas Eve to change his embittered, cold and miserly approach to life: a product of his unhappy childhood. He is visited by three ghosts, Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come.  The ghost of Christmas Present introduces two ragged, destitute, wolfish children, a boy called Ignorance and a girl called Want. They are the children of Man. The spirit evokes Scrooge’s own earlier words, in response to a question from Scrooge about the children, “Have they no refuge or resource?”, when he replies “Are there no prisons…are there no workhouses”. Tomalin reminds us that such an exchange could take place in today’s unequal society and at a time when the government tells us that we are “all in this together.”

I read the story on Christmas Eve in front of a roaring open fire at my mother’s house as I spent my first Christmas as a(nearly) divorced person, apart from my (soon to be) ex-wife and 24 year old daughter who had chosen to spend Christmas with neither of her parents. I had not read any of Dickens’s works before, not good for an aspiring writer!

A Christmas Carol is an inspirational and evocative work written by Dickens in response to the unremitting poverty of life in London in the 1840s. Scrooge is a good example of someone who earns a second chance in life by adopting a new positive outlook and facing up to personal challenges. I can relate to this and I have certainly had many conversations over the past couple of years with my own personal ghosts of past, present and future.

So as we enter 2012, I have survived my first Christmas in my new life, surrounded by my extended family, if not my immediate one. The Christmas Carols that I have been listening to have had a subdued feel.

Hopefully, like Scrooge, at the end of his story, I shall have no need for “further intercourse with Spirits” in my quest to become a writer and change my life around.