Sometime in 1929, while holed up with the flu at a fancy hotel in Shanghai, my favorite playwright, Noel Coward, woke up in the middle of the night, picked up pen and paper, and wrote his signature comedy, Private Lives.
Evidently, I’ve caught a different strain of the flu.
I’ve read he woke up with a vision of his muse, the seductive actress Gertrude Lawrence, wearing a clingy white dress by the French designer Molineux.
I woke up looking for the roll of toilet paper that I took to bed, knowing I’d get up at some point with snot rolling down my face.
They say that the great writers can write anywhere, under any kind of adversity… physical, mental, or environmental. St. Therese wrote The Story of a Soul in a tiny convent cell, while wracked with tuberculosis. Anne Frank wrote her diary in her cramped and secret annex, filled with a lot of frightened, cranky people…including pheromone-driven adolescents.
Me? I’m only writing right now because I’ve spent two days in bed, watching television, and the fear of becoming a vegetable is starting to set in. While the flu has given me a golden excuse to be unproductive, should I really accept it as permission from the heavens to watch hour after wasted hour of Family Feud?
If Coward had felt that way, he wouldn’t have written my favorite play… and my daughter, who’s named after the leading character, would probably have a much more pedestrian moniker.
So here I am at my computer, sometime after 2:00 a.m., waiting for the inspiration for my own Private Lives. And waiting. And waiting. And this is where I confront my bete noir: I’m afraid I have no story to tell.
Meanwhile, I’m cold, my nose hurts, my eyes sting, and I have one of those peculiar influenza headaches that pains you right from the root of your hair.
So I’m going to go back to bed, and I’m going to resist the urge to turn on the TV set, so the happy cacophony of the Game Show Network can rob me of thought till I fall asleep. I’m going to go to bed in silence… then maybe, maybe, a muse with a story will cut through my slumber and inspire the creation of something worth reading.