Behold, the creative muse. Maddening. Ungainly. Inconsistent. Unpredictable. Ugly. by Dr. Timothy Lawver
In October of 2011, I decided I would write a very serious novel for National Novel Writing Month, the challenge to write a 50,000 word novel between November 1 and December 1. I plotted it out, a tense zombie novel with what I thought was a novel concept, filled with suspense, wit, drama, and just enough gore to justify the fear.
Enter Captain Weller, a tad over six feet tall, solidly built, shaved head, but with a mirthful smile that stood in contrast to his imposing form. He was one-fifth of our little mental health-contingent at FOB Fenty in Afghanistan. A likable fellow. He and the rest of the team knew that I, their fearless leader, was going to attempt my very serious zombie novel. My very carefully planned novel. My precious unborn child, as it were.
Thus, late on October 31, my friend decided to throw out, “What about a vegetarian zombie? I’ve never seen a zombie movie with that in it.”
Damn him and his contemptibly wonderful idea.
Out went the plot, the setting, and the carefully constructed female protagonist. Out went everything really, except the word zombie. Plan completely yet delightfully ruined, I barreled through a narrative that seemed to create itself as I went. A bad idea. A fool’s errand. A meandering mess of sheer beauty. A neurotic fool writing about a neurotic fool who gets himself bitten only to wind up a highly neurotic zombie who just can’t bring himself to eat people, no matter how much his new zombie impulses push him to consume the living. Somehow, by the end of it all both I and my undead creation found some meaning in it all.
Frankly, it wound up being one of my favourite things I’ve ever written, and after a lot of revision and editing, became ‘The Peanut Butter and Jelly Zombie’.
Seek not the pristine muse of your imagining. Instead, keep a careful watch for the inspiration that fate may present to you.
Dr. Timothy Lawver is a practicing psychiatrist, veteran, and author in the Bay Area. He lives there with his wife, two kids, a dog, and a head full of ideas.