But if popular mind now understands the archetype of the Mad Scientist or the Mad Programmer as driven to create, it has a poorer understanding of those in thrall of the muse of literature. That is probably because it is easier to fake writing than it is to fake code; and the temple of that Muse is thronged with counterfeits. But to the true devotees in that crowd, Saul Bellow warned against the “unexpected intrusions of beauty.” For it would compel you to utter the things you had to say. It would take you to the place you had to go. Bellow compared answering that Muse to prayer:
I feel that art has something to do with the achievement of stillness in the midst of chaos. A stillness which characterizes prayer, too, and the eye of the storm. I think that art has something to do with an arrest of attention in the midst of distraction.
And that is one description of the voice that some people can never escape. So when Roger says, “I am going to return to my creative writing while I still, to be honest, have some ability to do it” he has in some sense no choice in the matter. There are some things he has to say before the curtain falls.
Thus began the Iliad:
Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus’ son Achilleus
and its devastation, which put pains thousandfold upon the Achaians,
hurled in their multitudes to the house of Hades strong souls
of heroes, but gave their bodies to be the delicate feasting
of dogs, of all birds, and the will of Zeus was accomplished
since that time when first there stood in division of conflict
Atreus’ son the lord of men and brilliant Achilleus.
And thus began the Odyssey:
Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story
of that man skilled in all ways of contending,
the wanderer, harried for years on end,
after he plundered the stronghold
on the proud height of Troy.
Thus begins our life: sing. And never mind the path behind.