“Another year, another novel that hasn’t quite been finished but has the requisite number of words.” My muse, a blatant appropriation of Stephen King’s concept thereof as expressed in On Writing, cracks open the fridge and retrieves a cold beer. I keep it on hand for guests, being a de facto teetotaler myself; I don’t know where he got the Cuban cigar that billows smoke all over my single-room downstairs.

Since my muse is an insubstantial personification of my creative drive, albeit one ever so slightly ripped off from a more successful author, I don’t suppose it really matters.

“It’s not just the number of words,” I say. “I’ve takes one of the stories I wanted to tell and given it a good start. It barely existed before and now it’s 300k on my hard drive.”

“300 unfinished k, you mean.” My muse emerges from the fridge with beer and leftover barbecue chicken strips. “Don’t you think it’s about time you finished the others?”

“What others?” I bristle. “There’s only the project at hand, nothing else.”

I mean it as a metaphor, but it’s taken literally. “The story about those kids finding alternate dimensions with giant landsquid for one,” my muse says. “Don’t forget the unfinished noir detective novel about a librarian, and the comic wish-fulfillment tale of the assassin and the accountant.”

“I’ll get to them in time,” I say, a little defensive. “It doesn’t matter if they’re finished. What matters is that I wrote something that didn’t exist before. It’s good even if it’s a little rough.”

The muse sits down heavily on my couch and fires up the Xbox. “What about the one from 2008, where you tried to stretch that 500-word short story into a tale ten times its length, and wound up so desperate for wordcount that you undid all your contractions a half-hour before midnight on the last day?”

“Don’t bring that one up,” I snap. “It was an election year and I had a new job. Too many distractions!”

“Whoa there, killer,” my muse says without looking up from the first-person shooter he’s working away at. “Did I touch a nerve? Don’t forget that it was a failure for me too. Or do you think part of a novel each year and a blog post a day is nothing for me?”

“I’m sorry,” I say. “It’s a stressful time even without the novel.”

“But you’re glad you did it again this year?”

“Yeah.”

“Well then,” my muse says, wreathed in smoke and barbecue beer fumes. “That’s all that matters.”

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