Tuesday, July 23, 2019

ON WRITING: Luring the Muse (hint--make it a habit)

Luck.  Inspiration.  The Muse.

When discussing writing . . . it's all drivel.  An anthropomorphizing of human ideas that romanticizes writing to an almost divine plane, while also diminishing it by ignoring the amount of work that goes into the act of writing.  You can wait until inspiration strikes.  Wait for the muse to land on your shoulder.  Hope for a lucky break.  But if you're focusing on this, you're probably not writing, and that's the key to it all.

The biggest problem with this romanticization is the fact that it takes a writer's success out of their hands, relegating it to some outside force.  Now, this may be well and good if the writer in question wants to deflect the harsh feeling of rejection away from themselves--it can be a coping mechanism, sure.  But it also means they needn't take any responsibility for their shortcomings (and all of us who write have those; it's just a matter of being self-reflective enough to recognize them).  You have to be proactive if you want to write and be successful.  You need to put in the work.  You need to read.  You need to analyze.  You need to write.  And you need to submit.  Do the damn work, if you want to be a writer.

And even then, there's no guarantee you will find success.

If you want The Muse (TM) to visit, to inspire you, to make the words flow from your fingers like golden skeins of thread being woven by the ancient Gods, there is something you can do.  Make your writing a habit.

It's not an easy thing to sit down with a blank page and start to write.  It takes a bit of ego, a bit of talent, a bit of delusion.  Most importantly, though, it takes persistence.  So, make writing a habit, and make it as regular a thing as you can.  When you sit to write (especially if you're starting out), do it at the same time of day, in the same spot, with (as near as possible) the same circumstances, every single day.  Writing is like working out, except it's using different muscles--if we want to think of the brain as a muscle, especially.  And, like working out or practicing with your teammates, you can develop a muscle memory with writing, as well.  Writing at the same time of day in the same place allows it to become familiar, taking away some of the anxiety that can cause writer's block.  Eventually, it just becomes part of your routine.  It will feel natural to sit down and write, something as familiar as brushing your teeth when you wake in the morning or slipping on your silk pajamas before watching "This Is Us" (because we all have silk PJs, right?).

Once you're comfortably in the habit, you'll be less anxious about it, just a natural part of your day.  And, you'll find that the words come to you more easily, that inspiration arrives more often and without as much struggle, that your fingers just seem to get away from you, racing to keep up with your imagination.  Keep in mind, also, that it behooves you to set a daily goal for your writing, so that you're always moving forward.  This can be whatever works best for you--a timed goal like an hour of writing, or a quantifiable word count: 500, 1000, 3000.  We're all different, so we have to find what's most comfortable for us.  But having that daily goal allows you to achieve one of the most important rules of writing I can think of, as stated by Neil Gaiman, "finish what you're writing."

And if you finish what you write, then you can begin to make your own luck, which, as with The Muse (TM), comes with making your writing a habit.  

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