So many writers wait to be inspired before sitting down to write.
They believe that they must be struck with a brilliant idea, like a bolt of lightning from the sky, before it’s time to start writing.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
As Steven Pressfield (The Legend of Bagger Vance) teaches in his book Turning Pro:
“The professional does not wait for inspiration; he acts in anticipation of it. He knows that when the Muse sees his butt in the chair, she will deliver.”
Similarly, business coach Naomi Dunford says, “The muse will not arrive. You have to handcuff the muse and drag it into your office.”
The downfall of waiting for the muse
The flawed logic of waiting for writing inspiration to arrive is that most often, inspiration and new ideas arise when we are consistently tending our work. Sure, we might get the sudden inspiration, but what if we don’t? Will we wait forever for the burning bush or the dancing Elvis to arrive?
In fact, a well-known researcher in the realm of academic writing, David Boice, has found that writers who write on a daily basis are twice as likely to have frequent creative thoughts as writers who write when they “feel like it.”
The reason for this is that when we are regularly engaged with our work, our subconscious mind is constantly connected to it, solving problems, developing ideas, and answering questions even while we’re doing other things like washing dishes, exercising, and even daydreaming. By writing regularly, we set ourselves up for situations in which those flashes of insight are more likely to occur.
Pressfield notes in his post “Personal Anguish“:
“The Muse, if she’ll forgive me, is kind of like a mailman. She makes her rounds every day, cruising past our offices and studios and peeking in the window. Are we there at our easels? The Muse likes that. She likes to see us taking care of business. And if we’re there with our hearts breaking or tears streaming down our cheeks, all the better. The Muse says to herself, ‘This poor bastard is true to me; I’m gonna give him something in return for his loyalty.’”
Make writing a habit
Plus, when you write regularly and have truly built a habit around it, you don’t have to think about it. There’s a lot less resistance to overcome. It’s strangely easier to just get up in the morning and write first thing than it is to make it happen later in the day.
You don’t have to discipline yourself or force yourself once you’ve created a ritual out of it.
Mike Bechtle in his article, “Overcoming Writer’s Block Without Willpower” (in the latest print issue of Writer’s Digest) says, “…when something becomes a habit, it no longer dips into your willpower supply” — something most of us can attest is usually in short supply when it comes to writing (and other life-affirming actions like exercising and eating well).
Build up to inspiration
In the realm of screenwriting, we’re encouraged to work on high concepts right from the start. But how does one develop something high concept if not by waiting for the muse? Doesn’t that require one of those lightning strikes to work?
The answer — again — is to make a practice of constantly brainstorming, elevating, testing, and developing your initial flashes and ideas (such as ScreenwritingU‘s “High Concept” module teaches). Haven’t we all made the mistake of quickly dismissing an idea without giving it a chance? What if you instead put each one through its paces as part of your daily writing routine?
You won’t be waiting for the muse for writing inspiration, you’ll be inviting her to join you.
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