Here's what I did yesterday: Drank coffee and read the paper. Made the kids breakfast and lunches and threw them out the door. Played a couple hands of Words with Friends. Ate breakfast. Called the yard guy. Took a shower. Played a couple rounds of Words with Friends. Started the dishwasher. Read a chapter of my book. Emptied the dryer, reloaded it, stuffed a pile of whites into the washing machine. Dumped the clean stuff on the bed and contemplated folding it. Read the rest of the newspaper. Made myself a slice of bread and butter. Played a couple rounds of Words with Friends. Pulled out my WIP. Ate another slice of bread and butter. Unloaded the dishwasher. Cleaned the coffee pot. Eyed the notebook with my WIP. Thought about making bread pudding. Brewed a pot of tea. Called my mother-in-law. Checked my email. Played a couple hands of Words with Friends. Eyed the WIP again. Sighed.
And then I sat down.
A few weeks ago, my daughter's school hosted a children's poet for their annual author visit. One of my daughter's best friends, an aspiring writer, asked him what she asks every author she encounters: What advice does he have for a young writer? His answer was brilliant, I thought: "Sit down," he said.
Writers talk about the muse, capturing the muse, the muse taking vacation, wandering off, sparking creativity. I suppose the Web is crawling with articles about finding the muse, harnessing the muse, leashing the muse. For me, the obnoxious thing is, the muse is usually wherever I am, but it needs a lap. So I stand up, fiddle at the stove, fold laundry (or not), walk the dog, do anything but the simple act of sitting down.
I have no idea why I do this. I do know I am far from alone (including, one would presume from his answer, this poet who has published reliably for some fourteen years). If the Web is stuffed with information about the muse, it is equally packed with lamentations about the difficulty of the actual act of sitting down and picking up the pen and letting the fingers translate the brain. Writing itself can be hard for many writers; getting to the place to let the writing happen is the bigger struggle for others. My hat is off to the writers who fight for both, and yet manage to produce work after work anyhow.
Here's what I did yesterday: I finally sat down. And just as I knew would be the case, there the muse was, in my lap, just waiting to let me let it get cozy and do its thing. Which it did. Which it will do again today, and tomorrow, and every day if I just sit down. And again, and again, and again, just sit down until the WIP is no longer a work in progress, but a manuscript, and the real work can begin.