When inspiration strikes, it can feel like lightning from heaven. We all know that feeling of being so passionate about something that we just need to get it on the page – and we don’t stop until it’s written. That can be an amazing feeling.
However, we can also have droughts when there’s not a lightning cloud in sight. Inspiration to write doesn’t always come at the snap of your fingers. Sometimes there’s no inspiration. Sometimes the simple act of sitting down to write can feel like pulling teeth. We take walks, go to the gym, clean the house, cook, go out to eat, socialize – anything to distract ourselves from what we know we should be doing: writing.
There is a famous quote about writing that the hardest part is sitting one’s ass in the chair. Over the years, I’ve actually come to believe this is true. The hardest part is making the commitment to do it. But, once the commitment is made, despite what may or may not make it to the page, that’s the bigger part of the battle (um, until we hit the rewrites).
I am a firm believer in muscle memory. Just as a dancer knows the steps without having to think about them, there is a certain right-brain doorway that opens up when the writer who writes regularly sits down to write. Sitting down to do the work, you will create a certain mind-body memory that will bridge the gap. If you just commit to showing up, something will find its way to the page.
Many great and prolific writers write religiously, every day, in one block of time – say, seven to eleven am, or eight to midnight. I used to think that the whole writing every day at the same time thing was nonsense. I thought I could just write whenever I wanted and be as productive as any other day. I thought I could write a lot one week and skip the next. However, over the years, my body has fallen into a rhythm. Especially since I’ve moved here to Santa Fe, I am writing every day. If a day goes by that I haven’t written, I feel like I forgot to do something that’s essential to my beingness such as drinking water or sleeping. This feeling is unsettling – enough so that I really don’t miss a day of writing here. My body actually tells me when it needs to write, just as when I need to go to sleep. I’ve started taking these cues very seriously and thus I’m producing more.
If you can ride the lightning, do it – I’m sure there’s magic to be harvested there. However, if there’s no magic in the moment, and the only thing you’re left with is pulling out your hair strand by strand, just show up. Sit down in your writing space. Use that time. Even if that time is just playing with ideas or your imagination, something will grow out of that. The more you sit, the more you’ll grow.