When I first started writing, I thought I had to be “in the zone” for my work to be truly good. The muse had to be talking to me and the words had to flow from my fingers like water in a stream in spring. Now, don’t get me wrong, when things flow it feels amazing, but if you wait for the muse there is a good chance you could be waiting a while. My perspective on this didn’t change on its own, but thankfully I found something that helped me realize why waiting for the muse was a bit futile.
I went to a writing workshop and the teacher recommended the book “The War of Art” by Robert Pressfield. In his book, Pressfield talks about how the professional shows up for work and does their work. Even though we as writers often think of ourselves as artists or creative minds, we still need to treat writing or creating like a job, if we expect to make money off it. Don’t get me wrong, I know people who can’t wait to write, who spend their day fully inspired and mill out thousands upon thousands of words a day and make it look very easy.
I am not one of those people. I have to fight to make myself sit down and do my work. I have to fight my mind to stay away from all the distractions of the world. But I’m good at getting organized and keeping to a schedule when I’m committed.
So now, every Monday I make a list of my goals for the week. I also know what I need to get accomplished by Friday, and I know when I’m going to work. I’m lucky enough to be able to commit myself full time to writing, but if you’re working another job while you try to build a writing career, it’s still important to set goals and set aside time to get your “work” done. Even if it’s just a half hour a day, that half hour will get closer each week to where you want to be.
So don’t wait for the muse. Get to that desk, kitchen table, notebook at the library, and do your writing. If you do it regularly and show up, you’ll be surprised how often the muse decides to join you. When you’re regular, she’s more likely to be as well.
And go back and read work you wrote when you weren’t necessarily “in the zone,” there’s a good chance it’s just as good as when things are flowing. The zone really is just perception.
So get out there, and keep writing. Muse be damned.