Persistence and the Muse

Writers write.

It’s a simple, even trite, phrase but it relates a basic truth: a writer makes words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, and paragraphs into stories (substitute stanzas and poems for paragraphs and stories respectively if you are of a more poetic bent). A writer who is not performing that act of serial creation, who is not working with their words and the other raw stuff of their art, risks at some point not being a writer any more.

Every writer – every person – has moods, times when something that must be done is easier or harder. There are parts of every task which are dull, or arduous, or scary. Writing, like anything else worthwhile, is work and that work takes persistence. Not writing today because of a family emergency or because the opium hangover is particularly bad is of course fine, unavoidable even, but if the work remains undone because there is always a crisis or always a substance-abuse-related malady then that suggests the author is lacking persistence*.

My favourite quote relating to this requirement for persistence was written about fencing:

The hardest thing about fencing is not to fence when you feel like it, but to fence when you do not.

– Nick Evangelista, “The Art and Science of Fencing”

One of the great benefits of NaNoWriMo is to force you to make words even when you do not necessarily feel like it. During November, the nascent writer is introduced to the regular practice of being in front of a writing device of some kind, and of having a firm requirement that a certain number of words must be fed to that writing device before walking away from it.

This is the basic point of my goal to establish a daily writing practice – not so much that I write every day, but that I get in the habit of being ready to write every day: that I work with my words all the time.

At the moment my writing time is occupied with reading my manuscript. That’s all right – it is still part of my writing practice. I keep on having ideas about the story and about other stories because I am in touch with the characters and setting. I am ready for when the ideas come.

And when they do, I write them down.

Because writers write.

[*] it may not be a lack of persistence, of course – it may be that there is simply no way to fit writing into an already over-crowded life. If that’s the case then, well, I don’t know what to say. Maybe you should stick to the squirrel farming. I am sure you will be good at it. Probably best not describe yourself as a writer, though.

One Reply to “Persistence and the Muse”

  1. Valerie says:

    “I keep on having ideas about the story and about other stories because I am in touch with the characters and setting. I am ready for when the ideas come.”

    This is my favorite thing about staying in the writing mindset. Even on my time off, I’m working. Not consciously, but a song will make something click and I’ll have an idea for a scene, or how to solve a conflict. It was different in college when my writing time was few and far between–a few stretches of mad inspiration every few weeks or even months. That’s not work. That’s a hobby!

    A bit jealous of your staying power, but I’ve taken your brainstorm at night write by day advice to heart!

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