I recently came upon J. K. Rowling’s 8 Rules of Writing at http://thewritepractice.com/rowling-rules-of-writing/
I made a copy of them to keep on my desktop to reference. I particularly liked Rule Two in which she says,
You’ve got to work. It’s about structure. It’s about discipline. The muse works for you. You don’t write at her beck and call – you train her to show up when you’re writing.
I pondered “the muse works for me” for some time. I had been thinking that I was writing diligently and alone most of the time and that occasionally when I was very, very fortunate and very, very good the muse would visit.
The muse, for instance, finds me in my sleep. She wakes me up with lines that I go over and over in my head so that I can recall them in the morning. There are nights that I get up because the muse pushes me out of bed, insisting that I write down what she is saying before I lose it in a dream. I listen, because of course she is right.
I thought I had to wait for her and heed her call. But Rowling’s rule says that I train the muse and that she works for me. I like that. I like to be in charge.
And in fact, I have been following a schedule of daily writing discipline. I write faithfully at the same times each day. When the day begins I never know how productive I will be but I go at it with earnest desire, hoping to generate worthwhile pieces in amongst the bulk of refuse.
I am, by nature, an organized person. Order and form being hugely important. There are small things that must be taken care of before I begin working. Bed made. Kitchen cleaned. Rooms tidy. Desk clear. These fundamentals establish the necessary headspace for me to write. Clutter and unfinished tasks muddle my brain.
As I considered Rowling’s rule to train the muse to show up I realized that my creativity is at its best when I am structured, organized and scheduled. This milieu allows my creative self to be present. And my creative self is the muse. She is sometimes a full-on writing diva who can’t get the words on the page fast enough. She is other times slow and methodical, requiring patience and persistence. She is surprising and sudden, as when she comes unbidden in the deep of night. She is reluctant and lazy, preferring to be dragged along and coaxed into offering anything at all. She is always waiting though, requiring me to urge her out of hiding and into the room and into my head.
I have established writing rituals to beckon the muse. For instance, my journal writing is done early in the morning, before my real day begins, with coffee close at hand. This time requires absolute silence. No music. No technology. Absolutely no distractions. In that early hour, I push the pen across the page, simply letting words appear and be recorded. No expectations. Yet, in those pages I have written some of my most important ideas and topics for more in-depth consideration.
The muse and I like music (iPhone with unlimited apple music playlists) while we work in the afternoons. Everything from Mozart to Pink Floyd to Michael Jackson to Sade. I get plugged in and write through the afternoon hours. I write and forget time and place and need. If it is possible to leave the body and go somewhere else that is what writing is to me during these times. It’s a road trip for the mind and the muse is my travelling companion.
Writing is work. It’s not 9-5 work, but it’s work. I write way beyond the confines of 9-5 and Monday-Friday. I write even when I am not physically putting down the words. Everything I see and encounter throughout my day has potential for the page. The muse and I look about the world, searching for subject matter.
Since reading Rowling’s rules of writing, I reconsidered my view of the muse. I choose now to see organization and structure as the conduit for creativity, the way into the sanctum where the muse awaits me. She is always there. So I go to her and request that she join me.
The secret of success is consistent, determined effort. You cannot wait for success to show up. It does not just happen, out of the blue. Great things come from slow, deliberate actions over time. Genius lies within the doing, not separate from it. The days when I feel like a failure are as much a part of my creativity as the days when I feel like a rock star. Truthfully, the bad days make the good days possible.
Whatever muse you conjure, let her (or him) be invited and requested. Seek to lead your creativity and productivity. Prepare your own way and go make it happen.