“T-i-m-e…is on my side, yes it is.”
I don’t think The Rolling Stones had waiting-for-the-muse writers in mind when they wrote that song. And unlike the woman those lyrics speak to, a writer can’t sit back and wait for the muse to come to them, thinking as the Stones did that sooner or later she’ll come back. The muse appears when and where it chooses. Some of us are egotistically enough to speculate that a frenzy of activity lures the muse out of hiding (the muse-will-visit-only-when-busy theory), while others think the muse rewards good deeds of daily writing and monk-like dedication with the grace of the muse’s touch. Either way, no one would disagree that the muse is essentially unpredictable (must be female!).
So given that one cannot entice nor constrain one’s muse, what’s a poor writer to do? For starters, forget the muse. Who wants to wait around for some ethereal entity or elusive partner before writing? The old adages still ring true: the best way to write is to put butt in chair, pen to paper, repeat. Writer’s write, and all that. A friend of mine once recounted the well-known author he went to see along with fellow Rice students many decades ago. This revered literary figure, known to be something of a curmudgeon (and whose name escapes me at the moment!), strolled out on the stage to the podium, paused as he stared out at a packed house, then bellowed, “You want to know the secrets of writing? Get off your asses, go home, and write!” He then turned curtly and walked off the stage. Thus ended his planned 90-minute talk about writing.
Ah, if it were only that simple! Which it truly is of course, but that’s not what most would-be writers want to hear. And even for those who take such sage, if not rude, advice to heart, how? When? Writing has many, many associated challenges, but the most difficult is perhaps simply finding free moments to work. Time can be a brutal, unrelenting taskmaster when a deadline approaches only to find the poor writer haplessly mired in writer’s block. Or the drowning syndrome where a writer has too much time and creatively procrastinates away precious opportunities to write until suddenly, and tragically, there’s not enough time left. But for the most part, pushing life out of the way to devote time to writing is the biggest challenge we all face.
We all have the same time master, even those fame-touched bestselling writers; the difference becomes how we choose to serve that master that makes each of us unique. As I’ve written here before, we cannot save time, we can only spend it; and whether we choose to spend time wisely or foolishly is often the only difference between success and failure. Had I all the time in the world and dozens of lifetimes of moments, I might be able to write the perfect novel…but I don’t. I can only make the best of what I have in the time that is given to me. The choice is mine whether that time is golden or painfully empty.
If you’ve read this far, you’re likely waiting for me to share some golden nugget of how one finds time to write. If I really knew the answer to that, I’d be rich beyond my ability to spend. Each of us has to find ways to spend time writing, and if the pull is strong enough, or if you can’t imagine a day without writing, then you’ll find out how to make this happen in spite of what seems like a full schedule. Paraphrasing Curly in “City Slickers,” it’s one thing…and each of us has to find out what our one thing is. So why are you still reading this? Close the browser, open your writing program, and…you guessed it…write.
Thanks to Joel for suggesting this post’s theme. And if you’re reading this, Joel, you know you should be writing instead…so get to it! 😉