Muses are fickle and unpredictable. Graceless guests that cannot be trusted to arrive on time, nor counted on to show up for work ready to do their jobs, if they even show up at all. When creativity is a no call, no show, the writer must be prepared to carry the weight of covering the shift alone. “Writing can be thankless” , Amy Poehler says. Contrary to what many might think, it is far from an elegant task. Instead, as Poehler makes clear, “it’s usually lonely and isolating”. It’s pulling a double, working open-to-close, with little hope of being truly compensated for it.
Stephen Pressfield says that “Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying…Because when we sit down day after day and keep grinding, something mysterious starts to happen… we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. insights accrete.” But it happens slowly, agonizingly; never all at once and never alone.
The greatest of writers give up on all desire for glitz and glamour, graciously gulping one tepid beverage after another, each gone cold too soon because inspiration couldn’t be bothered to come in. We promise ourselves that one day soon we’ll clasp our hands around a steaming cup and consume its contents the way it was intended. We know it isn’t true. We know that it’s a lie, but it’s a good lie; one that makes us smile, if only half-heartedly and if only for a moment.
The one profound secret that all writers of the past, present and future can quietly and unquestionably agree on is that when there is nothing; nothing left, nothing there, nothing to find, when creativity is either gone or never arrives, you write on. When “I am not at all in a humor for writing”, Jane Austen says, “I must write on until I am.” In truth, there is only ever this one thing; only this one thing that stays, only this one thing that remains, there is only ever writing on.
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