TPW Motivation Monday's 011: 5 Advantages for Being a Prolific Writer

In the latest installment of Monday Motivation's, Ryan explores the advantages for being a prolific writer and creator. Does quantity diminish quality? Listen in and find out. More writing resources at:

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Keep Your Writing Time Sacred

Most humans use a calendar. We schedule our meetings, appointments, social events, and anything of first importance. These commitments once scribed with ink or digital application aren’t up for negotiation. The time allotted for these meetings only rearranged in dire circumstances.

What if we treated our writing time with the same sacredness?

If you’re a professional writer and slinging words provides your livelihood, I’m sure your calendar is your friend. But for those who write, want to write, or want to take their writing to the next level, your writing time must become sacred.

Only under extreme circumstances will we allow an outside invader come and steal time away from our writing date. I’m not a legalist, and know things happen, where writing isn’t our highest priority.

But what if we flipped the narrative on our writing goals and dreams? Instead of fitting in our writing time whenever the calendar allowed (which never happens). Instead of squeezing in a few words here and there while the kid’s sleep.

Why not put our writing time on the calendar and treat it like every other appointment? Why not give the kids away for adoption (not really, just seeing if you’re paying attention)?

TPW 096: Tim Tigner on Teaching Yourself to Write

Intent on combining his creativity with his experience, Tim began writing thrillers in 1996 from an apartment overlooking Moscow’s Gorky Park. Twenty years later, his passion for creative writing continues to grow every day. In this interview, Ryan and Tim discuss how he learned to write, why outlining is a must for thrillers, how Tim's military experience shapes his writing, why most marketing advice is dumb, and much more. You can find Tim at:

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Does Your Writing Tidy Up Reality?

One of the hardest skills learned for writing anything is to be honest. Finding that thread of vulnerability, authenticity, and truth-telling. Where we say what we mean, and mean what we say.

Flannery O’Connor in her book on writing, Mystery and Manners, explains the job of a novelist:

“The novelist is required to open his eyes on the world around him and look. If what he sees is not highly edifying, he is still required to look. Then he is required to reproduce, with words, what he sees. Now this is the first point at which the novelist who is a Catholic may feel some friction between what he is supposed to do as a novelist and what he is supposed to do as a Catholic, for what he sees at all times is fallen man perverted by false philosophies. Is he to reproduce this? Or is he to change what he sees and make it, instead of what it is, what in the light of faith he thinks it ought to be? Is he, as Baron von Hugel has said, supposed to “tidy up reality?” (177).

Whether you have faith in the Divine, or not, the work of the writer is always the same… never tidy up reality. Truth-telling is the primary vocation of the writer.

5 Advantages for Being a Prolific Creator

What do Isaac Asimov, Agatha Christie, Barbara Cartland, and Edward Stratemeyer have in common? They were some of the most prolific writers and creators ever.

Asimov wrote over six hundred Sci-Fi and nonfiction titles. Christie wrote sixty-nine novels and nineteen plays. Stratemeyer wrote one hundred ninety books in the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series.

These authors alone sold billions of books (not a typo). They penned millions of words, hundreds of novels, nonfiction works, short stories, plays, and did it without the aid of a computer.

Prolific authors of the past are fascinating people. How they created so much content by hand or on typewriters. Barbara Cartland averaged a new book every forty days in her career.

And she didn’t have the distractions of Netflix and Social.

Not only did these prolific authors create volumes of work they also maintained high quality. A feat of its own.

Is there something we can learn from these prolific and speed demon writers?

I think so.

Isaac Asimov explained the advantages of being prolific in his biography, It’s Been a Good Life:

“One advantage of being prolific is it reduces the importance of any one book. By the time one particular book is published, the prolific writer hasn’t much time to worry about how it will be received or how it will sell. By then he has already sold several others and is working on still others and it is these that concern him. This intensifies the peace and calm of his life” (205).

The prolific writer whether penning articles on Medium or indie publishing books on Amazon have an advantage. Asimov gives at least five:

1. No one book/article is that important.

When you produce content and publish at a high clip, no one book becomes precious. What I call the Gollum Factor.

Instead of petting, caressing, and thinking your latest project is the best thing since sliced bread, move on. Create something new.

The prolific writers of the past and present don’t have time to obsess over the one thing, because they’ve already started the next thing.

2. No time to dwell on sales, reviews, and reception.

Yes, please. What derails the sensitive artist and creator among us? Bad reviews, sales, and people ignoring their work.

What if instead of crying about an anonymous reviewer saying your book or article was sucky… you wrote the next thing?

What if you produced enough work and content that when someone left a harsh critique you said: I don’t remember what that was about… can you refresh my memory?

Prolific writers and creators have a short memory. They’re freed from the chains of watching sales dashboards, clicks, views, and reads.

The prolific writer is already working on the next project and not caught in the vortex of sales data.

Austin Kleon on Stealing Like an Artist

“Don’t just steal the style, steal the thinking behind the style. You don’t want to look like your heroes, you want to see like your heroes. The reason to copy your heroes and their style is so that you might somehow get a glimpse into their minds. That’s what you really want–to internalize their way of looking at the world. If you just mimic the surface of somebody’s work without understanding where they are coming from, your work will never be anything more than a knockoff.” Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist

Ten Years Ago Today…

Ten years ago I experienced a highlight of my short life. Not all that unusual and something most people experience. If you’re reading this… it happened to you. I witnessed the birth of our first daughter, Samantha.

Every year on March 13th, we celebrate the birth of our sweet-Sammy-girl. The seared images in the hospital room haunt my mind. Samantha’s chubby cheeks, wide-Pelton-nose, much like her brother Owen and great-grandpa, and lots of hair, thick locks of red hair. Watch out for those redheads they’re not messing around.

But while most people prepared to drink green beer and inhale Shamrock Shakes in 2009, we celebrated with heavy hearts. Those images of hospital rooms, beeping machines, visiting family members, and tears, lots of tears, had a different edge.

The entire pregnancy was one of uncertainty. Would Christy make it to full term? Would there be complications with Samantha? We had prepared ourselves for the worst. Most families are preparing a room with decorations and color schemes matching a boy or girl.

We were preparing our hearts for burial.

Samantha was born March 13th and met her Creator four days later, on March 17th.

Today is the day we met our baby girl, and four days from now, we’ll remember her death.

But we’re not without hope. Years and distance between the pain helps in healing wounds. Counselors and friends are helpful too.

Everyone is born and everyone dies. An inescapable truth. Like sin and taxes, always crouching at our doors. The passage of time heals wounds on an emotional level. But wounds are real and confusing. Memories don’t seem to die.

These memories heightened every year when spring bursts with new colors and new life. While many will drink oddly colored beers and tell themselves it’s okay to get hammered, it’s a holiday. I reflect on death and the dustiness and shadowiness of life. Life under the sun.

Maybe in the kindness of God he allowed Samantha to live and die in spring, and around Lent (of the Christian Church calendar). A time of reflection on things dying, rising, a time of reflection on our mortality and considering cross and resurrection. Not sure.

But without fail, as we celebrate the life and death of our sweet baby girl, new thoughts and revelations come to flood my mind. Not anything profound, really, just stuff I already know to be true.

One central idea these days is the line that represents our lives. What line, you ask? That dash between our birthday and death-day. A simple white line on our tombstones.

What will our lives say between these two lines? How will we live and love? Where will we invest our presence and time and money and energy?

As I creep toward forty, I’m finding myself more aware of people and life. The things that used to drive me nuts now rolling off my back. I’m more aware that everything is a gift and don’t miss the things right in front of you. You get older and you take stock of your life. Probably normal stuff. If you’re lucky to have years.

I’m not sure what Samantha learned in four days of life. Most of them spent in a hospital room with tubes and wires keeping her alive. Samantha pumped full of meds easing the pain of her broken body. If suffering creates faith, hope, and endurance, Samantha had a ton.

And yet Samantha’s story does not differ from ours. Her death forces me to ask questions: How will I manage my pain? Run to a bottle or fantasies on a computer screen? Throw myself into work?

Or, I can acknowledge pain comes for all. And in the midst of the pain, I will choose to live. Say: I Love You, more often, hold loved ones closer than the day before, and give people the benefit of the doubt because everyone has a story, and they’re not pretty.

The death of Samantha revealed a lot of stuff clogging up my heart and soul. A man who believed God owed him something. Like a healthy daughter and long life. Why didn’t Samantha get that? Why didn’t I get to walk her down the aisle? Hold her when she wasn’t feeling well in the middle of the night, and one day kiss her own children?

I don’t know.

But I’m a trophy of God’s grace. Forty years proves it. If the tape of my life rolled in full view, I’d be lucky to have two.

The wounds aren’t as raw as they once were. I can control my emotions most days despite the tears running down my face as I write these words. But they’re good tears, Spirit-wrought tears.

A reminder of the fragility of life with all its pain and suffering and joys. A reminder I’m dust, and dust I’ll return.

Samantha was a gift for more reasons I can count. She reminds me we’re alive, and still have a lot of living to do, and the whole thing is grace, so rejoice in it.

Don’t miss the little moments. Miracles are happening everywhere if we have eyes to see. Hold the ones you love and tell them they matter. Don’t hold grudges and forgive as much as it’s possible.

Your kid’s aren’t owed long lives. None of us are.

The whole thing’s a gift.

And when you have a gift, you share it with others.

Tonight we’ll gather at the cemetery, let off balloons, and eat a nice meal to remember Sammy. Cemeteries are no longer scary for me. Only settings for horror movies.

The cemetery has become a welcome companion. Where I sit with Sammy and walk along the other tombstones and think about lives cut short. Where I reflect on my dash.

My mind can’t help wander to a unique death. A death that was followed by resurrection. A tomb empty after three days.

A tomb where the woman said: he’s not here.

I believe in God and I believe in resurrection and I believe in life after life.

That’s my hope for Sammy, me, you, my family, and all humanity.

Death doesn’t have the last say and an empty tomb proves it.

I might be a mess, but I can look to something outside myself, and find hope.

And remember, the whole thing is grace.

*Originally published on Medium.

Want to Write Page Turning Stories? Take These 7 Steps

What separates an excellent and mediocre story? Why do some books, TV shows, or films keep us up into the wee hours of the morning?

Sleep optional until we find out what happens next.

While other stories never grab our attention and fizzle out on page fifty or episode two.


Glad you asked. Every great story has common similarities.

Seven to be exact.

If you want to write compelling, interesting, and page turning stories, consider these seven story structure elements. Every story has them, and the great ones, nail them.

These ideas aren’t totally my own, but have revolutionized how I write novels, and understand story structure. These seven story elements come from John Truby’s book, The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller.

What Truby calls: The Seven Key Steps of Story Structure. These seven steps are the heartbeat of every story because they involve human action. And human action involves characters and characters are the reason we love stories.

Let’s examine the steps together, and see how we can make our next story page turning awesomeness, keeping our readers up late into the night.

Step #1 A Hero

A hero in a setting with a flaw/weakness/need.

Every great story has a hero (main character) with serious problems. A flaw or weakness that’s ruining their lives. The bigger the problem the more interesting the story.

A need is what the character must overcome for them to have a good life. This typically involves overcoming the flaw/weakness and growing by the end of the story.

Great characters and great stories have two kinds of weaknesses/flaws:

1. Psychological- some kind of flaw that causes harm to the hero only.

2. Moral- some kind of flaw/weakness that causes problems for everyone else.

The secret sauce of great storytelling and crafting compelling characters is to ensure they have psychological and moral flaws.

A great example: Silence of the Lambs.

Weakness: Clarice is an inexperienced FBI, haunted by childhood memories, and a woman living in a man’s world.

Need: Overcome her past and prove she’s a good agent in a man’s world.

Key point: people don’t like perfect characters, or victims. Boring! People can’t relate to perfection. Beat the crap out of your heroes. Your readers will thank you.

Step #2: A Desire (Goal)

A hero in a setting, with a flaw/weakness/need, and a desire (goal).

Every story has a particular goal and desire the hero must accomplish. That is why readers come along for the ride. They want to solve it with you. The desire is the hinge for everything.

If your story doesn’t have a defined desire/goal, you don’t have a story, or a very boring one. A story that goes nowhere.

Now, don’t miss this. The flaw/weakness of the hero is something within. The desire and goal of the hero is external. Don’t confuse the two.

Typically when the hero solves the weakness/flaw dilemma they’ve now reached their desire/goal. The flaw and need of the hero is often more obvious. The desire less so.

Example: Saving Private Ryan, John Miller wants to be home with his family and friends. The entire mission for saving Private Ryan, is so he can get home, so he thinks.

But when you get to the end of the movie, when Miller has a chance to go back home, he realizes the mission was much deeper. Miller is willing to die for the mission to see Private Ryan get home.

Step #3 The Opponent

A hero in a setting, with a flaw/weakness, and a desire, and someone/something opposing their goal.

The opponent is what we call the antagonist, or villain. Now, here’s the key for making compelling opponents for the hero to battle. They don’t just do evil or look evil.

The opponent wants the same thing as the hero, and will do anything for the hero not to get it.

Did you catch that? The opponent can’t want something random in the story. No, the opponent has to want what the hero wants. The thing that’s making the hero miserable is what the opponent wants.

If you do this well, it will create all kinds of tension and problems for the hero, and tension and conflict makes for great stories.

Key point: the easy way to create a good opponent, is to think about the hero’s primary goal/desire. Then create an opponent that wants to attack that goal and desire. You can even have them attack the psychological and moral flaws of the hero.

Another trick to make your stories page turners.

Step #4 A Plan

A hero in a setting, with a flaw, desire, someone opposing them, and a plan to fight.

Once you have a character with a flaw, a desire, an opponent, you need a plan to finish the mission. Good stories will often have a mentor, guide, or helper, to encourage the hero and craft a strategy for winning the battle against the opponent.

Example: Star Wars, Yoda trains Luke to defeat Darth Vader (dark side) for control of the universe (Force- light side).

Key point: when you’re building out a plan/strategy, build tension by having the hero fail multiple times at the plan before reaching their goal. That will keep the reader turning the pages. Attempt, fail, attempt, fail, etc. This creates good tension before the final battle.

Step #5: A Battle

A hero in a setting, with a flaw, desire, someone opposing them, a plan to fight, and a final battle.

The battle can be words or action. Most often a battle will happen in the middle of a story where the hero fails against the opponent. But remember, the desire (goal) of the hero, and the desire to stop the goal of the hero, by the opponent, will build to a final battle.

Will the hero or opponent win?

You can go either way depending on what the story needs. (FYI: Romance readers expect the boy and girl to end up together).

Step #6: A Self Revelation

A hero in a setting, with a flaw, desire, someone opposing them, a plan to fight, final battle, the hero realizes their desire/weakness/flaw.

After the battle, we wear the hero down, and they come to a painful self-revelation. They aren’t who they thought. They’re weak, flawed, and jacked up.

The more you can help the hero see their imperfections, the better. Make the moral and psychological needs come to the surface.

Pro tip: don’t make this preachy and too obvious, that’s lame. But reveal what the hero’s true colors are, the good and bad.

Example: Huckleberry Finn, when Huck realizes he was wrong thinking Jim was less than human. Huck won’t tell of Jim’s whereabouts, and would rather go to hell, then see him caught.

Step #7: A New Equilibrium

A hero in a setting, with a flaw, desire, someone opposing them, a plan to fight, final battle, the hero realizes their desire/weakness/flaw, and goes back to normal.

The hero must change and grow. One caveat, the hero can grow to a higher level and learn to live in the world.

Or, the hero can go lower. Let’s say they’ve committed a crime, and now must live with the consequences. It doesn’t have to be a happy ending to write a compelling and page turning story.

Examples of a hero rising: Die Hard, John defeats the criminals, saves his wife, and renews his love to her.

Example of a hero going low: Vertigo, he drags the woman to the top of the tower to confess to a murder, and she falls to her death.

Wow, that’s a lot, I know. But all you have to do is craft characters and scenes that serve these seven elements. If you do, you’ll have an excellent story to share with the world.

Go get those words on the page!

(Source: The Anatomy of Story, John Truby, adapted from pages 39–55)

*originally published on The Writer Cooperative

Ray Bradbury on Half-a-Writer

“… if you are writing without zest, without gusto, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer. It means you are so busy keeping one eye on the commercial market, or one ear peeled for the avant-garde coterie, that you are not being yourself. You don’t even know yourself. For the first thing a writer should be is excited. He should be a thing of fevers and enthusiasms. Without such vigor, he might as well be out picking peaches or digging ditches; God knows it’d be better for his health.” (from Zen in the Art of Writing, page 4)

TPW Motivation Monday's 010: Know Thy Self Know Thy Season

In the latest installment of Motivation Monday's, Ryan discusses the secret for becoming a prolific writer. It has nothing to do with technology, software, or skill. It's all about knowing thy self... and season. More writing resources at:

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Outcomes Versus Process- from Bryan Cranston

Bryan Cranston from the iconic TV series, Breaking Bad, wrote in his biography, A Life in Parts, about a switch that happened in his career:

“Early in my career, I was always hustling. Doing commercials, guest-starring, auditioning like crazy. I was making a decent living… but I felt I was stuck in junior varsity. I wondered if I had plateaued. Then, Breck Costin [his mentor] suggested I focus on process rather than outcome.

I wasn’t going to the audition to get anything: a job or money or validation. I wasn’t going to compete.

I was going to give something.

I wasn’t there to get a job. I was there to do a job. I was there to give a performance. If I attached to the outcome, I was setting myself up to expect, and thus to fail. My job was to be compelling. Take some chances. Enjoy the process.”

The danger for anyone working in the public eye is an unhealthy obsession with outcomes. A speaker who hopes her last talk will lead people to action and transformation. The entrepreneur hoping the presentation will lead to investment dollars. The mom that corrects a child desiring for better behavior. A writer hoping their novel makes a bestseller list so they can swim in boatloads of money.

Outcomes aren’t evil and wanting people to enjoy and find our work helpful isn’t wrong. Making a few bucks, some acknowledgement, and kind reviews, after our blood, sweat, and tears isn’t a problem.

But when outcomes become a hand around our artistic necks choking out the life and passion and authenticity of our work… Houston we have a problem.

Bryan Cranston mentioned later in his book what happened when he stopped obsessing over outcomes and focused on the process:

“Once I made the switch, I had power in any room I walked into… Which meant I could relax. I was free.”

Know Thy Self… Know Thy Writing Season

A lot of writing advice says to write every day, write at the same time and place, and hit certain daily word counts.

Not bad advice if life was static and our seasons never change. What do I mean?

I’m a dad of four children, that eat all my food, and spend all my money. I’m not mad about it, it is what it is. My season of life.

My children span from one to twelve. They go to bed early and the two younger ones still take naps during the day. When they become teenagers, their bed times will be later, and with more late evening commitments will shift our family rhythms.

I also have a wife I like. And would like to say married to. What I know about my lovely bride is that she goes to bed early. Has for the last eighteen years. I’m more of a night owl.

My writing time is mostly late in the evenings when everyone is off to bed.

I’ve tried early mornings, but my biology says no thank you, and with little humans waking up at the wee hours, it’s not workable.

The point?

Know thy self and know thy season of life.

Definition of a Hack

Comedians will often call other comics: hacks. A hack comedian isn’t someone who lacks talent necessarily. Rather, a hack comic is someone who plays to the audience.

Now on the surface that doesn’t sound like a cardinal sin. Don’t writer’s play to the audience? Trying to write stories people will read and enjoy?

Yes, and no.

Finding an audience for your work doesn’t mean you have to sell out.

Hacks in the comedy world, or writing arena, are all about finding the lowest common denominator to get a laugh, or sell a book. They’re not hacky because they lack talent. Many of these men and woman are gifted.

Hacks are hacks because they don’t create work from the heart.

Steven Pressfield in his book, The War of Art, said Robert McKee defines a hack:

“… as someone who second-guesses his audience. When he sits down to work he doesn’t ask what’s in his heart. He asks what does the audience want?” (page 152)

That’s the key difference between the hack and non-hacks in our ranks. What do they think about when they get into their writing space?

More common features of a hack

1. Hacks write articles and books that are essentially click-bait, low hanging fruit, and not designed for gaining your 1000 True Fans.

2. Hacks research what’s hot in a market and try to emulate that authors success. Never truly writing something that moves their own soul. Something said in a style and perspective all their own.

TPW 095: Catherine Banks on Writing One Million Words in 2019

Catherine Banks is a USA Today bestselling fantasy author that pushes the boundaries of prolific writing. Banks has penned over forty novels and is set to complete one million words in 2019... all with a family and a day job. In this interview, Ryan and Catherine discuss the evolution of indie publishing since 2010, her process for writing millions of words with a day job, why covers matter, some unique marketing advice, and much more. You can find Catherine and her work at:

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Is Writing Ability a Gift?

Somewhere around junior high the great divide happens. We say it to our kid’s, and teachers say it to their students:

Molly is the Artist, and Billy is the Math-Guy.

Jack is creative and an artist type, and Ryan isn’t.

Sorry, Billy. Molly can go paint, and Billy, well, go do math problems.

I heard it. Maybe you did too.

A common scenario which raises the age old question of nature versus nurture, God given talent, and mere grit and will power.

Is writing ability a gift from God, or something else?

Common sense would say: yes, some people are endowed from the gods above with artistic ability, and some aren’t. It is what it is, Billy.

But I’ve seen many writers and creatives have their dreams crushed because of this line of thinking. A well-meaning teacher or loved one who says: sorry kid, drawing or writing isn’t your thing. Maybe accounting?

Not a month goes by on my podcast when someone doesn’t say: I wish I would’ve written my book sooner.

Somewhere along the line their hopes and dreams of writing dashed because someone told them their ability to write, well, was not their gift.

Is it true? Is our ability to write and create dependent on the gifts and talents given to us at birth?

Yes, and no.

Let’s Diagnose Your Writer’s Block

Okay, let’s be blunt. I don’t believe in Writer’s Block.

It’s a myth that came into existence in the 40s. A way to elevate writers into magical creatures who must suffer for their art. It’s only through mental anguish before the artist can truly make something of value.

I politely disagree.

Mechanics don’t get Mechanic’s Block, or teachers Teacher’s Block, or moms Parenting Block.

You show up, do the work, and push through.

But let’s say you’ve visited WebMD and self-diagnosed yourself with WB. You’re experiencing sweating, nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, and an aversion to social interaction because of this so-called WB.

For whatever reason the words just don’t seem to fall from the brain, to the fingers, and onto the page. It feels like pushing a snowball up a hill, in the middle of winter, in your shorts, while wearing ankle weights. No ideas, no passion, nothing, nada, an empty void of writer hell.

It happens, sort of.

So what do we do?

TPW 094: Sarah K.L. Wilson on Rapid Releases

USA Today bestselling author, Sarah K. L. Wilson hails from the rocky Canadian Shield in Northern Ontario where she lives with her husband and two small boys. In this episode, Ryan and Sarah discuss what drives Sarah to be so prolific, her unique rapid release book strategy, why shorter books are the wave of the future, the best writing advice for someone starting out, and much more. You can find Sarah and her books at:

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TPW Motivation Monday's 009: Are You Playing the Short or Long Game?

In another installment of Motivation Monday's, Ryan discusses the short versus the long game of writing and publishing. We're all tempted to take shortcuts and become impatient with our work. But if we play the long game of publishing our short term disappointments are lessened. More writing resources at:

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Don’t Wait for the Muse- Advice from Stephen King

A frequently asked question of authors: where do ideas come from? A good question but if we peel back the onion, it makes a lot of assumptions.

An assumption that inspiration, motivation, and ideas, come from what some call, The Muse. Mousa, was the daughter of Zeus, a goddess assigned to oversee the arts, and inspire artists to create. A sky ferry of sorts visiting the struggling writer with inspiration and ideas.

We wait while our next great idea is born and Mousa, comes to nudge it along. But until the ideas falls, we sit idle.

A second assumption is that professional writers have fully baked ideas when they come to the page. Not true. Their best ideas came when they showed up. When they applied butt in a chair. Our best ideas have no chance of seeing the light of day until we add words to the page.

The myth of the muse has damaged many a writer. Held too many writers back. Stephen King in his famous book on the craft of writing, On Writing, said this about the muse:

“Don’t wait for the muse. As I’ve said, he’s a hardheaded guy who’s not susceptible to a lot of creative fluttering. This isn’t the Ouija board or the spirit-world we’re talking about here, but just another job like laying pipe or driving long-haul trucks. Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you’re going to be every day from nine ’til noon. Or seven ’til three. If he does know, I assure you that sooner or later he’ll start showing up.”

I’m not willing to say there’s nothing magical about writing. Where do ideas come from? Why do we write? How does a story take shape? The subconscious, God, the muse? I think all of it. It is magic.

But you can’t wait for the magic. You’ll be waiting a long time.

Nothing good in life happens through passivity. The girl you married didn’t come about because you prayed and waited for her to knock on the door. You made the call, set up the date, and later asked her hand in marriage.

Relationships take work to flourish and writing is no different. Lay the pipe and drive the truck. The muse won’t do it for you.

Somewhere along our journey’s the myth of the muse poked its mythical head in our writing room. The magical creature that shoots ideas out of her butt, into your brain, and then funnels to our fingers. Instead of laying pipe, we sit in the truck, and wait for inspiration.

Steven Pressfield in a recent interview said he wears work boots to write every day. Why? You know, because there’s no Muse. The work boots are a reminder to punch the clock and do the work.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your next book, or article, wasn’t built while you napped. It came to life with fingers tapping, a computer buzzing, coffee flowing, and a back aching.

Waiting for the muse is rooted in fear. A fear of being exposed as a phony and wannabe writer. An opportunity for Resistance to sink her claws into our writing souls.

Later in On Writing King explains the difference between pros and amateurs:

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

Pressfield wears work boots to remind himself it’s time to lay pipe. King writes from nine ’til noon whether or not the muse shows up. Grisham sets a goal of ten pages per day. Muse or no muse. I write 10,000 words a week, whether or not I’m feeling it. The difference between the pro and the amateur.

Now before I go, there’s something King said which is super practical advice. Something we can apply to our writing craft today. Let’s not leave this conversation in the ether:

“Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you’re going to be every day from nine ’til noon.”

If you need The Muse, fine. But make sure he/she knows where you’ll be. Have you determined your writing time/place? Is it on the calendar? We schedule everything else in our lives why does our writing get second fiddle?

Or, are you too much of an artist? You only write on Tuesday’s after drinking fox tears from a silver goblet? You only write when the schedule allows for it?

The more we plant butt in a chair at consistent intervals the better chance the muse can sprinkle story dust on our heads. Funny how that works.

Tell the muse what time you’ll be writing tomorrow. They’re welcome to visit anytime. If they forgo the invitation, fine, we’ll still be laying pipe, and punching the clock.

You know where to find us.

*Originally published on The Writer Cooperative