Artists are wonderful and interesting people. They are also insanely superstitious to the point of thinking if their routine isn’t executed exactly everything will fall apart. Writers know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, if they don’t burn that exact candle as they write, the ghost of Poe will not visit them during their process and their work will suffer the fate of the tell tale heart.
When I was an actor I was very guilty of this. I had my routine before every show — and for every show that routine was different. I was positive if that routine was interrupted my performance would suffer. Did it ever actually happen? No.
But, because of that past, I thought for sure that I would wind up with some strangely quirksome and irksome routines that I had to go through or my books would suck. The closest I have come to that is using the same ink pen for all of my first drafts. But that isn’t so much an issue of superstition as it is a damn comfortable pen!
And the idea of superstition brings me to the driving point of this entry — Muse. I’m not talking about the band, I’m talking about that magical, mythical being that whispers in the ears of artists, instructing them what and how to create.
As an actor, there is a very similar beast, called “motivation” that many actors simply must have before they can move forward with a scene. The big joke in the world of professional theatre goes something like this:
Actor: Wait, wait, wait…I’m not feeling this.
Director: What are you not feeling this time?
Actor: You want me to yell, but…well…I can’t find the motivation anywhere in the script.
Director: What are you getting at?
Actor: What is my motivation?
Director: Your paycheck!
That’s right…the paycheck. If you really think about it, those superstitions do one thing and only one thing — prevent you from working. Yes there are times when you might feel the “muse” isn’t there and writing is pointless. Not so, say I. Many times I have sat down to pen a scene or two only to find the words not wanting to come out easily. Want to know what I do? Make them! Force those words out like a miser squeezing the very last smidge of toothpaste from the tube. When I do that I make a note somewhere in the margin indicating what follows might well be crap…but somewhere in that crap will be a nugget of corn that can be extracted and planted only to grow into a brand new, delicious stalk of prize winning maize. And it never fails, I push my pen through the force field put in place by distraction, sleep deprivation, or just plain laziness and tucked neatly within the mixed up jumble of works (words that will only wind up on the editing floor) will be something incredible — even if only a single sentence — that makes pushing through the pain all worth it.
The moral of this story — when it’s time to write, it’s time to write. If you want motiviation, I’ve got your motivation:
- Your fans.
- Your books.
- Your brand.
- Your income.
- My pimp hand (which is ever-strong).
It’s never easy, forcing words out when they aren’t there. But if you suffer through, almost every time, you will find that golden kernel in the pile of warm, steamy poo.