I asked a friend yesterday if she mainly wrote out of inspiration, or if she’d mastered the discipline of sitzfleisch. She was quick to say, “I write when I’m inspired.”
Another friend finally finished her manuscript after years of sporadic visits from the muse, claiming that trying to work without the presence of magic was to produce sheer mediocrity.
Sitzfleisch is a German word which means to sit still and get through the task at hand. It’s often the difference between an aspiring writer and bona fide writer.
You sit long enough to prime the pump and get those creative juices flowing. Whatever it takes. My aids are a burning tea light and quiet, a cup of magic brew (Columbian espresso), and leisure. Oh, and reading a masterfully written book thaws any frozen pump.
Charles Frazier said he set the writing mood with music. In Cold Mountain, it was Appalachian style that inspired that well of words.
Julia Cameron has sold many on the idea of morning pages, three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing. Not high art, just releasing random thoughts on paper and skimming off the dross of life to clear the way for the sublime.
Natalie Goldberg compares writing practice to daily exercise. “If you work out regularly, when it’s time to do the heavy lifting, like move a piano or take an essay test, or write something super important, it will be easier because you have developed the muscles.”
Novelist and short story writer Peter S. Beagle says to just show up for work. “My uncle Raphael was a painter, and he used to say, ‘If the muse is late for work, start without her.’ You have to be there. You have to be there and do it, and grind it out, even when it is grinding and you know you’re probably going to rewrite all this tomorrow.”
My writing student Cyna says, “Why let something as fickle as inspiration hold you back? You’re a writer! MAKE something exciting happen! And if your inspiration does decide to show up while you’re working, tell it to get in line. You have writing to do.”
What about you? How do you prime your pump?
When you don’t feel inspired, do you still sit down and write anyway?
Sharing with LL Barkat at Seedlings in Stone.