Flogging the Muse–Making Yourself Write

It’s so easy to fool yourself into thinking that you’re working hard. It’s so easy not to write. So you use any trick you can to make yourself know there’s work to be done. That’s why I wear a jacket and tie when I sit down to write. – Robert Caro

Writing is work.  It’s a lonely endeavor, writing a novel.  American Journalist and author, Robert A. Caro understood how hard it is to make himself write and how easy it is to be distracted from his goal.  For Mr. Caro, formal attire reminded him to stay on task and apparently, that worked for him.

Dressing up wouldn’t work for me, though it might provoke a spontaneous piece or two about what a stupid thing ties are and how binding a coat feels when trying to work at the keyboard.  I might fly off into a rant about how we should start looking for functional, practical clothing over fashion. It would be a silly rant.

What does work for me are artificially imposed goals: I will write 1000 words tonight, or I will edit 5 pages. I say this to myself when I sit down to write, allowing distractions like email and Facebook, checking ballgame scores or whatever as I work.   But before I turn in for the night, I must meet my goal.

What happens if I don’t meet my goal?  Nothing.  And unless I put pressure on myself, nothing is exactly what I will accomplish at the keyboard, night after night.  Muse or not, writing is work and it is important to keep momentum.

Most of the time, I meet my goals.  Sometimes I don’t, and I am not kind to myself when it happens.  My goal for the next session is doubled – that is my penance to make up for my lost productivity.  I’m very disciplinary about it and a little thick when it comes to cutting myself slack, i.e. I don’t.


I don’t consider the practice healthy by any measure, but it does work for me.  I’d love to hear what other writers do to put their butts in the chair and make the words.  Share your best practices with us.

© 2012, Mitch Lavender


2 thoughts on “Flogging the Muse–Making Yourself Write

  1. Interesting how you rule yourself in your writing, Mitch; I do not.
    I did for a while but I felt the guilt of not writing to interfere with the flow of writing – this is not an excuse, at least I don’t think it is.
    While I do need more discipline when it comes to re-writing, I have found that when it works run with it, but when it don’t, you need to allow a certain freedom. It is not that you have abandoned the piece, but it is that you need peace from it. In so doing you allow the mind to relax and see your characters in a more social [as good a word as any] setting. Like when you see a colleague for the first time out enjoying themselves with their family, it adds another dimension to the person. And thus adds a dimension to the character in your WIP.
    Although when it comes to re-writes, I certainly do come up with all the excuses to leave it. It is something I do need to address. And your rules could come in handy.

    Cheers, Mitch. This was a good read, and great idea for the reader to share themselves in.


    • Hey Bobby, it’s whatever works for you and gets you writing – that’s what you should do. Somewhere I heard that a serious writer treats writing like a job and I liked the idea. If I was self employed, I’ve have a real jerk for a boss, methinks.

      And redrafting long fiction is the hardest thing in the world for me. I sometimes jump off into Undertaking Hartford and don’t even know where to start.

      Thanks for sharing!

You were saying?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s