I attended a women’s writing conference this past weekend. Five well-known authors spoke throughout the day–five published, literary award winning, female authors. I sat there at the luncheon table with three writing friends, pen and notebook in hand, ready to write down every pearl of wisdom about their writing process. The how to’s —Where should I write? When? For how long? Do I dress up and leave the house? Get an office? Pay an editor? Morning? Afternoon? Evening? Every day or five days a week? In my pj’s over coffee? I waited. I listened. I jotted a few notes. I heard funny stories, personal backgrounds, story ideas and readings.
I left the conference center feeling exhausted, hopeful, hopeless, encouraged, discouraged, motivated, resigned to failure, and mostly a sore tail bone and aching feet.
Through all of their presentations and stories I heard one theme: Just Show Up!
One of my writing friends has an acronym for it – BOC – butt on chair.
Susan Bender writes long-hand in the car, in waiting rooms, at garage sales. She absorbs stories everywhere and writes for five minutes or twenty or an hour as she drops kids or picks them up or waits.
Ann Cherion sat at a dinner table and observed a scene that became The Good Indian Wife. She wrote fast and angry and purposeful. She wants to write the stories of her culture.
Meg Waite Clayton talked about research and “what if” cards and a lot of failure. She is an attorney and uses structure and outline as her tools. She writes either from 8:00 -2:00 OR when she reaches 2000 words that day.
Mona Simpson describes herself as shy and introverted; she goes within to write about love and how we treat each other. She knows how solitary a writer’s life is.
Aimee Bender writes two hours a day on a regular schedule. The rigidity gives her steadiness. She blends fairy tales, fine arts and free association into fantastical stories.
So—few specifics, different styles, pen and journal, laptop, old typewriter – it doesn’t matter. In the car, at Starbucks, in the office – doesn’t matter. Coffee and pj’s at 5:00 AM, jeans and shirt after Little League – doesn’t matter.
What matters is that rain or shine, day in and day out, an author sits down and waits for her muse to come because if you want her creativity, her flash of genius, her perfect descriptive word – you must Show Up!
Later in the day I realized how broad and how profound the message is in all of life. If you don’t go to the interview, you won’t get the job offer. If you don’t go on the blind date, you may miss Mr. Perfect. If you sit in the house with the door closed, you won’t make new friends. And if you don’t put your butt on the chair the computer screen will remain blank. Whether you are a writer or not, I hope the message speaks to you – today, in some way, in someone’s life, your muse is waiting – please Show UP!