We’ve spent the last few weeks talking about my four-word rules for business success. My goal remains simple: I want to give you easy to implement tools, tactics, and techniques to make your business better. Each rule is only four words long because often that’s all it takes to make a huge difference when you build your brand and your business.
If you missed any of the rules, just click on each link: Rule #1 is HERE. Rule #2 is HERE. Rule #3 is HERE. Rule #4 is HERE. Rule #5 is right HERE. Rule #6 is right HERE. Rule #7 is HERE. Rule #8 is HERE, Rule #9 is HERE.
Listen to enough writers and sooner or later it’ll dawn on you that the act of writing is thought of lots of different ways, few of them pleasant.
Ernest Hemingway found looking for the muse torturous. According to legend, Papa described it like this: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.”
Jack London said, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”
And W. Somerset Maugham believed that, “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”
Having spent the last ten years hammering out this blog week after week while also writing new books, countless speeches, articles and TV commentary, and keeping up with my client assignments, I’ve learned a little bit about just how hard maintaining consistent good writing can be.
But of all the things I’ve learned, regular writing reminds me about two universal truths which assert themselves time and time again:
The key to good writing is not just writing, it’s rewriting, and
The muse is a jealous taskmaster.
I’m not the first one to discover these two points, by the way. When I was researching quotes for this article, I’d already determined my two truths but wasn’t aware that others had explained them already.
Vladimir Nabokov said that, “I have rewritten — often several times — every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their erasers.” And Hemingway was pretty clear on this point when he wrote, “The first draft of anything is shit.”
Because I sincerely believe that the most important part of good writing is rewriting, I try to write my posts with enough lead-time to read them over and over and over, crafting them a bit tighter on each pass.
As far as the jealousy of the Muse goes, this point is unassailable. If you want to write – books, ads, blogs, whatever – besides putting in lots and lots of hard work the other thing to always do is stop and write whenever an idea strikes you. Because if you wait until it’s more convenient, your good ideas vaporize.
To benefit from the thinking time I get when I run I keep a miniature Sharpie tangled in my sneaker laces so I can write my inspirations down on the palm of my hand as they pop into my head. When I sleep I keep a pad and pen on my bed stand to capture those 3:15 a.m. brainstorms before they disappear. And during the day I always try to have my laptop, iPad or a simple notebook within quick reach so I don’t risk missing good ideas whenever and wherever the Muse shows itself.
Turns out Steven Pressfield, the author of The Legend of Bagger Vance and The War of Art, already knew about the Muse’s demands. Pressfield explained it this way:
“This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.”
Saul Bellow said it like this, “You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.”
But just because the words and ideas might appear when you pay attention and work at it doesn’t make it easy. Why? Because we writers are always our own worst critics. After all, as Thomas Mann said, “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”
Which is why my four-word rule for business success #10 is Never Ignore Your Muse.