Just Do the Work

imageThe motto of this blog is: “Just Write”. I chose that motto because it has been my observation when it comes to writing that to Just Write is the foundation for any successful writer. Advice from numerous successful writers led me to that phrase and cuts to the chase, as it were, about what one needs to do to become a successful writer.

Along the same lines I recently stumbled upon a TED Talk by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, where she discusses the unseen force that gives writers and other artists the ability to reach the pinnacle of their chosen art. In a nutshell, she tells her listeners the job of a writer, or any other artist, is to Just Do the Work. By that she means a true professional will sit down at their word processor, typwriter, or legal pad each day and spend time doing the work required to write a short story, novel, or screenplay. In the course of doing the work a divine spirit, muse, or talent from within will take the writer to a state which produces works worthy of the writer.

Along the same lines in Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art he too points to the need of a professional artist or writer to just do the work. In his short, easily read book, he points out if writers treat their writing as a craft; as a profession, then no matter what an artist produces, he or she have done their part; the rest is up to the angel, muse, daemon, or genius from a higher power.

According to Mr. Pressfield, to just do the work means to treat the craft of writing as we do our day jobs. What do professional writers do that you probably aren’t? What, as he points out are the qualities of a true professional?

1. They show up every day. Just like your day job, the writer shows up for work each and every day.
2. They show up no matter what. Sick, lame or lazy, you go to your day job.
3. They stay at the job all day. You don’t quit early; you’re there the entire 8 hours.
4. They are committed to the long haul.
5. They realize the stakes are high and are for real. A job isn’t a whim.
6. They accept pay for their labor. Why do some people believe artists shouldn’t be paid for their labor as well?
7. They don’t over identify with their jobs. It’s a job, it’s not who I am.
8. They master the technique of their jobs.
9. They have a sense of humor about their jobs.
10. They receive praise or blame in the real world.

By treating their craft as they would any other “job” the true professional overcomes that resistance every writer or artist faces when learning their craft or becoming a better writer.

Just as Gilbert mentions in her TED Talk, Pressfield knows that when a writer just does the work, shows up for work, writes down the bones, at some point the muse will arrive and move the writer along.

It is the muse that gives us the inspiration to write what we write and the good news is, as Elizabeth Gilbert mentions in her talk, if the work is good, thank the muse; if the work isn’t so good, thank the muse. It is the muse, that divine spirit that prods us along and moves us to that higher plane we seek when we write; and because it is the muse within us, it is not the writer who can take all the credit for success or failure. After all, the artist just did the work; she sat down at her desk and just wrote, but by being at her desk, she was there when the muse arrive to guide her fingers.

So as artists and writers, just do the work, just write! Watch Gilbert’s talk at: TED Talks and read Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art for more in-depth knowledge on how to overcome resistance and learn to accept YOUR muse.

So remember to Just Do the Work & Just Write!