writing when you’re not on fire

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“Not in the mood? Mood’s a thing for cattle, and loveplay, not fighting!”

—Gurney Halleck, Dune (1984)

The real challenge is writing when you’re not on fire. Steven Pressfield calls doing this “turning pro.” I call it “time to fire up Netflix with a large bowl of cashews.”

Collect techniques for entering flow all you like. To finish a book, you’re going to spend many hours writing with the fire extinguished. I call this “writing damp.”

Writing damp is excruciating. Worse than listening to a friend’s dream or watching Big Bang Theory.

In Daily Rituals, writers spur themselves through damp writing with whatever works. Discipline, or chaos. Routine, or shock. Coffee, or, well, coffee. They all drink coffee, if only to wash down the amphetamines. (I’m looking at you, Ayn Rand!)

We expect pilots and doctors to perform at high levels for extended periods of time with lives on the line. Can you imagine your surgeon saying he’s not in the mood to remove your appendix? We can learn from them even if the only patient on our table is a bloated manuscript with an infected, er, appendix.

To fly planes or fix brains, you rely on:

  1. Practice
  2. Checklists

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