Here’s what Norman Mailer says in his book about writing, The Spooky Art: “The rule is that if you say you are going to write tomorrow, then it doesn’t matter how badly you’re hungover or how promising is a sudden invitation in the morning to do something more enjoyable. No, you go in dutifully, slavishly, and you work.”
Mailer couches this rule within his conception that a writer relies on his or her unconscious mind to write well, and that when you invite your unconscious mind to a writing session, your body better show up. Otherwise, that writing genie within you may refuse to come when you call in the future.
As you can see from the title of his book, Mailer views writing as a quasi-mysterious activity that is a collaboration between our conscious will and hidden sources that are beyond our ken. As a creative writer, Mailer may have a different perspective than say, a journalist or academic, but there is something of potential value for all writers in the idea that being a writer requires a commitment. Whether you view that as a commitment to one’s unconscious, one’s self, one’s inner desire to write, or one’s advisor is immaterial.
Mailer self-discloses a lot about his own resistances and agonies as a writer. Resistance, confusion, laziness, fear and resentment all arise in the course of a writer’s life, and at certain points your commitment will be tested. Mailer may state his rule in more macho terms than some writers might, but at the heart of it is an understanding that being a serious writer demands an enormous amount of dedication and willingness to persevere in the face of adversity.
Mailer’s rule also implies that a writer should be open to inspirations arising from sources that defy explanation because these give a unique vision and energy to one’s work. He notes that one reason why writing blocks are so frustrating and demoralizing is that they are frequently driven by forces outside our awareness. His prescription to writers is that they should develop trusting agreements between their conscious egos and the unconscious mysteries from which writing springs forth.
Actually it’s simple. Show up. Write. Something will happen.