Monday, March 23, 2009

Bum Glue

By Ali Cross

Recently I’ve spent some time in a physical therapist’s office, with lots of opportunity to read and re-read the inspirational art they have plastered on the walls. You know the kind—picture a cliff face with a solitary climber struggling against the sheer rock. The words on the bottom might say something like “Joy is found not in the destination, but in the journey.” They’re meant to help you not feel so bad about the pain you’re currently suffering, but to keep your eyes focused on that finish line.

One photograph that I’ve spent a lot of time looking at lately features the famous quote by Thomas Alva Edison, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”

I couldn’t help but think about writing in this context. Oftentimes people assume writing is mostly inspiration and that a writer simply lets the muse do the work for him. In point of fact, writing is tedious, sometimes boring, and very, very long.

When I was a brand-new writer, one of the first books on writing I got for myself was “Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul.” It was a bit premature, as I hadn’t suffered for my art enough yet to truly appreciate much of what was written about in that book.

But one article sang to my soul and has stuck with me over the past few years.

It’s an article by Bryce Courtenay in which he tells of the time he ran the Boston Marathon. He found himself running alongside another man with whom he struck up a conversation. When he discovered his new friend was a writer, he asked the one question that burned most brightly in his mind: what he believed was the secret to writing a bestseller.

Huffing and puffing, his friend responded, “Bum glue!”

Mr. Courtenay says,

“Bum glue—glue your bum to a chair and keep going, and never give up. Writing is about time spent with words until eventually they become your friends and begin to cooperate with your gifted storyteller’s mind.

“Writing is about time and practice; it takes six years to become a physician, a task infinitely easier than learning to write” (Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul, p. 313.)

Like Mr. Edison said, inspiration only accounts for a tiny fraction of writing a good story. Most of it is sheer effort, force of will, and dang hard work.

So when your muse has gone on vacation and you’re left with a novel to write, plant your bottom down in your chair and settle in. You’re doing the work you were created to do, and you’ve been blessed with that 1% of inspiration. Now it’s time to put in the work, and you can do it—with a little help from Bum Glue.


Ashley Harward said...

I think I need a pic of that bum glue above my desk. That's hilarious - and yet, oh so true!

Scarlet Knight said...

Wow, that is so awesome! I need some bum glue, mine keeps wearing off.

Annette Lyon said...

Bum glue! Exactly!

Ali Cross said...

LOL, ain't it the truth. Sorry for the weird formatting there guys--you were true die-hards to wade through it when you could barely see it.

I like that pic too and think I ought to stick it above my desk as well! I often forget to reapply when I sit down to write.

Now if only I could do something about those wandering fingers of mine that often decide to click on my blogs or email instead of tapping away at my story. ;)

LexiconLuvr said...

Great post, Ali! And you're right, they need "finger slave-masters" so my hands don't wander from the keyboard. =]

Stephanie Humphreys said...

I really needed that reminder and a big bottle of bum glue. I've been so lazy lately. Love the picture!

Amber Lynae said...

Bum Glue. I'm getting me some of that.