“You have to sweep the temple steps a lot in hopes that the god appears.”
Whatever we’re writing, we’ve all had the same experience: There are many times — moments, days, and even weeks — when we simply seem to be “sweeping the temple steps.” We’re keep ourselves limber, pushing forward, and slogging doggedly on with our writing even though nothing much seems to be happening.
Sweeping the temple steps — doing the work to prepare for moments of inspiration and insight — may seem like scud work. We may feel that it’s somehow beneath us — that we’ve paid our dues and earned our stripes and that we should have arrived at a point where our writing comes easier: Our muse should be taking up permanent residence in our head and whispering brilliant words and phrases to us all day long.
But like most creative endeavors, writing doesn’t seem to work that way. It just isn’t that easy and breezy. A choreographer like Twyla Tharpe, for example, will put in hours and hours on the dance floor, working and sweating an entire day to come up with only a handful of steps that will find their way into the final version of a dance. When she’s struggling to find her way, but keeps on dancing, she’s sweeping the temple steps.
Sweeping the temple steps is an act of faith — an expression of our belief that if we keep on doing what we’re meant to be doing, our hopes will be answered and our efforts will ultimately bear fruit: We’ll have a flash of inspiration, we’ll receive the gift of a word or phrase, or we’ll pierce to the root of a problem that’s bedeviled us.
Sweeping the temple steps also signals to the universe that we’re ready, willing, and able to do whatever it takes to get where we want to go. We’ll do the spade work — we’re fine with it. We’re prepared to write through dispiriting, lackluster days because we know they’re part of the process, steps on the journey. We’re ready to sweep those temple steps with heart, with gusto, with all the art we can muster, in order to make them bright and shiny enough to woo our muse to our side and win her to our cause.
Writing is joyful, but it’s also demanding. Writing on is the answer — so let’s all write on.