Dispatch from the Razor's Edge, the Blog of Michael Stephen Fuchs
Ass Plus Chair
“I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o'clock sharp.”
- W. Somerset Maugham

Lately I've found myself having the same tetchy conversation with people over and over (all the while being annoyed with myself for being annoyed – why?! what does it matter?) about what's actually involved in writing. Unrelentingly, people bring up “inspiration”, and “the Muse”, and “writer's block” – all of which are myths. Total myths. None of them exist. People say, “Oh, you need to take some time off and get away to find your inspiration…” No, I need to get back to work. Or “You just need to find your Muse…” There is no Muse, and she's not going to do the work for me; there's only me.

There are, as far as I'm able to determine, only two things that make writing (or, I think, any art) possible:

  • Relentless commitment to mastering one's craft (which requires not just constant learning, but repeated relearning); and
  • Working your ass off.

Craft and graft. That's it.

The wonderful screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada, Morning Glory, We Bought a Zoo) had some fantastic comments to this effect in The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters. She definitely sees things my way.

The best days are when you went somewhere and you did some honest work. And there's some sweat on your brow and you came home.

I believe that screenwriting is a discipline that requires practice. That's how I learned – by doing.

I wish I had rituals like other writers. But I have found over the years that there's no summoning the muse, there's sitting in chairs.

I wish there was something that made the cursor go by itself but ultimately it's all about sitting in the chair. You just have to do it. You just have to keep doing it, and you just have to print it and read it and keep doing it. There are so many things that are more enticing than sitting in the chair, but at the end of the day, that's what you need to do. It's the essence of the job.

I always say it's like having homework, like having had a term paper due for the past twenty years. Sometimes you have great days where you write eight amazing pages and other days you have to cut seven of those pages. Which is why this intimidates some people and makes it somewhat of a mysterious process. You don't really know what it's going to take to get there. The only thing I have found that works is to show up with my hammer and nails and just hammer nails all day.

In a strange way, I feel it's all writer's block. I think your brain would rather sit on the couch and read the newspaper or watch TV. It's all about saying, “I'm going to sit there and I'm going to write, but it's hard.”

Someone once said to me the equation for good writing is ass plus chair. It's all about sitting down and doing the work.
- Aline Brosh McKenna

close photo of Michael Stephen Fuchs

Fuchs is the author of the novels The Manuscript and Pandora's Sisters, both published worldwide by Macmillan in hardback, paperback and all e-book formats (and in translation); the D-Boys series of high-tech, high-concept, spec-ops military adventure novels – D-Boys, Counter-Assault, and Close Quarters Battle (coming in 2016); and is co-author, with Glynn James, of the bestselling Arisen series of special-operations military ZA novels. The second nicest thing anyone has ever said about his work was: "Fuchs seems to operate on the narrative principle of 'when in doubt put in a firefight'." (Kirkus Reviews, more here.)

Fuchs was born in New York; schooled in Virginia (UVa); and later emigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he lived through the dot-com boom. Subsequently he decamped for an extended period of tramping before finally rocking up in London, where he now makes his home. He does a lot of travel blogging, most recently of some very  long  walks around the British Isles. He's been writing and developing for the web since 1994 and shows no particularly hopeful signs of stopping.

You can reach him on .

THE MANUSCRIPT by Michael Stephen Fuchs
PANDORA'S SISTERS by Michael Stephen Fuchs
D-BOYS by Michael Stephen Fuchs
COUNTER-ASSAULT by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book One - Fortress Britain, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Two - Mogadishu of the Dead, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN : Genesis, by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Three - Three Parts Dead, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Four - Maximum Violence, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Five - EXODUS, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Six - The Horizon, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Seven - Death of Empires, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Eight - Empire of the Dead by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN : NEMESIS by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Nine - Cataclysm by Michael Stephen Fuchs

ARISEN, Book Ten - The Flood by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Eleven - Deathmatch by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Twelve - Carnage by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Thirteen - The Siege by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Fourteen - Endgame by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN : Fickisms
ARISEN : Odyssey
ARISEN : Last Stand
ARISEN : Raiders, Volume 1 - The Collapse
ARISEN : Raiders, Volume 2 - Tribes
Black Squadron
ARISEN : Raiders, Volume 3 - Dead Men Walking
ARISEN : Raiders, Volume 4 - Duty
ARISEN : Raiders, Volume 5 - The Last Raid
ARISEN : Fickisms ][ – This Time, It's Personal
ARISEN : Operators, Volume I - The Fall of the Third Temple
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