Can Inspiration come on Schedule?

Sometimes people (aspiring writers, usually) ask me what my writing schedule looks like. They want to know if I get up at the crack of dawn to bang out some early morning brilliance, or stay up into the wee hours to milk my imagination by the light of the moon.

I guess they want me to feed into their romantic notions about the wild and disturbed life of a writer. The truth is, it’s even better than that. There is a schedule, yes, and it typically involves writing during the heat of the day. I suppose some would prefer to write at night and go out and enjoy the beautiful Santa Fe sunshine during the day, but I’m not a huge fan of heat beating down on my head. I’ll take the morning and the evening, if I can pick my druthers, thanks.

The staying up all night thing never really appealed to me as a regular gig, either. I like to do this great thing called sleep. Man, you should try it. That stuff is amazing. But here’s the thing–the schedule of a ghostwriter, or at least this writer, depends completely on inspiration, and if it doesn’t change frequently, all could be lost.

Some days–most days, actually–I’m eager to write. Especially now, when I’ve got a project of my own going and am working closely with an editor to perfect it. I get very excited about getting all that exercising and dog walking and sunshine-enjoying out of the way so I can plop down in front of the computer and play with words. That was yesterday. I worked like a demon!

Today, though, I woke up with a distinct feeling that I needed the whole day off. Now, I know that makes me sound incredibly spoiled, but you have to remember there’s an underlying kind of blanket of anxiety under all this freedom, which is the worry that, in the end, maybe none of this stuff will get published and my entire life will turn out to have been a waste of time.

I spend a lot more days working like a demon than I do relaxing, but that relaxing is crucial. It lets the mind open up and rearrange the words for another day in the salt mines. It’s amazing what not-writing can do for a writer or for whatever memoir I’m working on.

The dead time is crucial, and yes, when I’m inspired I will work deep into the night. I will get up crazy early and bang out some so-called brilliance that I woke up burning to express. So, you see, the whole idea of a writer’s schedule is a myth. Despite what some romantics think, work times have to ebb and flow with the inspiration behind them. Creativity that operates on schedule, to me, is very very suspect.

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