Over the last several weeks, I’ve given a lot of thought to my writing process. Back in March, when I officially left my job, I’d planned to sit down and work out a schedule. It was going to look something like this:
8:00-9:00 – Wake up, shower, coffee, breakfast, news check
9:00-12:00 – WRITE!
12:00-1:00 – Lunch, news check, walk the dog
1:00-2:00 – Errands
2:00-5:00 – WRITE!
Looks like a good schedule, right? Yeah, I thought so, too. But I’ve not really put it into practice. At all.
The sad truth is, I’ve never been good at sticking to schedules. The best I can do is to show up five minutes early when I’ve got something on my calendar. With writing in particular, I can never tell when I’ll be most productive, and I get frustrated just sitting and staring at a blank page. Whether it’s 2:00 p.m. or 2:00 a.m., I’ve always written my best stuff right at the moment when the muse graces me and my imaginary friends want to come out and play.
I got in trouble once at a rehearsal for Annie (that musical about the red-headed orphan…you know the one) because I was (ostensibly) staring off into space. The music director kept repeating “concentration and focus” while glaring at me, and I didn’t notice until someone poked me in the arm. What the music director didn’t know was that I WAS concentrating. I just wasn’t concentrating on the rehearsal. At about the third warm-up scale, I’d been hit with a really cool idea for a story, about a little girl who secretly lived in a theatre with her ghost parents. As the music director was staring me down, I was sketching out a plot, staring into the wings because that’s where the little girl liked to sit during the day and pretend that she was a famous actress about to make her grand entrance.
I think routines are good. I think schedules are helpful, and I envy people who can stick to them – in eating, in exercising, in writing, in life generally. But for me, I find them a little bit constricting, and I know that I do my best work when I’m really in the zone, rather than when my calendar tells me to be in the zone.
I do think discipline is important, though, and I do try to work on my novel every day, whether I’m feeling inspired or not. I figure that’s the only way it’s going to get written. Which is why, right now, I’m stuck in the middle of an outline and almost out of my favorite coffee and it’s only 11:00. Writer life.