Forget Inspiration, Form Habits

Charles Reade by Charles Mercier (Wikimedia Commons)

Charles Reade by Charles Mercier (Wikimedia Commons)

There’s this ticking noise in my apartment.  I’m assuming it comes from the water lines in the building, which seems like it was made cheaply and quickly.  An unfortunate result of living in one of the fastest growing cities in America.
It’s gotten to the point where most of the time I forget about the tapping sound, or don’t notice it.  However, there are moments when the tap is unruly and absolutely inconvenient.
It’ll “tap tap tap” during key moments of the day, right when I get home from work, as soon as I lay my head down for the night, and those precious moments before I absolutely must get out of bed in the morning. The noise has become a constant in my life.
Much like the desire to write. It never leaves me. But what separates writers from hobbyists is habit.  Octavia Butler is quoted as saying, “First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.”
Establishing a habit also means establishing the proper time to sit down and dirty one’s hands with words. A lot of great writers set aside specific times every day (or at least every working day) to focus solely on their work and nothing else.  And others don’t—they let their passions drive their creative work.  E.B. White said, “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”
In an article about Charles Dickens, “Some writers (Dickens among them) are larks. Others – more nocturnal – are owls. Robert Frost… often stayed up till two or three in the morning, not rising until midday, or even later. (Marcel) Proust, famously, worked night and day in a cork-lined room. I remember reading somewhere that Raymond Chandler observed that it was impossible to write well for more than four hours a day.”
If the time of day doesn’t feel natural, set up a different time of day.  A few weeks ago I was passionate about writing in the morning before coming to work. It didn’t take long before I found myself sleeping in during the times I should have been writing.  Instead, I’ve implemented a new write time of 9 p.m. right when I’m winding down for the evening.
The best thing to remember about whether or not a specific time of day is best for you is that if a certain time doesn’t work for you, DO NOT grow self-conscious about your ability as a writer.  That’s the worst thing that can happen.  That’s something to remember for writing blogs, they’re meant to help and not be the end all be all.
In the meantime, I can’t wait for the evening in hopes that the tap tap tick tap tock tap is the rustling bustle of my worn down Sears typewriter on a clean sheet of paper.

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