Yesterday something amazing happened. I was driving home from work, the open road—well, the road and hundreds of other cars were ahead of me, and my mind started to drift. For once it wasn’t about the groceries I needed to buy, and the cat I needed to clean up after. No, I had the seedling for a story.
Sometimes when I get these spurts of inspiration they announce themselves in the form of a word or maybe a phrase. Sometimes I smell something and think, “What if?…” Yesterday it was the feeling of driving over the crest of a tall hill and watching the valley open up wide and colorful in front of me. It just clicked and I rushed in and sat down to write.
An hour and one heck of a cramped hand later (I’m a fan of longhand for first drafts) I emerged with something that turned out to be eight double-spaced pages long. It was a first draft in many senses of the phrase, but I felt really good about it. And this got me thinking.
As a writer who more often than not daydreams of writing the great American novel, I tend to turn to the web for #writetips (thank you Twitter. Surprisingly you’ve given me quite a few) and other blogs for suggestions on how to plug through it. I mostly read the stories of the über disciplined: the “I write for six hours every day only taking prescribed breaks” people. Or the full time workers who wake up before dawn to scribble notes for an hour or two before packing it off to the office. That isn’t me.
Don’t get me wrong. I do have those weeks where I’m disciplined. In order to finish my 1st draft of my second novel this summer, I wrote a couple of hours a day and pushed out 100 pages in ten days. That’s a record. That’s atypical. Usually I write when I feel like writing. For me, if I’m feeling uninspired or generally exhausted, nothing but pained, awkward nothings creep onto the page or screen. I’m busy enough that I like to recognize those Aha! moments and then capitalize on them.
Should I write more? Most definitely. But although it is work, writing is also a pleasure for me, so when I can help it, that’s how I like to keep it.