Monday, August 22, 2011

Does a Writer Need a Schedule?

This is the question I ask myself over and over: does a writer need a schedule? I mean scheduled hours to sit in front of the computer or notebook and write. Do they need to be the same hours every day?

I have the enviable position of deciding how to spend most of my days and furthermore for two days of the week I have the house completely to myself (minus a gaggle of cats). I don't have to spend fifteen minutes going through a drive-through, ten minutes cramming a deep-fried something-or-other down my gullet and five minutes of writing on a thirty-minute lunch break. I can nibble on healthy food all day and write at my leisure (chocolate dipped coconut macaroons are healthy food in this scenario). It beats my schedule when I was an construction office coordinator!

But I find if I don't have some structure, nothing gets done. I mean, if I'm honest, without a schedule my spouse is likely to come home and find dirty dishes piled in the sink, dinner not even contemplated let alone started, me unshowered and still wearing my jammies, clutching a mostly-empty notebook and muttering to myself about the "research" I did on Facebook all day.  Actually, the Facebook part is more productive than I am on some of those unstructured days.

On the other hand.... Well, let me back up. The reason I am contemplating my schedule today is that I haven't had a schedule for the last week and a half. My spouse and I went on a driving trip across the Canadian state of Ontario along Lake Erie to support my in-laws who are cycling all the way from Washington state to Connecticut this summer. When we returned to our house we found our cat-sitter had not done a very good job and three of our indoor-only cats were loose. Two were wrangled in short order, but one of our youngest, an ex-feral, remains at large. I have spent many a sleepless night since trying to lure him home. That's more personal information than I normally share in this blog, but the point is this: how do you write when your schedule is out the window?

My emotions are running high, my nerves have been shot, I'm not in my most creative place because I'm running on fumes. But the writing still needs to get done. Instead of scribbling in my notebook or editing my manuscript I've been recording voice memos on my smartphone. It's kind of nice, really. I can get those elusive ideas that flit through your head in the middle of the night down in their raw form and manipulate them later. And since I'm in such a vulnerable state, it's easier to get at the vulnerabilities of my main characters.

I'm not recommending someone put themselves through sleepless nights or an emotional ordeal in order to get at some deeper emotions in their writing. But I am saying that while a schedule and routine are useful tools... I don't think they are absolutely necessary to the creative process anymore.

I am endlessly curious about the creative process. So tell me, do you have a routine or schedule for your writing? What do you do to get back on schedule when life gets in the way?

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