Every Sunday morning that I’m in town, I head out for a long run. Two weekends ago at the waterfront, the weather was glorious. The whole city of Portland took up jogging or cycling.
Last weekend at the waterfront, the weather was more to our usual end-of-Spring form … rainy and gloomy. The whole city of Portland stayed indoors.
On the sunny day, joggers and cyclists smiled at each other with a mutual appreciation of our good fortune. The implied message was, “It’s good to be alive!”
But on the rainy day, a much smaller crowd of amateur athletes nodded at each other with mutual pride. The implied message was, “Nice job. Glad to see you made it out while other people are sleeping in.”
If I don’t feel like running one weekend, I go anyway. It’s not just out of duty—nine times out of ten, I’m glad I went. The days I feel bad about my writing aren’t the days when I’ve written poorly. It’s the days where I’ve done everything but write—those days are killer.
If you base your workout schedule on the weather, you’ll never build a habit of exercise. The same is true for writing or any other creative practice: base it on anything outside your control, and good luck getting anything done.
In a creative practice, waiting for “inspiration” is the worst. I follow the Somerset Maugham school of inspiration: “I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”
It might not be every morning at nine o’clock sharp for you, but the point is that inspiration shows up when you have a deadline to meet. If you don’t have a real deadline, better make one up.
I always like to hear about other people’s goals and projects. One interesting way to find out what motivates someone is to ask:
“Why do you get out of bed in the mornings?”
Sometimes the answer is “school” or “a job,” and that’s fine—I don’t think everyone should walk away from schools and jobs without a plan. But the obvious follow-up is, what if you didn’t have the obligation; what would you get out of bed in the mornings for if it was completely up to you?
I get up to run on Sundays, rain or shine. I’d rather it be shining, but regardless, the shoes are by the door the night before. The other six days of the week, I get up to write. I’m working toward something; I’ll put the miles in.
How about you—why do you get out of bed in the mornings?