Unfortunately, I don't have the time. In less than two hours, I'll head to work. Before then, I need to shower, pack a meal, and maybe work on a little nonfiction project because I have a deadline. The writing mood may linger, but with no outlet, it will settle in the back of my mind and wait for inspiration to stir it up again.
When I come home at 8 pm, my brain will likely be too tired to string together pretty sentences. And so I hold out hope for tomorrow, during which I may have a few spare hours in which to write.
But there is no guarantee that I'll be in the mood.
During high school, I found ways to write even when the week was full of schoolwork and youth group and chores and other things. I thought I was busy then, but I made the effort to write anyways. I loved it too much to not write.
I feel even busier now. Twenty- to thirty-hour weeks, blogging, social outings, family time, and all the random bits of life . . . Writing happens less often now. I'm coming to accept that, but it does mean that if I want to write at all, I have to utilize my spare time--whether or not I feel like it.
I don't know how you feel about writing, whether it's a hobby or something you want to do for a living. If you, like me, want to make it a career, then we must treat it like a job. Not in a joy-sucking, "I'm obligated to do this" sort of way, but in a persistent way.
Your muse isn't cooperating? Doesn't matter. Write. Lacking inspiration? Just write. Your thoughts are too bland and listless to arrange themselves nicely on the page? Write out those bland and listless words anyway. Some days you have to give yourself permission to write junk. At least you're writing.
"I have forced myself to begin writing when I've been utterly exhausted, when I've felt my soul as thin as a playing card . . . and somehow the activity of writing changes everything." -Joyce Carol Oates
Of course you need breaks. I'm not saying go burn yourself out. You may need that evening off to watch your favorite show, or that week to just read and sketch and wander through the trees and refill your well of inspiration. Please put the writing aside when necessary.
But a lot of the time, when you feel like doing anything but staring at a blank page, that's exactly what you need to do. The act of putting pen to paper or fingers to keys may be just the thing to wake up the ideas. Muses are flighty creatures. Yours may be off sulking in a corner right now, but if you start writing, it might get curious and slink up to your shoulder again. Then again, it might not. But if you write long enough, whether it be minutes or hours or days or weeks, the inspiration will come back. By writing consistently, you're forming a habit. The mood might start arriving more consistently then, too.
"Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on." -Louis L'Amour
For me, I'm realizing that 'consistent' does not--cannot--mean something like, "On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I will write for three hours," or "I will write a minimum of 100 words a day." I wish it did. But the way life is right now, very few activities land on the exact same day at the exact time, every time. My schedule morphs on a daily basis. So although it's harder to hold myself accountable under these circumstances, I have to take stock every day and determine if/when I have time to write. And then I aim to do it. Sometimes other tasks take longer, or I discover upon reaching my writing time that I truly don't have anything to put on the page. And sometimes I read blogs and check email when I should be writing. I'm human. Discipline is something I'm learning.
The important thing is to show up.
And show up again.
And show up again.
Write. Write glorious pages upon pages of flowing script, or write one measly paragraph that clunks onto the page like an unwieldy cement block. Write passionate, inspired scenes, or write the most boring chapter you've ever penned. Whatever it looks like today, write anyway!
(Editing, after all, fixes everything. But that's another post altogether.)