daysofinspiration asked you:

Maureen, do you have any suggestions for what to do when inspiration hits at the wrong time? I block off time to write, but it’s when I’m not supposed to be writing, say when I’m studying for a test, that my best ideas hit me and I can’t focus on anything else until I get them down.

Dear daysofinspiration,

I like the word INSPIRE. It’s nice. The word itself means “breathing in.” And that’s what we do … we breathe things in. We take in the world. We see things, we hear things, we smell things and feel things … we take it all inside, and we cook it into something new. 

Our brains continue to work away at things, even when we are unaware of it. I suspect brain monkeys, little creatures that deal with up the many strange things we have collected. They try out all kinds of combinations. They smack things together and put things inside of other things. Brain monkeys do not keep a schedule. They come to you, no matter what you are doing, to tell you about their work. 

What I do when this happens (and it happens a lot) is I take a pad of paper and I write the thing down as quickly as possible in note form. When I next sit down to do my work, I open the notebook and there it is. SOMETHING TO DO! There is NOTHING better than sitting down to your day’s writing with SOMETHING TO DO!

Lots of writers keep notebooks around for this very purpose. Ideas love to pop out and sock you in the head when you’re getting into bed, or you’re at the gym, or you’re in the bath, or you’re tunneling to the center of the earth in search of earth core monsters. Just get it down. I have written on napkins, on bags, on myself. (Frequently I write on my wrist, under my watch, and then use the watch to cover the note.)

Ideas can come at the darndest times.

But here is the THING … you can TRAIN your inspiration a bit. When you sit down to write on a regular basis, you will find that ideas will come. I’m not saying that every day is an UNCEASING FLOW OF THOUGHT CANDY, but the very act of doing the work PROVOKES the brain monkeys, and they give you more stuff. This is how writers function … we work consistently. 

Jot your ideas down when they come and then keep doing what you were doing before. Keep going to your desk when it’s time to write. 

Coming at you unexpectedly,

Auntie MJ