The time at our disposal each day is elastic; the passions we feel dilate it, those that inspire us shrink it, and habit fills it. —Marcel Proust
Inspiration never shows up on time. At least, not for me. That’s why I decided early on in my career never to wait for it—inspiration is unreliable.
The etymology of inspire is interesting…it comes from the Latin word meaning “to inhale”. The ancients believed that they would actually breathe in a divine being as they worked, and that the divine would accomplish the art through them. That’s why epic poems always open with the invocation of the muse.
And there really are times that writing feels like that—as if someone has taken over your body and is putting the words onto the page through you. Those are the moments that shrink time, making it pass so quickly that we look up from our work and think, It’s time for dinner already?
Unfortunately, I don’t have moments like that every day.
Since I can’t count on inspiration, I’ve come to depend on habit. Discipline is another word with an interesting etymology—the Latin discipulus means student. In contemporary society, we often associate discipline with punishment or even pain, but that isn’t what discipline requires. Rather, self-discipline merely requires that we get past our initial feelings of dread or resistance to sitting down and doing the work. Put simply, discipline is the art of doing something when we don’t feel like it.
One of my favorite features of Bookflow is the daily tracker, which clearly shows how many days out of the week I’ve managed to show up. It keeps me honest. Not making enough progress in my book? It’s usually pretty easy to see why.
Discipline requires no waiting. It requires no muse. It simply requires putting our fears aside and being willing to show up and teach ourselves for another day.