This Writer Is Always On Call

Most jobs come with a schedule. 9-5 is probably the most common. Some people punch a time clock, others just show up, put in their time and leave. If I had to describe my work hours, it would be easiest to describe them as ‘on call’.

I write for a living. So you’d think I can set my own hours. Show up at the keyboard, pound out a few pages and call it good. Right? Except it doesn’t work that way. At least not for me. I’ve read a lot of advice on the craft of writing that you should force yourself to sit down – and the words come out. Apparently my muse never got that memo. (Or she did and she’s too busy laughing hysterically to give it any credence.)

Don’t get me wrong. I prepare. I plot like there’s no tomorrow. I know what has to go into the scene I’m trying to write. I know the POV, I know the setting and I may even know whole snippits of conversation. But if it’s not ready to come out my fingertips…it’s not ready. No amount of sitting (or chocolate bribes) will get those words to flow if they don’t want to.

Here’s how my creativity works on call. I plot and plan and set up the scene…every weekday morning after the kids leave for school. Sometimes it comes right then. I write for a few hours, the scene is done. I call it a day. But sometimes (more often, lately, than not) it doesn’t. And I have to get up and do something else. Fold laundry, walk the dog, run a few errands. I’m giving it time to percolate.

I never know when it’s going to hit — that moment when the stars align and everything falls into place. It could be just an inkling, or it could be a fully mapped out, word-for-word scene. It starts in my brain, then my whole body is buzzing. My fingertips literally start wiggling. I can feel the words right there on the ends of them! The urge to run to my computer is a compulsion I cannot control. Nor, do I dare deny.

Now, unlike a surgeon who is on call…my situation gets a little more complicated. Have I mentioned I’m working on four books at once? Can you imagine an on-call surgeon with four different specialties? They’d never know if they were being called in for an appendectomy, a face lift, a c-section or brain surgery. I wait for the muse to strike, but I never know which book she’s going to hit me with. Keeps me on my toes.

Either I’ll keep my mind busy enough to ward off dementia, in my older years, or my sanity left the minute I decided to devote myself to a writing career. We’ll just pretend it’s the former. Ignorance is bliss, after all.

Anyone else have a schedule that requires them to be available on a whim? Tell us about it.