Scheduling Inspiration

Book Review: Zerubavel, Eviatar. The Clockwork Muse: A Practical Guide to Writing Theses, Dissertations, and Books. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1999.

Schedule the muses? Impossible! The idea seems inimical to basic assumptions about writing. And it's true: The muse can't be scheduled. But your writing can be.

So, rather than wait on the elusive muse to show up, Zerubavel argues our we need to schedule writing. The best way to accomplish large writing endeavors is to schedule—very precisely and accurately—your writing time.

While targeted at the academic writer, whether writing a book or a dissertation and/or thesis, I recommend this book for anyone who wants to write. Zerubavel provides clear, minute details on how to establish writing routines and schedules. He gives similarly clear and precise details for determining writing timetables to estimate completion. 

He explains how to break down the book into stair step chunks, how to maintain a high level of energy while writing, how to prevent burnout, and more. This practical book is an easy read—two hours for the quick reader. Implementing his ideas will take at least one writing session, but will help you tremendously in the task of creating and keeping publication and completion deadlines. 

A favorite quote: 

I strongly suggest that you write your thesis, dissertation, or book several times from start to finish rather than try to bring each segment of your manuscript to completion and only then move on to the next one. Kindle Locations 727-729

This advice surprised me, but I also found encouraging. The author writes four drafts of each of his books (7 in 21 years), and he manually rewrites each draft. It sounds like a remarkable amount of work, but it tends to jumpstart the writing process by removing some of the initial hesitation of getting the first words on paper.