I spent my entire Friday night listening to, playing, and marveling at the glory of music.
I also spent the first five or so hours of Saturday doing that, and consequently went to bed just as the sun was beginning to rise. Four hours later, I got up and went to my advanced students’ graduation. Two hours later, I came home, and, despite — or perhaps due to — my exhaustion, was surprised to find myself endowed with a small spark of inspiration. The kind that whispers about how being productive right now might be a good idea. The kind that tells you to clean the entire house or go run five miles. The kind that says, “Think of how great it would feel if you got a whole bunch of shit done right now.”
Such a spark can fade in just a few seconds, and so it must be seized.
I showered, put on clean jeans, my oversized SHU hoodie, and my L.L. Bean slippers. A writer’s uniform. The day reflected my enthusiasm, so I opened the windows to let in the sunlight and fresh air. I made green tea. I put on Music for Airports. I put my phone in the other room. And over the course of the next several hours, I proceeded to write one-thousand-one hundred-and sixty-five words about the major themes of Middle English lyric poetry.
It was a watershed moment for my thesis. Not only did my spree bring my thesis introduction to a staggering four-thousand-three-hundred-and-seventy-two words, but, when combined with my body of textual analysis, it pushed my total word count over the coveted fifty-pages threshold. My almost done thesis had blasted through a tremendous milestone, one that many months ago seemed imposing and somewhat life-threatening. And now, all that remains to be written is a handful of pages in the form of a conclusion.
In that moment when I got home, I could have just as easily decided to have lunch first. I could have decided to catch up on some video games. I could have decided to fall back into bed and tell myself, “I’ll do better work if I’m rested.” But I assure you, had I done anything else in that moment, that spark would have gone out and faded from memory. And I’d still be feeling guilty about not finishing my introduction.
Sometimes, you have to stay up until five in the morning playing your guitar. Sometimes, you have to go to work on four hours of sleep. Sometimes, you have to force yourself to do the work. But when you feel that twinge of productivity — when you feel that spark — seize it. Recognize it, cultivate it, and relish it.
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