Raymond Chandler to Alex Barris
March 18, 1949
From Raymond Chandler Speaking, p. 79
I’m always seeing little pieces by writers about how they don’t ever wait for inspiration; they just sit down at their little desks every morning at eight, rain or shine, hangover and broken arm and all, and bang out their little stint. However blank their minds or dull their wits, no nonsense about inspiration from them. I offer them my admiration and take care to avoid their books.
Me, I wait for inspiration, although I don’t necessarily call it by that name. I believe that all writing that has any life in it is done with the solar plexus. It is hard work in the same sense that it may leave you tired, even exhausted. In the sense of conscious effort, it is not work at all. The important thing is that there should be a space of time, say four hours a day at least, when a professional writer doesn’t do anything else but write. He doesn’t have to write, and if he doesn’t feel like it he shouldn’t try. He can look out of the window or stand on his head or writhe on the floor, but he is not to do any other positive thing, not read, write letters, glance at magazines, or write checks. Either write or nothing. It’s the same principle as keeping order in a school. If you make the pupils behave, they will learn something just to keep from being bored. I find it works. Two very simple rules. A. You don’t have to write. B. You can’t do anything else. The rest comes of itself.