One of the best ways I’ve found to consistently produce pages and have time to work on my fiction is to do it first thing in the morning. I’ve even gone through periods when I set the alarm for 5 or 5:30 and spend the first two hours of the day doing nothing but writing. (Hmmm, maybe it is time to consider setting the alarm again. There is something so nice about being able to get up when I wake up. And since I generally wake up before 6:30, I haven’t been pushing myself.)
This morning I read about the morning routine of Michael Masterson, copywriter extraordinaire and millionaire and author. I like him; for some reason he doesn’t annoy me as so many of the rah-rah business guys do. Every Sunday he sends out a newsletter called Early to Rise, and today’s had a great article called "A Life-Changing Early-Morning Routine," about how he organizes his time to put his most important goals first. He’ll spend the first hour of the day doing a task that pushes forward his most important goal. The results are nothing short of incredible:
"I’ve used this amazing technique to write six books, produce a record,
and script and direct a feature-length film. I used it again last year
to write 350 poems – one a day, after I began on January 15. And I am
using it this year to get that book of poems published and to write six
other books (five business books under the Michael Masterson pen name,
and a novel with my personal byline)."
It’s worth it to go read the article because he goes into detail about how he does it.
The one thing that he doesn’t mention in the article, probably because for him it goes without saying, is discipline. Once you get in the hang of doing this, it becomes self-affirming. You’re getting so much done and feeling so good about it that you pop out of bed when the alarm rings, get going on the work, and your day is set. The one thing that you do not do is check email. You do not do this under any circumstances. You also do not decide that you need to check your blog stats, real quick, or do a quick scan of the morning news.
One thing that also helps is accountability. When I wrote the first draft of my novel, Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior, I was rising with the dawn. Thousands of miles south of me, in warm and lovely Pasadena, my wonderful friend Suzanne was also rising early to work on her photography. We had an iron-clad pact that we would email each other first thing to say that we were awake and if one of us didn’t get an email, we would call the other. As you can imagine, this worked rather well, since neither or us wanted to be the slacker who didn’t get up.
It is especially useful when you have pressing deadlines for other work that you know will fill the rest of your day, because you have the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve taken time for your most important goal. That glow of satisfaction will spill over into your other work. It helps to take away the "I’m wasting my life working for the Man" mental whine that we all get into to. Somehow, it is way easier to work for the Man, be he a full-time job or a temporary free-lance master, when you’ve devoted time to your own work first.
Okay, so I’ve convinced myself. I’m setting the alarm tomorrow. Anybody want to join me?