finding time to write

One Small Thing

A friend who is raising small children and also attempting to write a novel emailed me and asked for help. 
Daunting-ponder-question-520424-l Well not help, really, but inspiration.  She is feeling overwhelmed and can't get to her writing.  Besides telling her that this, too, shall pass, because it will, faster than anybody can ever imagine, I have a pithy piece of advice for her:

One small thing. 

As in, just do one small thing a day.  Or even every other day.  Or once a week.

The older wiser I get, the more I see that things don't happen overnight.  When I was younger, I didn't quite understand this.  If I started on a project–say, cleaning out the closet–and didn't finish it that very day, I thought I would never get back to it.  And so then of course I didn't.  And so then I learned just to not start things.  Because they weren't going to get done so why bother.

But lately I see how profoundly the old wisdom is true.  For instance:

Steady as she goes.

One day at a time.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Or, my favorite, from my late, beloved mother:

Step by step we travel far.

Last year, I embarked on a project to reorganize my office.  I'm embarrassed to admit how long it took me–like, months.  I was determined to go through everything–all the old files and notes and journals–and it took forever.  Also, there were huge swaths of time when I was too busy to get to it, and the papers and books piled up on the floor of my office.  But then some time on the weekend would clear and I would get back to it.  Even when I finally got the office furniture, it took awhile to have it put together.  But finally, it was done.  And I was happy.

I think when I was younger I had the weird idea that if it didn't get done all at once, it didn't count.  That somehow dragging a project out over time invalidated it, the way we think, say, getting a parking ticket at the end of a blissful evening somehow negates the perfection of what came before.

But now I get that things take time.  And we may not always have the time we need to attend to them at the moment, but eventually we will.  And it is way, way better to relax and go with the flow than resist it, because resistance is what causes unhappiness.  If I had figured this out when I was younger, I would have been a whole lot happier.

And now I know that doing one small thing, even once in awhile, can keep the thread of a project alive and the inspiration going.  So let's all quit being so hard on ourselves about things and just do one small thing.

Photo by woodleywonderworks, courtesy of Flickr.

Getting Up At 5 AM

Last week, I set a goal with my friend and fellow writer Roy, that both of us would rise at 5 AM in order to write.  The goal was to do it twice last week and three times this week.  Since he's in Nashville and I'm in Portland, with a two hour time difference, the idea is that we each email the other when we are up and working.  Usually this consists of a terse message along the lines of "up."  (Hey, we save our creative energy for the page.)

So, I've managed to rise at 5 AM three times now.  In typical fashion for me, today, even though I told myself I could sleep in, it being Monday and all, I woke up all on my own at a little after 5.  I have a strong circadian clock, I think.

Since I've now managed to rouse myself from bed three, count 'em, three, times, that makes me an expert.  And because I am an expert, I have pronouncements.  So here goes:

1.  The worst part is the first moment when you open your eyes and groan.  Keep your eyes open and get your feet on the floor.  It gets better from there–especially when you get some coffee in you.

2.  Speaking of coffee, make sure you have some waiting for you, either made by a spouse willing (or having no choice) to get up early also, or via automatic timer.  Trust me, you are going to want coffee immediately.

3.  Drink a couple big glasses of water before you start on the
coffee.  Its good for you, and it'll help keep your brain focused. 
Plus, it will give you an excuse to get up from the computer and use
the bathroom.

4.  Have a plan.  And don't make the plan the morning of, figure it out the night before.  This morning, because I didn't really plan to get up so early, I wasn't prepared with a plan and consequently I didn't get as much done. 

5.  Have a big goal.  Mine is to once and for all finish the rewrite of my novel and get it out the door.  I want this desperately, so desperately that I'm willing to get up in the dark to write. 

6.  Be prepared to kick ass and get tons done.  Its magical, really.  Since I work at home and can generally stay in my jammies all day long if I want to, I usually don't have to quit my morning writing session until 7:30 or 8, depending on what pressing assignments I have.  When I get up at 5, I feel like I have a vast expanse of time in which to work, and my brain opens and eases and it is much easier to focus.

7.  Don't let those pesky night owl types talk you out of your plan to rise early.  It is worth it, trust me.  Really, really worth it.

And now, excuse me, its nearly 9 PM and time for me to get in bed.  Kidding!  Sort of.