This week, I resumed my early morning writing routine, and it was glorious.
The thing that I really need for Writing Time is for it to be open-ended. I need to sit down to write knowing that I have a lot of time available. Not too much time, of course; if I have six hours to write, it would be super easy to start cleaning the kitchen or reading a book and think, I’ll write later. Ideally, I’d have two to four hours of writing time that would be uninterrupted.
And the thing is – it is most helpful if there’s not a Big Thing I Have To Do at the end of the writing time. And that is really hard to come by.
Usually, I wake up at 4(ish) in the morning, go for a run, and then sit down to write until about 6 a.m. It’s not as much time as I’d like – about 90 minutes at the most – but it’s a decent amount of time.
HOWEVER. At the end of the 90 minutes, I have to get dressed and ready for work. When there’s a Thing I Need To Do, my tendency is to want to get it done immediately so that I can focus. (This doesn’t apply to all areas of my life, but does apply here.) So I end up getting dressed and ready before I start writing, which eats into my time.
And then, still, I know that it’s not that long before I have to get myself going and out the door. Not to mention – at any point during this Writing Time, a small child may either start crying from his crib or come out of his room and climb into my lap.
So it’s hard to get into a groove on days like that. It’s hard to imagine waking up even earlier – 3:30 a.m.? THREE?! – but I am hoping that someday, as much as I love my current school, perhaps I can transfer to an elementary school so that my work day will start a little later. (Also, I love working with younger kids! Middle school has been wonderful, but elementary school is my sweet spot.) Right now, I need to be at work sometime between 7 and 7:20 a.m. If I work at an elementary school someday, I believe I’ll need to be at school later – more like 8:45 a.m. That won’t give me as much time as I’d like on the afternoon/evening side of the day, but it would give me valuable writing time in the mornings.
But this week? During my two weeks off due to the coronavirus crisis? I am able to wake up at 4 a.m. knowing that my early morning time is mine. If I get all the way to 6:30 a.m. and I haven’t gotten dressed yet, that is just fine. That’s a solid 2 1/2 hours of Writing Time, with no particular thing that has to get done at a certain time at the end of it.
I know my mornings for the next few weeks won’t always go like this, but it’s been helpful to me to realize how different it feels to sit down to write with Enough Time. I am constantly feeling the effects of a scarcity mindset – i.e., feeling like there is Not Enough of the things I want and need. And that definitely applies to my time. 90 minutes is not enough writing time – not enough to really sink into fiction writing, not even enough to really delve into anything serious or meaningful.
I want to shift that mindset; I know that a scarcity mindset is not the best thing for me or for anyone. It doesn’t help me to be positive, optimistic, energetic, and generous. It doesn’t help me to be happy.
But also? I sometimes beat myself up for not being able to do more, accomplish more. I get frustrated that I haven’t finished a novel yet. I get down on myself for not finishing and submitting short stories for publication.
So it is often helpful for me to get a reality check and realize: THIS IS HARD.
It is not easy to prioritize writing as a full-time working parent with two young kids. My kids come first; I am not willing or able to sacrifice too much Kid Time so I can write. That gives me these little pockets of time – and they are little! It’s hard to do the kind of writing I want to do this way.
The other reality check is: THIS WILL BE EASIER. When I do have a longer period of time, the writing flows. It doesn’t even have to be four hours. I woke up at 4 a.m. to write today, and I felt loose and nimble – like I’d stretched and jogged and was ready to run a brisk 5K. There is a someday, when my writing time and life and routine will be more productive. Right now, that someday is NOW. Eventually, that someday will be summertime. Beyond that – who knows?
And all of this really adds up to just GRATITUDE. Gratitude for the time I do get to write, and realization that there is benefit to having bigger chunks of time to devote to writing. For my Writing Life, I think that I need consistency AND dedicated time. I need to write every single day, for my mental health, self-care, and routine. And I also need to find longer stretches of writing time when I can – an early morning solo coffee date, maybe, or an evening when I soldier through my post-bedtime exhaustion and devote 2 to 3 hours to a project.
I’ll likely say this over and over again, but – I feel guilty when I feel gratitude for this Writing Time. The only reason why my early mornings have been so productive this week is my unexpected week off due to the coronavirus crisis. And I am not happy or grateful for the coronavirus – not at all. I’m scared for the world, anxious for us all. I wish this was not happening.
Yet I am grateful for my Writing Time and for time with the boys. And I do believe in focusing on the good and making the best of whatever life brings us.
So cheers to that. And if you have any suggestions for making time for writing, I am always eager for tips and tricks!