In Tammy Strobel’s class, Writing in the Digital Age, we were asked form a daily writing practice. Tammy blogs and teaches e-courses at http://www.rowdykittens.com/.
The last time I took Tammy’s writing class, I struggled with finding time in my day for writing. I knew I wanted it to be a part of my daily life, but at first I didn’t want to make any changes to make that a reality.
My job is busy, so I don’t have time for creative writing during the day.
I tried writing at lunch, but lunch was the only time I had to go to the gym, and writing got sacrificed for the physical activity I need to maintain my sanity.
I tried writing when I got home from work, but by then I was worthless. After cooking dinner, helping with homework, bathing kids and getting ready for the next day, I just wanted to sit on the couch with a book or watch tv.
I tried writing on the vanpool I take to and from work. But writing, like reading, in a moving vehicle makes me car sick. I powered through a couple of times, just fought the nausea until I couldn’t stand it anymore before putting the pen down.
Finally I gave up that, too, and writing fell to the wayside. Again.
By this time I was just pissed off. I’d found something I was good at, damn it. Something I enjoyed and could conceivably do for the rest of my life. I wasn’t about to give that up.
In a last ditch effort to save my writing practice, I resumed the same schedule I had while I was working full time and going to school at night.
I started getting up at 4 am so I could write for an hour before I had to get ready for work.
At first I made it one or two days with this schedule before I started turning the alarm off in my sleep. So I set the alarm in the bathroom forcing me to climb out of my warm and comfortable bed to silence the hateful thing.
Words began consistently appearing on notebook pages.
With further observation I found I could write two notebook pages in about ten minutes. Then I noticed it was taking me about ten minutes to really get going in the morning.
I wanted to squeeze everything I could out of that 1 hour I had every day, so one night I tried setting the alarm ten minutes earlier to 3:50 am. Sure enough, two more notebook pages got filled the next day. And the next. And the next.
And that’s where my alarm stands today.
Is this easy?
Do I wake up sunny and refreshed from my (maybe) 6 hours of sleep?
Do I get up singing the day’s praises, looking forward to sunrise still more than three hours away?
Not even close.
Do I stumble through my house in the dark fumbling for that first cup of coffee in baggy sweats and a ratty t-shirt, sometimes with yesterday’s mascara still ringing my eyes, at a time when most people are still two hours from waking up?
Yeah. That’s me.
I know it doesn’t show on the blog, because I’ve been working on other projects, but those words get written. And so I keep setting that alarm.
Do I think everyone has to do it this way? Absolutely not.
I think everyone has to find their own way. Some people can stay up late. Me? I turn into a pumpkin at 9 o’clock. You might be thinking, well that’s because you get up at dark-thirty, Meghan.
Yeah, that’s probably part of it. But then I’ve always been this way. Even with a two hour nap on a Saturday afternoon, I’ll still turn in before ten pm. It’s just how I’m wired. It kind of sucks for my husband. I think we last saw in a New Year together thirteen years ago.
Finding this writing routine was one of the most valuable lessons I took from Tammy’s class.
Another lesson Tammy taught me: just wishing to get better at something isn’t enough.
You also have to be willing to make changes. You have to accept that what you’re currently doing isn’t working. You have to be willing to take that first tentative, frustrating, maybe terrifying step down the road to improvement.
This is true with writing, fitness, eating a healthy diet, finishing school… Anything.
Making changes can be hard. Tammy reminded me that if you have some faith in yourself, you’ll find a way.