It's the ugly truth that's been said over and over: "Writer's write." If I'm not spending quality time with butt-in-chair actually collecting strings of reasonably coherent words, then how can I call myself a writer? I've finally decided that the problem keeping me from my goals is really very simple, I need to develop the habit
of writing. If I only write after everything else in life has been accomplished, then I have doomed myself to the ranks of the wannabe. I need to actively create a space in my day that is set aside for writing, and this is where it gets tricky for me.
I am a night person. In my ideal world, everyone else's day ends about 10 PM, the house grows quiet and I bang away at the keyboard, undisturbed, into the wee hours of the night. Here are the problems with this scenario:
- It's the end of the day. If I've been carrying bags of cement all day, I'm not going to be up for writing.
- The morning often comes around at the same time of day, regardless of how late I stayed up. And sleep deprivation will make it that much harder (impossible) to write the next day.
My only other option is to create a slice of time in the morning. I really hate that. I'm definitely not a morning person. I generally don't function very well in the morning, but, I say that knowing (through my own fault) I am often rather sleep deprived. I rarely get more than six hours of sleep in a night, and it's generally because I just don't want to let go of the day. I feel like I'm cheating myself if I succumb to something so wasteful as sleep. At least that's how I feel about it emotionally, but my rational side knows that sleep is important and lack of sleep is a huge risk factor for health, not to mention quality of life (see second bullet above).
So, if I'm going to create a new habit of writing in the morning, part of that habit is going to include changing my sleep habits. I know they say we should get 8 hours of sleep per night, but I'm going to target 7 hours because I just don't think I need any more than that and it will definitely put me ahead of my current allotment. For this habit to take hold as a recurring daily activity, I also need to schedule my writing (and precursor sleep pattern) for the same time each day. As I look at my schedule, I see that the long pole in the tent is on Monday. On Monday's I already get up at 5:00 AM so I can be at work by 8:30. Can I actually train myself to get up at 4:00 AM every morning to write? More importantly (to my night-owl ways) can I go to sleep by 9:00 PM every night? My mind rebels at the idea, but the thought of being a wordless writer actually enrages me. I've reached the end of the line. It's time to fish or cut bait.
I've developed a plan that I hope gradually eases me into this new paradigm over an 11 week period:
- First week- Sleep from 9:50 PM to 4:50 AM, Write from 4:50 to 5:00 AM, goal of 100 words
- Second week - Sleep from 9:45 PM to 4:45 AM, Write from 4:45 to 5:00 AM, goal of 150 words
- Third week - Sleep from 9:40 PM to 4:40 AM, Write from 4:40 to 5:00 AM, goal of 200 words
- Fourth week - Sleep from 9:35 PM to 4:35 AM, Write from 4:35 to 5:00 AM, goal of 250 words
- Fifth week - Sleep from 9:30 PM to 4:30 AM, Write from 4:30 to 5:00 AM, goal of 300 words
- Sixth week - Sleep from 9:25 PM to 4:25 AM, Write from 4:25 to 5:00 AM, goal of 350 words
- Seventh week - Sleep from 9:20 PM to 4:20 AM, Write from 4:20 to 5:00 AM, goal of 400 words
- Eighth week - Sleep from 9:15 PM to 4:15 AM, Write from 4:15 to 5:00 AM, goal of 450 words
- Ninth week - Sleep from 9:10 PM to 4:10 AM, Write from 4:10 to 5:00 AM, goal of 500 words
- Tenth week - Sleep from 9:05 PM to 4:05 AM, Write from 4:05 to 5:00 AM, goal of 550 words
- Eleventh week - Sleep from 9:00 PM to 4:00 AM, Write from 4:00 to 5:00 AM, goal of 600 words
Part of the reason for starting with a small chunk of time and working upwards is to create a sense of urgency to actually write, rather than fiddle with research, structure, or editing. I need the habit of writing "in flow". It's like the criticism about the old adage that "practice makes perfect", which isn't true if you're practice is wrong. The writing time needs to be just that, a time to write. I can work on research, structure and editing at other times during the day (and I have identified times for that), but those things are handled by the other side of the brain and don't seem to need so much coddling. By keeping a tight reign on time and word count I hope to force Fred (the guy in my head who knows how to write) into submission. If I'm successful, the word count goals could easily be blown away. And 600 words per day is already over 200,000 words per year. That's easily a book, maybe a book and a half.
So, that's my plan. I've presented it as a form of accountability. I'm going to start my new writing time tomorrow morning (7/21/11) and will post updates on my progress every week through facebook.
Any encouragement along the way will be greatly appreciated!