I’m sitting here this Wednesday morning feeling completely out of phase with the world. It’s a feeling I get whenever I oversleep and today I overslept. I have to assume I hit the snooze button a few times this morning, but it’s more fun to think that some aliens from a distant planet had a hand in this. Well, the aliens or my evil cats. Either way, I awoke at 5:07am… a full 30 minutes later than normal. At 5:07am I’m usually already at the gym, not just getting out of bed. I hurried through my routine, got myself ready and walked the dog, then scurried off to the gym for a truncated workout. Officially, I’m back “on schedule” now, having cut my workout short so that my shower and subsequent trip to Starbucks could occur “on time”.
Yet, I feel completely out of sorts.
It gets me to thinking about the importance of routines for me. My life is ruled by schedules. Get up at this time, do this at that time. The kids’ schedules are also my schedule, so I have to be sure they get to their baseball games or dance classes or parties on time and that they get picked up from the same on time. The dog’s and the cats’ schedules are also my schedule owing to their demands to be walked or fed or pet as needed. Even the garden has a schedule which is my schedule owing to the need for watering, harvesting and weeding. You’ll note I haven’t even mentioned the real dictator of my life’s schedule: The Day Job. You’ll also note I haven’t mentioned writing.
Where I am going with this is simple: schedules and routines are important to me because they are what drives my day. This has been the case for my entire life, really. But writing was one thing I never wanted to schedule. It is the only thing in my life where I don’t plan anything at all – no outlines, no idea where a story is heading before I write it, nothing. I’ve attributed this to me wanting something in my life that was not schedule-oriented and not dictated by the clock or the calendar or some sterile design document telling me what the result needs to look like.
I’ve also sometimes thought my lack of a writing schedule could be due to the fact that in high school English class we had journals and every day we had to spend ten minutes writing. I hated it. Loathed it, really. I spent ten minutes each day repeating “I don’t know what to write… I don’t know what to write…” over and over again for pages on end. At the time it looked like an enormous waste of time to me. Recently, though, I came across one of those old journals and I flipped through it. Yes, as I recall, there were plenty of those pages of repeated negativity. But mixed in with them were pages of real writing ideas – dialogue between characters, descriptions of distant, alien landscapes, ideas for stories or poems. I do not remember writing those passages, but they are there, in my own horrifically bad handwriting, buried and hidden within the obvious distaste for the forced writing exercises.
Many people have routines for writing. There are as many ways to schedule yourself to have time to write as there are writers out there. I’ve read about these ideas (morning pages, dedicated writing times, word sprints, etc.) but I’ve only utilized them in November during NaNoWriMo. And now, if I’m being honest with myself, I can look back and see that back when I was working in an office my routine included getting to the office early and spending that hour writing. I suppose that was “scheduled writing”, but it was never required and if I spent that extra hour working on my day job instead of writing I wasn’t feeling like I had done anything wrong. And since I’m being honest with myself here, I can admit that I’m not really getting any good writing done now with my anti-schedule mentality.
So where does that leave me? I’m going on vacation next week (which as we all know comes with its own overpowering need for a schedule). I am considering trying a “forced writing” routine into it. Just for a little while, just for the week. That’s how I’m selling it to myself, at least. I haven’t decided if it’ll be on paper or on the laptop. I haven’t decided if it will be in the morning or evening (most likely morning, since no one else will be up early). I haven’t decided if I’ll just allow myself to write “I don’t know what to write” over and over again until something better shows up on the page, or if I’ll dedicate the time to writing a vacation blog post each day or if I’ll try to flesh out some of the story ideas for which I haven’t done anything yet. My not-so-secret hope is that if I do this every day for a week it will be easier to incorporate it into my regular routine at home. I have no idea if this will work for me but I need to try.
I’m curious about other people’s routines and methods for carving out time to write from a busy life. Do you have any habits you think help you to focus your writing energy into whatever time you have? Any tricks or routines that you think might seem weird to others but work really well for you? Share your ideas in the comments below… maybe I’ll incorporate them into my experiment next week.