Every week I form a new writing plan: I will get my paying work done in the morning and be free to do creative writing by 1:30. Or, I will write in my writing room on my old computer just after I wake up, before I even go downstairs and turn on the Internet to check email. Then my writing will be done while my mind is fresh, before the rest of my day attacks me. Or, I will wake up, work out (since that is another weight, no pun intended, that hangs over me if I don’t get it done), THEN write, then get on to my paying work and tackle the rest of my day.
Sadly, things almost never turn out the way I plan.
I have yet to find that one perfect system — that one way of scheduling my day that will assure writing time. Some writers are so good at this — and I am envious of them. I especially admire writers who do wake up first thing in the morning and write. I feel, innately, that this would be the best road for me. But inevitably, most days, something trips me up. The cats must be fed first thing, for example, and sometimes my husband doesn’t get up to feed them. If the cats haven’t been fed before I try to write, three soft, furry bodies rub against my legs at my desk. If that doesn’t get my attention, the air is soon filled with piercing meows. The next step (after they cats have huddled, I assume, to figure out who gets to do this) is for one of them to jump on the desk and walk straight across the keyboard. At that point the essay I’m working on often ends up looking something like this: “The crumbling cement between the old cinderblocks jlp0;alsdf;lkf” (And before you ask — no, the room doesn’t have a door that will keep out seriously determined cats.)
Of course, once I’m downstairs in the kitchen feeding cats, I’ve walked past the nice big macintosh computer in my office, the computer that’s slated for my paying freelance work. It’s VERY hard to walk past that computer without turning it on, and once it’s on, it’s virtually impossible to walk back past it in the other direction without checking in on the Internet. After all, the wireless connection is all hooked up, and it just takes one click on the icon for Firefox…
An hour or so later, cats fed, email checked, CNN read, Facebook glanced at, Twitter tweeted on, a little work done, I realize my early morning writing time is gone.
So far, in truth, I’ve been relatively faithful. Most days I find at least some time to write. On the days I don’t, an uncomfortable feeling dogs me, like I really didn’t get to the thing that’s most important. In the end it’s the need to appease that feeling that drives me to find the time to write, even if it’s closing in on late afternoon. Of course once I finally sit at the desk, I face all the demons most writers face…but it’s worth it for the days when a piece comes together or the writing feels like its going well. I’ve never forgotten something Joy Castro, one of the teachers in my MFA program, said at a workshop: Nothing can happen unless you SHOW UP.
In the end, though, it’s a bit more stressful to operate this way, and I really want to get down to that morning schedule — or to any regular schedule that works.
What do you say? Any good tips out there for building a successful writing schedule into your life? Leave a comment here and share.