So, I might have mentioned how important it is to write every day about twenty times per post. That’s because I absolutely know from experience that consistency is the only real way to progress in your writing. When I’m writing regularly, I get more done, and my work is better. There is not just comfort in a scheduled window, in knowing that during a certain block of time I will be able to sit with a pen in my hand, but it also helps my brain know when to kick into creative mode.
As a bonus, I tend to be a much happier person when I write regularly. There is just something about writing a really engaging story that makes me feel like a real human being.
The problem is, I haven’t had a good, consistent writing habit recently. Not even close. I’ve been shoving writing into random places in my day, here and there, and that means that sometimes I get it done, and sometimes I get into bed without having scratched down a single word. Basically, at the rate I’m going I’ll finish the first draft of my next novel in, oh, about two years.
That is no way for a writer to behave.
I’ve had a lot of very good reasons (and a few not-so-great reasons, I’m looking at you Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild) for why my writing habit has fallen to the side. I learned a few years ago that I’m the kind of person who simply cannot go without decent sleep. With Little Dude and Little Miss going through one cold after another all winter, I stopped waking up early to make up for all the times I got up at night to wipe drippy noses and administer Baby Tylenol. Sleep, and by extension my mental sanity, take precedence over the early morning writing. I know my limits, and that’s a good thing.
And then of course there has been the new job that I may or may not start at any moment, and which I spent several weeks preparing for. Getting together a wardrobe for a job in a real office, that I actually have to drive to, required a shocking amount of my brain power.
But my itch to write has been growing all this time, and now seems like a good opportunity to get back on track with my writing habit. A real, scheduled, planned into my day, happens no matter what kind of habit.
As long as no one gets any more colds, of course.
I started this morning by getting up at 6:30. Little Dude woke up about five minutes later, so it turns out that’s not quite early enough. I’m thinking, and I quake to write this, that my alarm will have to be set for 5:30. An hour is actually a lot of time, especially if I can get better at writing in the evenings, too.
But oh, 5:30 is obscenely early.
I also added a little habit tracker back into my monthly bullet-journal setup. I’ve found that sort of thing both encouraging and helpful for establishing a daily habit. I just love shading in a box on the days I accomplish my goals. I feel like Hermione Granger would appreciate this about me, although she and I would probably spend way too much time trying to outsmart one another to really get along well. Maybe just swapping planning methods would have to suffice.
The biggest hurdle in establishing a habit like this, though, is building up the mental fortitude. I am not a morning person – not at all, not even a little bit. Having kids has forced me to get out of bed at times I’d much rather be sleeping, and to get up before they bounce awake, ready to spread chaos everywhere they go, is even more of a challenge. I love nothing more than staying buried under my covers as long as possible. So it’s going to take some serious will-power to drive myself out of bed in the mornings.
It helps that I know how important a daily writing session is, and getting the work done first thing in the morning is such a satisfying thing. I’m counting on that to keep me going.
Because really, who can write any kind of book while their toddler is on their lap, driving a little plastic red motorcycle over their notebook? I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s tried that, of course, but it’s definitely not the right condition for amazing work. Especially when the writing is totally illegible when it’s time to revise.
This is perhaps the trickiest thing about juggling a writing habit and parenting: the constant change. I’m sure this is at least partly my fault, because I’m pretty terrible at creating a daily schedule for the family. It’s difficult to plan for writing when one morning I take the kids out on a walk, and the next we read books and do crafts. When some days Little Dude takes his nap at 11:30 and the next he doesn’t sleep until 1:30, if he ever takes his nap at all.
We do have mealtimes very regularly. I do not miss breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, or supper. Not ever.
But there is a problem of not always quite knowing where writing time gets in there. Last autumn, I fit in a couple of hours every day during nap time, no problem. But as Little Dude’s naps get more unpredictable, so does my word count.
Rather than fight to lock everyone into a specific schedule, I’m more inclined to stay flexible and work out a new method. So, trying for an hour of writing time in the morning is going to be my first salvo in the battle to reclaim a higher word count. I’m reminding myself that even though it will mean sacrificing some sleep, it will also mean that I can get a lot of words done before anyone in the house even wakes up. To a writer who is also the parent of small children, distraction-free writing is a miraculous thing.
I can already imagine the satisfaction of getting Little Dude out of bed, and making breakfast knowing that I already have three or four pages done. Of watching whole chapters pile up around me at a steady rate, rather than in little spurts. It will so be worth getting out of bed that early.
Although you might need to remind me of that at 5:30 am a week from now.
Here is the thing that gives me confidence going into developing this new schedule: I’ve done it before. I have found ways to fit in my writing, even when everything around me is chaos. Even though things have changed recently (again) I know that I can find a way, and I can make it stick. And when things change again about a week from now, then I will figure that out, too. It’s one of the great challenges of being a writer, finding that secret, personal time when the words can get on the page.
If it means getting up super early, then so be it. I’ll make some extra coffee, and it will keep me company in that quiet morning hour.
So, when do you write? And what have you done to establish a writing habit in your life? I’d love to hear all your tips for making it happen. In the meantime, I’ll keep you updated on how I’m doing at getting up early.
As always, thanks for reading!