In the last couple of weeks, I’ve made an important decision–I’ve decided to put my writing first. To you, this may seem an obvious thing to do, especially if you have a 9 to 5 job. If writing is my job, and it is, why don’t I just set aside the hours to write?
That’s what I’ve struggled to do for the last eleven years. I think I’m finally making some progress.
Years ago, I finished Carpe Diem, Illinois by getting up at 6 a.m. and writing until my younger daughter knocked on my door at 7:30. Not much of a morning person, I threw on my robe, grabbed my laptop, sat in my favorite chair with Noodle, my golden retriever at my feet, and pounded away. It got the job done.
So what’s the problem now? Life–it gets in the way. We writers use this excuse for why the book isn’t finished or why it’s been months since we’ve even looked at our manuscript. There’s our day job, if we have one, a house to run, kids or elderly parents (or both) to take care of.
The yard needs mowing, the bills must be paid, dishes and clothes have to be washed, and, oh yeah, we have to find time to take care of ourselves–exercise, prepare healthy meals, and get plenty of sleep.
And all this needs to be done when life goes smoothly. Add in a sudden illness or accident, a new baby or pet, a move, a divorce, or even a pandemic and it’s no surprise you can’t remember when you last put pen to paper.
Now I’m good at meeting deadlines. My next deadline is mid-September when I’ll send the latest revision of The Devil Particle to my editor. I’ll put everything aside to finish it, if need be. But when a deadline isn’t looming, I let life get in the way.
No more. I’ve decided to write from 8 a.m. to noon every day. I’ve blocked out that time in my calendar and told friends and family to hold off calling me until the afternoon. In the last two weeks, I’ve managed to write for those four hours only three times, but I’m undaunted. I can do this.
Of all the things I like to do in the world, writing is my favorite. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always fun. When the words don’t flow it can be down-right painful. But powering through those mental blocks is rewarding and bringing a story idea to life is incredible. I honestly get a high from writing. I’m not alone.
Studies have shown that writing produces endorphins and dopamine in the brain which gives the writer an intense feeling of pleasure–a writer’s high (“The Writer’s High” by Sophie Hamr). I’ve known without the studies that a writer’s high exists, I’ve felt it many times. And I’ve felt withdrawal as well. If I don’t write for a week, I get crabby, irritable, and sluggish.
Still, I’ll let days go by without working on my book. Honestly, my problem really isn’t life getting in the way or interruptions from friends or family, it’s me. I’m the one holding me back because I think I don’t deserve to do what I love, not until I finish all the chores. I feel as if I need to take care of others before I can take care of myself. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a woman, my Midwest upbringing, or some kind of guilt complex, but that’s how it is.
Putting myself first, including working on a career that I love, seems somehow selfish. Ridiculous, right? Yes, it is and that’s what I tell myself now–that’s ridiculous. I’m putting all the guilt aside and embracing my passion, putting writing first. Every day from 8-12.
Where I’ll be:
Zoom Book Club – September 2, 2020 – I’m discussing Carpe Diem, Illinois during my first ever book club through Zoom. I’m excited to talk all things Leo!
I’d be happy to come to your book club, too. Just contact me and we’ll set it up!
What I’m reading:
Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bergman – I’m listening to the audio version of this book and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s changing so much of my beliefs about humanity. I think everyone in the world should read it.
Why Are You Still Sending Your Kids to School?: the case for helping them leave, chart their own paths, and prepare for adulthood at their own pace by Blake Boles. Excellent resource for parents who are now finding themselves homeschooling their children.