At this time of the year, every year, at least twice a week, I have the same conversation with myself. After the litany of cold cold cold miserable cold death despair hibernation cold I wish I was dragon runs its course, I wonder how many times I have to fall off the wagon before I learn to hold on tight. It makes me quote Pirates of the Caribbean at myself because this year has proven again that the answer is this:
“How many times must I tell you to
call me Elizabeth get your ish together?
“At least once more, Miss Swann.”
(Nevermind that I’m far less Elizabeth Swann or Will Turner and far more Ragetti, trying to make myself an eyeball out of wood and then wondering why I can’t see.)
(And also, I’m quoting Pirates of the Caribbean at myself, so maybe I deserve what I get.)
The wagon remains as the wagon always was: wake up early, write every day, eat real food, go to the gym. None of those things are particularly difficult in their own right, particularly not if I switch to an actual alarm clock that I have to get out of bed to turn off. I did that five days ago.
The real kick in the pajamas was a piece from Pacific Standard
about the folly of the snooze button
. I’d been setting my alarm on my phone, conveniently on my bedside table, for 5 a.m.-ish every day and then manipulating it in various ways until I was waking up around 6:45, which is pretty much the weekday threshold for mornings around here. I’d been doing that all summer, too, in various countries and timezones
. And that was also not awesome. (All the places I was
were awesome. My habits, less so.) Waking up at that time doesn’t leave me time to write before school, and it doesn’t leave me feeling motivated to make anything particularly interesting for lunch, which inevitably leads to afternoon horror show of despair and low blood sugar and no desire to go work out. (It all sounds very dramatic. It all feels very dramatic. It’s really not. Just very…sad and dull and unfulfilling.)
I have been writing, working on a variety of things, but the timing is wrong. I’ve been doing a lot because I have to–the semester is busy–but nothing feels quite right.
So I changed my alarm set-up. I’ve had to give up my clever custom wake-up tunes that my phone allows and that my 1999 clock-radio does not, and I’ve moved it well past the foot of the bed. In the pre-dawn blackness, I confess that I will actually mouth the words, Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, to keep me walking out of the bedroom, up the stairs. I have to make it past the most comfortable sofa in the world (salvaged from Bill’s grandparents’ basement) then, too, but by then, it’s become okay. My eyes open and adjust to the dark. I turn on the electric kettle. In the shower, I plan the morning’s writing, and therefore every morning starts well.
I’ve been up appropriately early since Friday. I’ve done a lot of work in those morning hours, only about 90 minutes a morning (except Saturday and Sunday when I undertook a pretty gigantic academic revision task), including drafting a complete piece of flash fiction that’s under 700 words between Monday morning and today. The last time I wrote a complete piece of short fiction–brand new, start to finish–was in March, when I wrote “Jonah, The Whale.” I have a stack of short stories that I’ve been working on much longer than it took to draft my novel. Some of the reason for that, of course, is that I spent last year almost exclusively working on the novel. And I wrote that novel in those morning hours, some of the happiest I’ve ever spent, writing.
The story shorter still: the process works for me. Why do I insist on stopping working for the process?
Time to start again. In this case, too, with writing, doing the same old thing continues to create new things. It requires little from me. So I can do that much.