The Routine

The routine is in flux. It has been for almost two years, since my kid was born. The pandemic didn’t help, but it would have been this way anyway. I knew what I was signing up for.

I have always been an early-morning writer.

(Scratch that. There were times, when I was young, when I was an anytime, all-the-time writer. Growing up led to responsibilities, which led to compartmentalizing, the idea that there is a time for work and a time for play.

I am not jealous of people who don’t have day jobs — if it were me [the me of today], I would fill those hours with other worries, make work for myself. But I do long to be one of those people who can remain in their writing space wherever they are. This is a skill I am learning: to move through the world as a writer, staying open to ideas wherever and whenever they strike.)

For most of my adult life, then, I have been an early-morning writer.

I worked on my first novel manuscript for five years, usually from 5am to 6am. I often traveled for work and frequently worked on weekends. There was no dilly-dallying in those days. I opened my computer and I picked up where I left off. Most days I wrote around 100 words, but you can write a novel that way. You will find you are a very different person when you finish, but I have also found that to be the case when I write quickly, so.

I changed jobs, to allow more time for my writing. I still got up to write at 5, but I suddenly had two to three hours each morning, a luxury, plus more time on the weekends. I wrote the first draft of my second novel manuscript in 33 days. (The revisions took much, much longer.)

During this time, I went on my first (and only, so far) residency. What I didn’t know while I was there: that I was pregnant. This was the fall of 2018, when I last remember feeling like I had time.

And now, the routine is in flux. I still write in the morning, with a hard stop when my kid wakes up at 6:30. I get up between 4:30 and 5. I have tried making more time by getting up earlier, but there is a point of diminishing returns. The math goes something like this: 5 to 6:30 = 1.5 hours to write, but 4 to 6:30 = 2.5 hours of staring at the computer screen. Early parenthood is physically and mentally exhausting.

This may also be the reason that I find it more difficult to get up and go, to sit down and begin typing. So I have been looking for a new routine. Maybe I read a little fiction first. A little nonfiction. A poem. Maybe I journal. Maybe I do writing prompts from the character’s POV. Maybe I say a prayer, light a candle, do a series of stretches in a specific order.

Most of it works when it works, doesn’t when it doesn’t. The routine is in flux.

I have considered becoming a night writer. I have considered becoming a phone writer. What I am realizing as I type this is that I really want to get back to being that anytime, all-the-time writer, when every little pocket of time was the perfect time to write. Is it possible with a toddler? We’ll find out!

The fourth annual 1000 words of Summer begins May 31, and I’m looking at it as an opportunity to get back into that anytime-all-the-time mindset. Let me know if you’re signed up and we can cheer each other on.

In the meantime, big magic to all of you who are trying to make art while caretaking, while dealing with a demanding or energy-draining job, while sick or injured, while grieving, while living a messy life, while being a human. This is what it’s all about.