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The ungodly hour writing club
And other support systems I'm using to get this novel done
This was the first week of the Ungodly Hour Writing Club that my friend Sara is running through Writing Co-Lab. There’s nothing fancy about it, just a bunch of people on a Zoom with their cameras off, writing at the same time, 5:30 to 6:30 in the morning. It is donation-based! And already so incredibly helpful.
The 5am hour is my prime writing time. I agree with Sara that writing is easier “before the critical brain wakes and starts hollering it’s all garbage.” But I haven’t been using it for writing as much as I’d like in the last two years because of my kiddo’s early wakeups. I got into this mindset at some point that if the kid is awake, the writing session won’t be as productive, so why bother?
I’ve been trying to fight this mindset for a while, but it’s tough. I want my writing time to be quiet and uninterrupted. (WILD, I know.) But if I also want to finish this novel, I am going to have to get good at writing through noise and constant interruption.
So I signed up for Sara’s early-morning experiment, and instead of trying to jealously guard the time, which only leads to frustration on both sides, I decided to invite my kid in. He understands the concept of screen time, so I told him that from 5:30 to 6:30, Mama has screen time to work on her book. If he is awake during this time (which he always is), then he can have screen time, too.
He loved the idea of us doing screen time together. We sat at the dining table side by side, me with my laptop and him with his iPad, me trying to work through these last chapters and him learning to write his letters using Duolingo ABC. Also — and probably crucially, for the success of this effort — after screen time, we started doing ten minutes of special time for just the two of us to play whatever he wants, no screens allowed.
Are there still interruptions during that morning writing hour? Yes. Am I up and down getting cereal, refilling milk, helping with the bathroom? Yes. But an hour of writing with interruptions is better than just discounting this precious pre-dawn time for another two years. So thanks to Sara for the incentive to figure it out.
This week in writing
I decided to read the pond novel manuscript from the start, again. Maybe I’m procrastinating, but I have found it helpful to get the whole thing back in my head. I’ve been making line edits as I go, and I fleshed out a few chapters that were light on scene. The longer I spend with them, the more these characters reveal themselves. They are starting to feel like people I know.
In addition to the Ungodly Hour Writing Club, I am also still attending Chelsea Hodson’s Morning Writing Club from roughly 8:30-9am every weekday. It is not easy to keep this daily appointment during seasons when work is particularly busy, which it is right now. But I rarely miss a day, and a novel can be written this way, 30 minutes at a time.
This week in reading
I just finished Kate Zambreno’s The Light Room, a book I was saving for a moment when I really needed it, and then that moment came. I am a longtime Zambreno fan, dating back to her Frances Farmer blogging days and the eventual publication of Heroines. I have so many thoughts about this book and none of them are coherent enough to document here (yet), but I am grateful to her for writing about the early motherhood days in a way that I haven’t been able to and probably never will, for giving us a vision of “the flâneuse… as a burned-out mother, the weeping walking woman, fleeing the scene of her own domesticity.” And also for asking “what beauty can come out of mourning, whether the mourning of others can exist alongside the mourning of a dying planet, and whether it is permissible for this mourning to exist alongside an ecstatic contemplation of the natural world.” Zambreno’s project has evolved but the through lines are there from the start.
Now I am listening to Lindsay Hunter’s Hot Springs Drive on audio — very different vibe from the Zambreno, very good so far — and I’ve also been rereading chunks of Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider. Poetry is not a luxury. Some morning this week, I returned to O’Hara’s Meditations in an Emergency. “… it’s my duty to be attentive, I am needed by things as the sky must be above the earth.” Oh, Frank.