Okay, I’m back from my vacation (a bit of free wisdom: Given the chance, move to Kauai), and I realize I need to catch up on a BUNCH of questions from people. This one seemed appropriate — Denise wrote to say: “I used to work as a waitress. After my shift, I would go home, cozy up to my laptop, and write. Writing became a sanctuary, and I filled pages effortlessly. Now I work at a busy office job, so I spend the better part of my day staring at a computer screen and contracting carpal tunnel. I come home from looking at other people’s writing all day, and I don’t have any energy left to spend on my own writing. You’ve just had a vacation, so you know what it’s like to have free time to do what you want. What advice would you give a writer who seems to spend everything on other people’s projects?”
You know, I went through that same thing, Denise, and had to ask some writing buddies what to do. They gave me advice that I hated…but it worked. The suggestion? Get up early. Spend two hours on your OWN work before heading to the office to work on somebody ELSE’s stuff. That way you’re mentally charged when you do your own writing.
So I did. And trust me, it was hard. I’m not a morning person. But I got up early, before my kids were awake, and wrote for two hours every day. EVERY day. Then I’d leave for my office. I hated it, and wanted to take the first hour to make coffee, look at headlines, whine to friends in emails… but eventually I started writing. And with the combination of no interruptions and a clear mind, I finished my book in about four months. No kidding. Two hours of focused writing time to try and finish a thousand words per day. That was a pattern I established early in my writing career, and stuck with it because it worked. Try it. Sure, there’s a sacrifice to getting up at 5 each morning, but you’ll quickly make the adjustment (i.e., “go to bed earlier”), and it will pay off in a very short time. I’m living proof. That book I finished? It was my first book contract, after having done hundreds of articles but never having been able to get over the “book proposal” hump.
There’s not many things that I can say actually changed my life, but “getting up early to write my own stuff every day” is one of the few.
Speaking of making adjustments, I gave up sports for Lent. No kidding. I figured I didn’t need one more stupid NCAA tournament game, one more bit of NFL draft news, or more more bit of spring training. So I cut it all out. And… I hated it. I have to admit, I really enjoy my sports. But I gave it up. I noticed I spent a lot more time reading books just for enjoyment. And I dithered around less on the web. And yes, it’s improved my spiritual life (which is really the point of Lent after all). Just thought I’d offer that to writers who are wondering why they never find time to read great books any more.