Recommitting to writing

I’m writing this at 0715 on Monday the 25th of January, 2016 (pre-posting edit: and still going strong on the plan two days later, woo!). That’s right, I default to writing time in a military fashion now – it made things clearer when organising stuff in texts after getting to Las Palmas and now it’s the explanation for yet another ridiculous affectation of mine.

The alarm on my watch went off at 0700 instead of last week’s 0730, and instead of snoozing it I got up right away. After a trip to the bathroom, my first set of Five Tibetans in a while (though not my first bit of morning mobility), getting dressed and grabbing a much-needed glass of water, here I sit.

I slept like crap. My housemate was watching some sort of comedy show until 0100, and it would have been fine except for excessively loud canned (?) laughter and applause. It’s like they raised the volume by 50% for those noises, or possibly whatever pitch and frequency they’re at just carries through walls better. Or maybe I just find it more annoying. Either way it wasn’t until he switched it off that I was able to sleep myself.

So why am I up so “early”? Although I realise this isn’t early for many of you, it’s all relative and for me – after maybe 4.5-5 hours of actual sleep in the last seven in bed – it’s bloody early.

The answer is that I have re-committed myself to a writing routine. Last week I instituted a strict but very enjoyable gym routine, in which the first thing I did every weekday morning at half seven was (usually after a snooze or two) get up, get dressed, fill my water bottle and head to the gym. I wasn’t exactly out of a gym habit, but having spent nearly three weeks in Ireland over Christmas, then five days with a friend in Haarlem (in the Netherlands, not NYC), moved back to LPA and moved house and gym here, I needed to re-affirm the gym’s place in my day-to-day. This was great, and has me feeling like a boss as I enter my second full week back in Las Palmas.

The problem was that the next big part of the plan was never happening. I’d get home and shower, meditate for twenty minutes (something I began with renewed vigour in the first week of January and highly recommend), make myself some breakfast and then head to my co-working space and immediately start work. What’s missing? Writing. My intention was to spend the first hour of each work day writing, but the power of procrastination meant I never did. I’d sit down and “just check my emails really quickly”, then latch onto the first task I saw that required my attention and let it carry me away from the uncomfortable prospect of the blank page.

I love writing. And yet it’s the one thing that, currently, I find it hardest to get myself to do.

I honestly use answering customer support emails for Moposa as a distraction from doing so. I’ve known myself to pick up some arduous task – one I would normally loathe doing – instead of sitting down to do the thing that most brings me flow and joy in my life (alongside, and sometimes more so, than writing code or training).

I can’t answer the question why I avoid it so much for sure, but I have some theories:

With thoughts like this running around my brain, I then, by chance, happened to check up on the blog of Hugh Howey and found this as his most recent post. Talk about a well-timed kick in the rear.

So today is the first day of my new commitment to 1,000 words per day (minimum) as the first thing I do. It’s a little more complicated in that my true goal is 1,000 words in a day, but I am okay with stopping my “first thing” session after an hour if I haven’t reached that goal yet in order to get some other things done. Likewise, I also intend to spend at least the full hour writing, so anything over the 1,000 word mark within the hour is all gravy.

I intend for a lot of the words to be fictional, but as with this morning, I will be writing for my blog as well as updates for my product. I want to make sure this time and space stays sacred for actual writing though, rather than letting scope creep set in and have me, in a month or so, using the time for anything tangentially related to writing. A great bit of procrastination is to use the time to search for images for blog posts, and that’s not what this is for.

Specific goals for these words are a little more complicated.

I figure that 1,000 words per day works out at 365,000 words per year, give or take a rough day. With the average short story at around 1,500 – 3,000 words, feature-length blog post at 1,500, novel at 80,000 and info-product like EE at nearly 40,000, I still have plenty of headroom to throw words away, too (and I know all too well how many words editing will eat up). I’m also blessed with a fairly high speed of writing – in only 30 minutes so far I have 1,318 words written – so I should be able to make up for the odd missed day comfortably enough, even though “making up” for missed days in terms of “I missed Monday, so on Tuesday I need to write 2,000” is not part of the plan. This is the kind of negative reinforcement that makes diets so hard to stick to and has one missed day snowballing quickly into an insurmountable deficit that would ensure I never write again.

As with a lot of activities, starting is the hardest part. I figure that getting the ball rolling first-thing – even if I don’t roll it all the way to the 1,000 word finish-line in one go – is the important thing.

Strategies and tactics for making this happen include: