Let me tell you how it's done. (You probably already know how it's done: this is a brand new discovery on my part though, so I've got a certain naive enthusiasm about it.)
I've been getting up early to write.
See, for a while now I've been carrying this around:
|Write First! (Ask Questions Later.)|
That is an official NaNoWriMo ceramic travel mug. Great mug from a functional standpoint. And the message is terrific too, if you're inclined to follow advice printed on the sides of mugs.
I have never been great with actually writing first. I am a night owl by nature, so my tendency has always been to leave writing until last. I love that feeling you get when everyone has gone to bed and the house is quiet, when nothing will tear you away from the page, when your body is settled from whatever exertions you've been up to that day, and you can just let everything else slide. What are you going to do, vacuum? You can't. Might as well write.
Lately though, I've become enamoured of late evening as a reading time. I blame you, Game of Thrones! And I've been wondering what would happen if I started my day writing. In my imagination, it would be like coming out of the corner of the boxing ring with both fists swinging furiously. I figured starting the day with writing would be it. I imagined myself walking the dog or going about my day already having engaged with my characters or finished a short story draft. How sweet.
The clincher came while I was listening to Lani Diane Rich and Alastair Stephens talk about NaNoWriMo. (Do you know about the StoryWonk Sunday podcast? If you're a writer, or even if you just really like thinking about how stories work, go get some now.) They were talking about how they'd finally managed to get up early to write, and how Lani clocked 2500 words in a morning session.
So that was it: I decided to drag my sorry self out of bed and write first. Well, actually what I do is feed the dog and cat while brewing an insanely large and strong pot of coffee with which to fill that mug, but then I write.
Generally speaking I get an hour and a half to two hours of writing time most days. (Tuesdays are the exception, when I teach an early morning class.) My sacred vow to myself is that this time is for first draft, raw word count only. I consider raw word count to be the fun part of writing. Knowing that I get to play with raw story helps pull me out of bed. (Eventually I'll figure out how to make revision fun too, but for now it's in the semi-fun, mostly hard zone.)
This has been a good experiment. In the last week and a half of July, I drafted two short stories in these morning sessions. Right now, as I'm trying to complete a long-form first draft in August, writing raw word count first thing in the morning sets me up beautifully to have my plot in the back of my mind all day long, and takes care of 50 or 60 percent of my daily word count goal.
I wonder if this works in part because I'm not a morning person. It takes me some hours to come into full consciousness after I get up. When I hit my desk, I'm still in a very dreamy mindset, and sometimes all I have to do is pick up my pen and story starts flowing. I think my inner critic wakes up a little bit later than my physical body, so there's some freedom to early morning writing that I don't feel as powerfully in the afternoon or evening. (I think my inner critic also goes to bed early, which could explain some of the great late night writing sessions I've had.)
Yet again I'm reminded that the key to getting shit done is establishing a routine that becomes automatic. I've been doing this with grocery shopping for years. My ritual is to get it in on Tuesday mornings. On my way home from class, I stop at the store and pick up what I need. I don't think about it: I just go into robot mode and do it. I've been doing this for so long that it feels weird to me not to do it. Hopefully morning writing will take on that same weird-not-to-do-it quality.
What about you guys? Do you write first? How do you make sure the writing happens?