I’ve now written every single day since January 1st this year (2018).
I started with a 30-day commitment to write every day. I made it through that first 30 days and got to a decent writing habit. I learned out of that exercise that I need to have a separate idea creation session each day to ensure I have something to write about the next morning. Or rather, that I need to have a selection of ideas to choose from so I can follow whatever my brain wants to talk about at 5 in the morning. This process worked for me through February.
I currently have 18 draft posts I’m working on for the blog in various states of readiness. That’s the last part of what I learned those first 30 days – that I need a third session each day to work on existing work that I use to finish things up before they get posted. That session is getting more and more intense as the more content I have, the pickier I can be about the quality of the work I post. It’s great to see the progression, it’s frustrating to be unhappy with content that I created.
Life finds a way
Enter March. I was traveling back from Boise on the first Friday of March, and I received a text message from my wife that I needed to call her when I could. This never means something great has happened. It’s never. “Oh, this is such great news, I just wanted to tell you instead of text it.” This wasn’t either.
My wife developed a hernia and had to rush to the doctor. The doctor wanted her to go to the ER because a hernia could be potentially fatal if it was strangulated. I was at the airport in Dallas, some four hours away driving. I told her to get the boy child to drive her to the ER in Austin (we live 35 miles East of Austin). Apparently, our little town, while it has every restaurant chain known to man, 18 banks, 55 Mexican restaurants, a Lowes and a Home Depot, does not have a facility with a CT scan. Note to self for a business opportunity.
So for the first time in my 20 years of business travel, I landed at the airport and drove directly to the hospital. She does have a hernia, but fortunately, she has the type that is not fatal, although it is as painful as she was dying. So we were referred to a surgeon. We met with him the following Friday. Here is where I found a problem with my system. It requires time from me each morning to complete the requisite tasks. And with my poor wife not able to do any of her normal daily chores, I had to step in and carry the load for her. That meant I had time to write, but not the time to sit and scour the Internet for ideas. And even less time for editing and injecting clarity and smoothness into my posts.
My process needs improvement
This went on all week until I realized that I was running out of things to write about in the mornings. This writing is a good example. It wasn’t an actual idea, it popped out of me searching for what to write about, realizing that my process had failed me. I need a better way of generating ideas that either takes less time or generates more ideas at the same time each day. The writing has become the easy part.
My next challenge will be to map out what I want to write about each day, like working towards a book and having each day be a new scene, but I need the time to outline the book and scenes. I have two stories currently rolling around in my head, that seem to be mixed with each other some days, and on other days are two separate stories. Since this will be my first book, I’m not 100% sure on the best process to follow to map out the innards of the novel. But this challenge will also take time to set up and design.
The goal is to see if I can be as productive making myself follow a path of writing each day instead of giving my brain the freedom of choice each morning. Thomas Hardy had a quote in Jude the Obscure about the difference between being forced to do something and allowing it to happen by choice. He was referring to marriage and love, but it applies here to my writing, which is a relationship of an estranged kind at times.
Stress doesn’t help
Obviously, normal everyday, household stress does not help my process. That’s a shame because it seems stress is the one thing I have an endless supply of these days. This same year, while I’ve been creating my writing habit, I’ve had to deal with my own health issues of being overweight and now needing to fix that once and for all (which I have), we had to put our beloved 12-year-old dog to sleep as his body become riddled with old age, my sweet blind 1-year-old cat had a seizure, the first she’s ever had, I’ve realized I need to find a new job after only being at this job since last June (I normally stay at jobs for decades) and now my wife has her medical issues that will not be fixed until April, after which there will be a four to six week recovery period in which I will still have to be the primary housekeeper, cook, etc. in the house. Not something I particularly like or am good at.
Oh, and I’ve been pushed into a high-deductible health plan, as I’m sure you have, too. So I have $6,000 of added expenses that I’ll need to pay for shortly.
As years go, that’s a full year’s worth of stress in a two and a half month period. I’m not complaining because I feel I’ve progressed more as a writer since November than I have in all the previous years combined.
I just need to figure out my idea machine and keep feeding it.
I’d love to know what other creatives use to keep their ideas flowing each day, let me know in the comments!