For the past 18 years, I tried to write in my office, the same place where I do my work when I’m home. When I worked on my Master’s degree, I started to get up early (5 AM) and go to my office and read and research. I used to be a night owl, but going back to school in my 40s had changed me. I was no longer able to digest the information in textbooks at night. I had to get up early, against my nature, to get my work done. When I started writing every day this year, I changed the routine. I started writing at the kitchen table for two reasons. One, it’s less hassle, I have an office cat who won’t leave me alone for 10 minutes when I go in first thing in the morning. Two, I needed to get used to writing on my laptop because the original idea was that I’d take two laptops with me when I traveled.
I struggled quite a bit on which keyboard I liked best and finally settled on my hated MacBook Pro. It does have a great keyboard. But more than that, it took me getting used to one keyboard. Switching between keyboards kept causing me issues.
The forced change
Then at the end of February, my wife got a hernia and was unable to do much around the house. I ended up moving to the kitchen table all day long so I could do all the chores and keep an eye on the beasties. The cats can take care of themselves, but the asshole husky has to be watched constantly. He’s crate trained, but he can’t be left in there all day, especially if he knows I’m home. He’d just howl and bark, and I wouldn’t be able to do any phone calls anyway. So I do my work at the kitchen table and that allows him the freedom to roam the house and try not to be an asshole.
My wife’s hernia was the best of the worst. No matter which type you have, they are painful. Her’s was the least harmful to her health. Nothing had squeezed through the muscle except some fat lining, but no intestine (who am I kidding? She has no fat on her body!). This meant she didn’t need emergency surgery, but she was in excruciating pain every day. The surgery was a month after her initial injury, and her recovery was six weeks after that. So for the better part of 2.5 months, I took care of everything while working full time. It wasn’t too bad, then on April 1st, I got a promotion that put me in charge of six people and the entire sales force for the Americas in my company. That made me a lot busier.
Somehow, it worked
I found that I could do phone calls and webinars from the kitchen table as easy as I could in my office. So I stayed. My morning writing routine became my all-day routine. I don’t use my office anymore. I can’t really explain it. The office cat is not happy. Don’t worry, I make it up to him daily.
My wife is all healed now (at least physically) and I find that sitting across from her in the morning makes me feel less isolated. Always before when I would try to write, she would come into my office and ask, “Are you working on anything?” or “Are you busy?” Just the vocalization would break my concentration and give my subconscious the escape path it is always looking for. I’d get angry and end up quitting my writing. Working behind a closed door is just too isolating for me. But here, in front of her, she can hear and see that yes, I am working, not surfing porn sites, or Facebook, or playing video games. The result is, I can keep working and not worry about her being upset. She does a great job of keeping quiet. She has her things she enjoys doing as well, and that keeps us from trying to kill each other most days.
Pay close attention to the voices
I think the move out of my office closed the last bastion of rebellion my subconscious was clinging onto to keep me from writing. I would tell myself how writing is too solitary a task for me. I’ll never be able to write and keep my wife happy. It just won’t work. That’s the dialog that ran through my head. And because I wasn’t writing regularly, but in spurts, I would be in my office unpredictably. My wife couldn’t know when I was in a mood to not be interrupted or not.
Recently, as I finally decided to finish Dorothea Brande’s Becoming a Writer, the book I claim is the reason I quit writing to begin with, she speaks a lot later in the book (where I have never been before) about the internal dialog between the two halves of yourself. The writer and the editor, the creative and the logician, whatever name you want to give those two halves, those dialogs happen, just as they happened to me in my office. You just might not realize which personality is speaking to you. The creative is, well, creative and can make itself sound like the logician. So you will get logical arguments for why you shouldn’t keep going, or why you are doomed to failure.
I still struggle every single day
Whatever I finally conquered this year by initially committing to a word count, and then sticking with a daily routine finally convinced my subconscious that there was no other way forward. Maybe it was the failed “post a day” challenge a year ago that created the realization that I didn’t have enough content or a good way to gather ideas. Something changed in my subconscious for it to stop fighting me, that’s all I know. I don’t get too many fights these days outside of the “an extra hour of sleep won’t really hurt you.” But it always does. The hardest part of every day for me is just getting out of bed.
I was deep into a completely ridiculous dream this morning and I still wanted to stay in bed. I was dreaming that I was on a motorcycle on a large highway, six lanes in each direction like they have in California all over the place. I was riding, watching the cars go by me, which tended to be a lot of Corvettes. First of all, this was a lame dream. Why would I prefer staying in that state versus getting up and actually writing? Crazy. Second, I don’t own a motorcycle, nor have I ever ridden one, except briefly as a passenger when I was very young. And I don’t own a Corvette. Although, in all fairness, I’ve been looking at them with “less contempt” lately for some reason, and I don’t really know why. I’ve always been a Ford guy and a Mustang guy. I own three street mustangs and six or so race Mustangs. Again, it was a shitty dream, nothing like the recurring one I have about a woman who I could have had a relationship with had life worked out differently. That dream definitely tries to keep me in bed. But the point is, every morning, I struggle with getting out of bed early to write. Regardless of how good or bad the dream is.
But why did the change work?
There’s a solution here that I need to look deeper into. Why and how did I change from someone who struggled to write for years into someone who writes regularly literally overnight? I credit it to a few things, but my change in mindset was the biggest. I realized that I needed to commit at least as much time to writing as I have in other areas of my life before I consider myself a failure. The least of my successes have been my Master’s degree, and that took four years while I was working in a similar job as I am now. It was a lot of work but more importantly, I had to sacrifice to get it. No more social life, no more yard work, very little anything else until I was done with my degree. I owed it to my writing to at least try for four years. That’s the mindset change I adopted and am still holding to today. I also turned 50 in October, and I think that milestone starts to make you look at your life a little differently.
I’m not sure I can teach someone else how to do what I did, but I can and have documented it, so others can try to learn from my successes and challenges. I swear that’s coming soon.
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