I read a lot of articles, blog posts, and books about the craft of writing, written by successful authors like Stephen King, Doug Wilson, and J. K. Rowling. It only seems to make sense to listen to and learn from the pros.
Every single article or book I have read includes two do-not-ever-compromise-on-this rules:
Read everything you can get your hands on.
– and –
Commit to a certain time each day to write, and then protect that time.
KNOWING that I should make writing a priority and actually MAKING writing a priority are two entirely different things, however. I try to defend my writing time – honestly, I do – but life keeps getting in the way. Aaargh!
Normally, I check off household chores, answer emails, respond to text messages, and take care of can-you-please-meet-with-me-about-this-urgent-matter encounters BEFORE I sit down at my computer to write. Often, however, by the time all those truly important tasks have been completed, I have no brain power or physical energy left to devote to writing.
Over the years, my writing has consistently gotten the leftovers of my time and energy. Seems everything else in the world is more important, more pressing. “I’ll write when I get around to it” – I now realize – means “I will never write.” At least not in a serious, this-is-my-job kind of way.
So, yesterday, and then again today, I did something I have never done before:
I sat down to write FIRST.
Actually, yesterday, it looked like this: I sat down to write and ended up staring at a blank Word document for most of the day. But what I DID NOT do was clean the toilets, mop the floors, and catch up on the laundry BEFORE I sat down to write. “I will write first,” I told myself, “and then, if I have time and energy at the end of the day, I will clean the bathrooms and mop the floors.” Well, I never got around to the bathrooms and floors.
Today, after breakfast and after seeing the youngest off to school, I sat down to write. BEFORE laundry, dusting, and tidying the living room. Guess what? Looks like the dust will still be blanketing the furniture when I turn in for the night.
I think it’s called a paradigm shift. A “before-&-after” event. A life-changing experience.
Writing first; chores after. I don’t think I can effectively communicate how HUGE this is for me, as a writer.
So far, my writing productivity has not shown tremendous improvement. Yesterday, I stared at a blank computer screen most of the day, my brain stuck in neutral. Today has been a little better, but not much. I am hopeful, however, that if I persevere in this put-writing-first discipline, I will see significant improvement. I am trusting the experts, those who have gone before me who have learned how to do this craft well. They know what they’re talking about, right?
My house is a disaster: the floors are crunchy, the bathroom mirror is pocked with toothpaste splatters, and the kitchen table is so cluttered there is barely enough room for my daughter and me to sit down to eat dinner together tonight.
But you know what? I think I am finally beginning to get what writers like Rowling and King and Wilson are talking about. I have never felt this excited about writing before in my life.