I'm Tired of Hitting Snooze When What I Really Want To Do Is Write!
I firmly believe that you must cultivate a writing lifestyle if you want to become the writer you are meant to be.
The cornerstone of the writing lifestyle is your writing schedule. Writing only when you feel like it won't get you to the next level.
This John Maxwell quote sums it up perfectly:
"You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine." - John C. Maxwell
As strong as this belief is in me, I'm still struggling to make writing a part of my daily routine.
I do write a lot, but not consistently. Over the past couple of months I've been awake and writing at 6 am several times. I feel great when I do that. The rest of my day goes better and I feel productive.
But most days, I hit the snooze and roll over.
Why is this? I tell myself that I'm going to write for one hour every morning before I go to my regular job, yet whether that happens or not is still a roll of the dice.
I'm frustrated and I want to change this.
How Do I Change
When I decided to share my struggle with you, it forced me to step back and ask a hard question. How exactly does one change?
But maybe there's an even more fundamental question.
How do I change?
Thinking back over my life I remembered one other time when I struggled to make a change and finally did.
Thirteen years ago, I had some health issues, fairly minor but annoying and nagging just the same.
I thought I might have Celiac disease, but before getting an intestinal biopsy I figured I would eliminate gluten from my diet and see if there were any improvements.
For months I knew I should change my diet, but eliminating gluten is a major lifestyle change. No bread, cereal, pasta, cakes and the many other products which contain flour or trace amounts of wheat products.
Assuming I could learn what not to eat, there was still the question of figuring out what I could eat.
And assuming I could do that, then there was the social impact. What about parties and family events where I have to tell everyone I can't eat what they've prepared?
Changing my diet would not be simple. It would impact my whole life.
Putting It Off
And so I procrastinated. I wanted it, but I couldn't bring myself to change.
One night I had a dream in which my father, with a tone of impatient annoyance, said, "Well, are you going to do it or not!?"
When I remembered the dream the next morning I felt ashamed and I realized I was allowing all of those other concerns to be excuses for me.
That gave me the incentive to change--to just do it. I knew it would be hard, but I decided that day and never looked back.
That, of course, is when I realized just how big the impact would be.
It was about mid-November when I finally eliminated gluten (and a few other foods) from my diet--from my life.
Thanksgiving arrived just two weeks later and I found myself gathered with extended family for the Thanksgiving day feast. We had breaded stuffing, homemade rolls, gravy and lots of delicious cookies, cakes and pies, all made with wheat flour.
It was the first group event where my new commitment would be challenged.
As we passed the food around the table, kind family members offered me some of each dish. I offered my thanks and excuses before letting most of the dishes pass me by.
My plate looked different than all the other plates.
Even Good Choices Have Consequences
Even though everyone was kind and accepting, I still felt profoundly alone and shockingly sad.
It was years before I came to understand my feelings that day. There had been a part of me that knew this would happen. This is why I had put it off so long.
What I experienced that day was grief. I had to say good bye to my old friends. I had to say goodbye to foods I loved, to not feeling like an imposition, to not feeling like I was different or broken. My sense of identity and belonging were shaken to the core.
Yes, there would be positive counterparts to my choices--I would be healthier, I would be taking charge of my life, my friends and family would be inspired by seeing me take action--but those things didn't show up right away.
I first had to mourn the loss of food, feelings and attitudes that were a central part of who I was.
And it hurt.
In time I got used to it and I'm proud of the life change I made then, but there was certainly resistance and there were consequences for my choices.
Three Phases of Change
Looking back at that experience, I am asking myself how I can apply it to my goal of writing each morning.
When I eliminated wheat gluten from my life I went through three phases:
- Making the commitment
- Experiencing the sacrifices and consequences
- Mourning the loss
Given what I learned from that experience, I think it can help me now with this one. However, by taking the steps in reverse I may be able to make this change easier.
First, I can accept that I will have some losses to mourn. Acknowledging and accepting the loss can prevent it from becoming a road block to change.
The second step is to make a list of what I'll be giving up when I take an hour out of every day for writing.
I won't be able to stay up so late at night. If I go out, I may need to return earlier than I used to. I will need to give up the luxury of sleeping in and hitting the snooze repeatedly. I will need to accept that sometimes the writing will be hard and it will seem like it's not worth it.
I confess--with red cheeks--that those sacrifices may seem small. To me, though, they're a big deal, they are habits, a way of life.
For you the sacrifices may be different. Perhaps you'll struggle with feeling like a bad mom for writing instead of spending more time with your family. Maybe your family is not supportive and tells you writing is a waste of time. Maybe you have to give up the idea of ever earning your family's approval. Or maybe you have to tell your friends you're leaving the party early so you can write in the morning. Maybe they'll mock you and it will hurt and you will have to mourn the loss of their approval.
Most of the time, though, when you commit to major decisions in life, the people around you are accepting--at least eventually. Tell yourself, "They'll get used to it." And so will you.
Yet none of the sacrifices would be worth the effort if we didn't get something in return.
I'll one day be able to say I have helped thousands of writers share their unique voices with the world. I'll one day be able to say that I've finally published a novel.
But even if those things never happen, I'll still be able to say that I spent an hour each day devoted to my dream and my soul. I'll be an example to others and myself that I'm capable of making major changes in my life.
Change Your Routine and Your Life Will Change
I've been fortunate to have a lot of successes in my life even though I haven't yet had the level of success I want for my writing. One thing I've learned is that chasing your dreams doesn't always mean you'll reach them, but chasing your dreams does take you places, even if it's not always what you expect.
Even if the big dream doesn't come to pass, there might be something even better, something you never could have imagined when you started.
I know with every fiber of my being that making writing a routine part of every day will take me somewhere.
Testing the Waters
If I'm being honest, I'm not yet sure I'm ready to make the firm commitment to write every single morning. I suppose a part of me still wants to weigh the costs and benefits.
In the meantime, I've decided to try an experiment.
If you haven't yet heard me talk about the experimental life, you will hear it a lot if you keep reading my blog.
At it's core the experimental life is about applying the scientific method to your life. In other words, it means trying stuff to see what works.
While I'm still processing whether to commit to writing every day, I can make a smaller decision to test the waters.
The 7 Day Writing Challenge
I've decided to call my small experiment The 7 Day Writing Challenge. I'm challenging myself to the following:
- write every day for seven days in a row
- start writing at the same time every day
- write for a certain minimum amount of time every day
Starting today, I'm going to begin writing every day no later than 6:45 am and write for an hour. I'll do this seven days in a row.
It's easier for me to commit to just seven days rather than a lifetime. I don't know what I'll learn from the experiment, but I'm sure I'll learn something.
I'll keep you posted.
UPDATE: Click to view the results of my experiement.