I wake up just as the sun is starting to rise — that magical segment of morning where the light is soft and subtle, there only to remind me it’s a new day and nothing more.
Coffee comes first. I sit on the porch overlooking the yard and the empty field behind it. Halfway through my second cup of coffee, I open a book and spend some time reading.
A long walk with the dog and a short jog and shower later, I am caffeinated, energized, and motivated. Over breakfast — out on the porch again, because why not? — I open my laptop and start writing.
And that’s how the rest of the morning goes. Quiet. Productive. Focused and fulfilling.
Or, at least, that’s how mornings used to go. They don’t anymore. I still struggle with that.
My favorite, ideal morning routine is no longer realistic. And I’ve only recently come to accept that. Only recently have I come to terms with the fact that adults don’t actually get what they want, not all the time, and life is not a peaceful, uninterrupted stretch of moments. Instead, it is unpredictable and all too often exhausting.
And by all that, I don’t mean I expected “grown-up life” to be easy and all about me. I’m very fortunate to have grown up with a mother who set a realistic example of what it means to balance self-care and caring for other people. I watched her closely. I knew being an adult would have its perks and downsides.
However, as a creatively driven soul who would love nothing more than to spend 12 nonstop hours making things out of the thoughts that enter my mind — every day, always — I spent a long time struggling to understand that creativity does not exist in a bubble, and neither do we. We don’t get to escape to quiet porches, write books without interruption, and finish our coffee BEFORE it gets cold. At least, not all the time.
Before I had a full-time job, before I found myself responsible for another life besides my own (she has four legs and loves to cuddle), I COULD follow a morning routine like the one described above. I could wake up when I wanted to, start work when I wanted to (or not), and that made me feel free and in control.
It’s funny, though. As soon as I no longer had that freedom, I actually started taking my writing much more seriously than I ever had before. With restrictions like time constraints and deadlines and an always disruptive husky at my feet, for the first time, I had to truly learn discipline, proper time management, and focus. When it was time to write, it was time to write — no exceptions. Otherwise, it would never get done.
I’m not only a more efficient writer because of my less than ideal morning routine — cold coffee, shorter walks, very little freedom to choose what gets done when — but I am also a stronger one. I have been forced to learn to write quickly, but skillfully. In a span of 24 hours, with deadlines always hovering overhead and others always demanding equal attention, there simply isn’t time for careless mistakes. There isn’t time for weak writing.
Do errors happen? Of course. Do I ever produce something perfect on the first try? Of course not. But I have taught myself how to focus on the important details, the things people will notice, the parts of a piece of writing that will stick with a reader long after they’ve clicked away. In writing, there are things that matter more and things that matter less. You eventually figure out how to tell the difference, and can use that to your advantage in everything you write.
No, I don’t have the luxury of taking things slow when the sun starts to rise. I don’t get to spend hours upon hours of uninterrupted time writing to my heart’s content. But I’m a better writer because of that — for many reasons.
Maybe it’s because I now take the time each morning to work out and give my brain some time to wake up instead of diving straight into reading or work. This ensures that I spend the energy necessary to fulfill the responsibilities of my day job with plenty left over to dedicate to my side projects after normal working hours.
Maybe it’s because I now fully separate my work time from my personal time. I don’t relax in the same places I work. I operate by very specific start and “cutoff” times. That’s how I taught myself how to do more work in less time. At some point, the day has to end, and you have to stop working. So you need to get it done before your work day ends!
Sometimes, all it takes is accepting that things need to change. The way you WANT to begin your day may not be the BEST way. And allowing your routines to shift can change your entire writing life for the better, if you let it.
My mornings are much busier now. I often miss the sunrise, and go days at a time without even setting foot on the porch overlooking the yard. But that’s okay. The new way I’ve structured my day works better than the old way. I’m creating more. And I’m also living more. Maybe not quite as slowly. But it’s working out in my favor.
Change is good. Or it can be, if you know how to make the outcome work for you.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.