“What is it about my daily rituals? Why such pleasure in repetition? Well, it occurs to me that I might just be practicing…being me. Those cherished creaks in the old floorboards. The precise angle of the winter sun cheering my kitchen. Assembling ingredients for a dish I’ve made hundreds of times. A novel position my cats have adopted, lost in their midday dreams. Each nuance resonates with a kind of timeless wisdom, and I realize that it is these humble putterings— nothing fancier — that have allowed me, finally, to know myself.” —David Jacoby, Celestial Seasonings Tea.
During the school year, I have the ultimate luxury of writing for two hours every morning after I drop my kid at school. I try hard to get the kitchen cleaned up, and my teeth brushed, etc. so that when I return home, I can go up to my office and begin writing. Everything else can wait. My dog rests at my feet and when I’m done with my two hours or my 750 words, I get up to go walk him. After writing, the part of me that is a writer, feels satisfied and honored.
Contrast that with the summer, or winter holidays or other busy times for that matter. I stay up later, and get up later. I set the alarm on my cell phone, and cannot seem to get up when it rings. During the day, I’m mostly arranging play dates, or taking trips to the beach, or library, or playing outside or making frozen smoothies. In winter, I’m online shopping, or in-house wrapping and addressing cards. Either way, those two uninterrupted hours for writing are gone. Yet I keep clinging to the notion that I need at least one perfect hour of alone time to write. So I don’t.
In each summer day, I’ve got at least fifteen minutes, sometimes I’ve got an hour and a half and sometimes those precious two hours come my way. But if you look at my activities, you’d see I’m not practicing to be a writer. From the evidence, I’m practicing to read Nordstrom and Garnet Hill catalogs. I’m practicing to be a DJ on Spotify. I’m practicing to watch Kyle XY on television. I’m practicing to put on suntan lotion. If I’ve got a few minutes, I take some me-time. It’s just that reading a magazine sometimes turns into the same amount of time I could have spent writing something.
When I do have a clear chance to write I take it. I spent two fantastic afternoons at the Victrola Coffee house on Beacon Hill a few weeks ago. After writing and drinking coffee, I felt wonderful. Once a week, I meet up with my writing buddies at Elliott Bay Books Cafe. Breathing in the smell of books and sipping a steaming cup of tea, while talking and writing inspires me every time. Still come Monday, I need recharging again.
I’m trying to devise some small rituals that don’t require the trappings of a coffee shop to help me practice being the part of me that is “the writer.” I’m considering making a folder with notes and pictures about my novel that I can pick up instead of a catalog or magazine. I could do a collage, and leave it lying around the kitchen, or living room. I’m considering a 100-word goal per day on my computer. A ten-minute log in. A simple assignment of one writing exercise a day. A few minutes writing about my characters prompted by my phone.
I need some way to hold onto the pieces of my novel when two hours elude me. The ramp up takes so much effort so that when I do get a bigger spot of time, I don’t want to waste it finding the rhythm of my story.
I think the way to survive disruptions is to let go of my expectations. Let go of what I feel is the perfect way to write and instead embrace what ten to fifteen minutes can do. I know it won’t mean a new scene in my book, or even a character sketch, but what really matters is that I don’t end up trying to remember how many days have gone by since I wrote anything creative.
Humble putterings says the quote by David Jacoby. Nothing fancier, he says. Not a novel, or a blog, but something simpler. Daily writing is practicing to be that part of me, I never want to disappear.