Entering into the daily world, where everything is complicated and requires decisions and conversation, means the end of everything. It means not getting to write.
The reason the morning is so important is that I’ve spent the night somewhere else.
– “How I Get to Write,” Roxana Robinson
It’s five in the morning on a Saturday. Ten years ago at this time, I’d be leaving the warehouse, the party, the bar I’d spent my evening, my hearing dulled from loud thumping music. I had more time then — I had more of a lot of things, I suppose: Energy. Willingness. Recovery time.
Time was never an issue.
Last year, I went from working 20 hours a week to 50+ hours a week. The increase has been gradual, but I’ve had a hard time adjusting to not just a new job and schedule, but lifestyle. I don’t remember the last time I’ve sat in front of my computer to write, just like this, without interruption. Without having to think about anything else — my work, my husband, or any of the noise unleashed on other tabs in my browser.
Time when I can sit and think and type and hope that, in these hours, a part of me — unaccessible at any other time — will make its way onto the page.
I’ve come downstairs to my sofa, to my laptop. Always glowing, always waiting — rarely touched in quiet, intimate hours like these, when I’m up and automatic, when the day hasn’t seeped in, when the outside world hasn’t grabbed hold of me. I don’t know how long this lapse will last, so I’ll just type until I stop.
For Roxana, the writer of the New Yorker piece on writing quoted above, coffee is part of this delicate, easily pierced space. The elixir of the imagination, she calls it. I once felt the same, but in the past year I’ve delayed putting on the coffee until later in the morning, or waited for my husband to wake up and do it. At first I thought I was just lazy. But now, I realize this lengthens the in-between state of free-flowing thoughts. It’s a bit of a game I play with myself: creating these magical hours to produce something — anything — unrelated to my waking world.
Because once the day starts, my window closes.
So here I am, molding jet lag into something productive and creative, carving out a bit more time. Squeezing out as much as I can between 5 am and 7 am, as dark turns to light outside of my window and this play time for my mind runs out.
There are not enough hours of the day, I’ve begun to think. I’ve never been obsessed with productivity, but lately I’ve been doing what I can to make minutes count, like whittling down my backlog of emails while walking down the street when I should be paying attention to the pole in my path. Or scrolling to the top of my Twitter feed when I’m stopped at a red light.
I don’t like operating this way, yet it’s a mode to which I quickly shift once I’ve left my bed each morning; I skip those magical hours, as there’s not enough time. But I realize there is — really, there is. I live comfortably. I have what I need. I don’t have kids. I have the fucking time. I just need to make room for it.
Yes, this I am a writer! I am creative! I am fragile! stuff is silly. But so what if I believe I can conjure up two extra hours in my day? Who cares if I must play this game with myself, that I find comfort in this fantasy that I’m a writer and I make words in an inspired, inexplicable state?
We all have our things. In Bird By Bird, Anne Lamott writes of the little helper that lives inside a writer’s mind, or deep down in one’s gut:
There in your unconscious, where the real creation goes on, is that little kid or the Dr. Seuss creature in the cellar, arranging and stitching things together.
So, in a time of noise and stuff and routine, allow me to think that some of my days — the special, whimsical ones — have 26 hours. That I can create time just for me. If it gets me to write, if it gives me time to play — to just be — then let me believe.
Cheri Lucas Rowlands
Writer at Writing Through the Fog. Editor at Automattic.