Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Calm Before the Storm: Finding Happiness in Morning

I don't like it when I don't get my way.

I mean, I think most people are like this—we have a thing we want, and we get a little grouchy when we don't get it. We have a plan in mind, and it's disappointing when it doesn't go how we'd imagined.

But take your usual amount of grump after something doesn't go the way you'd hoped, and multiply it by about a million.

This is how much I hate not getting my way.

This flaw is at its worst when writing is involved; when I sit down in front of the keyboard to write, but I don't get a choice in what project I work on that day. (I'm addicted to drafting. I love drafting. I love inventing and creating and exploring. Going back to refine something I've already written is like dragging my face across asphalt in August.)

I rarely go into a day in a positive mood if I know I have to spend it not doing what I want to be doing.

Because I am a giant baby.

BUT FEAR NOT! There are solutions, if you are also a giant baby. And maybe even if you're not.


Over the years, I've talked with writer friends (and other professionals and self-employed entrepreneurs) who have busy work and family lives about their process. How do they find time for everything? How do they stay inspired and productive, even when life is full of demands and they rarely have the space or time to dedicate to their passion?

More and more the answer I get is, "Morning."

Sitting down first thing in the morning and doing a free-write, or scribbling down your dreams, or answering a prompt... Or even working on your next novel, knowing you'll be spending the day revising your previous novel, working your day job, or tending to everyone else's needs but your own.

Some of the most productive and emotionally healthy writers I know dedicate between thirty to sixty minutes to this, every morning. 

There are so many advantages to doing this in the morning-time, even if you're not a morning person. (Though, if you fall into the embrace of the morning-cult the way I have, you will quickly become a morning person—after just a few days you start to associate the quiet hours of the morning with peace, freedom, and total mental clarity.)

Why morning?

Because it's before the kids are up.

It's before the city is awake around you.

It's before social media is twitching and buzzing, before the text messages come in, before people start demanding breakfast and email and attention.

Really, I don't think it matters that much when you claim this time—when you stake your "me" time. Morning works great for the reasons above: nobody else is occupying that time with you, distracting you. Your mind is fresh and alert.

It also is a great way to set the tone for the rest of your day.

I'm sure this time could be found late at night, too, after everyone is asleep, if that's more your thing. (Though, still, I recommend trying the morning if you can.) The idea is the same: the airwaves are quiet. Not just your phone, your Twitter, your house—but the greater world around you.

When everyone else is asleep, there's a peculiar quiet in the air; you get a sense that, maybe, you're the only person left alive. And there's something freeing and magical about doing something that's only for you, when you might be the only one to ever enjoy it again.

Getting that space in the morning to do only what I want to do—and not feel like I owe anyone else anything with that time—makes spending the rest of the day doing what others want a little more bearable. It makes not getting my way all the time a pill I can swallow, when I get a scant sliver of time that's exactly my way, that I can use for whatever I want, and shape however I see fit.

Plus, it's better than browsing Facebook in bed.

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