Time. It waits for non-one. It flows on and on like a river that has no end. To some of us there is a distinct sense that time is bending – days lead to years so fast it makes your head spin. I know that some feel this is the work of the Mayan Calendar leading us to the end of days. For me it is more about our relationship to time changing – from linear to multi-dimensional.
For the last few months I have been working really hard on changing my relationship with time. I have always struggled to make friends with time, and instead, felt like time is running away from me rather than me co-creating time to satisfy my ends. I have come to the shocking revelation that there is only one way to do this, spoken about by so many gurus and leaders of the past, which is this: self-imposed discipline.
You see, I had been having this idea for a while that, like horses, time or rather my use of time, needed to be harnessed and reined in to get full use of it. This was incredibly apparent when I successfully completed my first NaNoWriMo in November of 2011. There is NO WAY you can write 1,700 words a day for 30 days over and above your other job and commitments without the discipline of just doing it. And I battled through it. When I met my word count for a few days running it was easier to keep doing that. After a few days of not doing any writing, it felt like a mammoth task to catch up. It flowed when I was consistent. It stuttered when there were peaks and troughs.
Once NaNo was finished, I felt this rush of exhaustion from pushing so hard and I thought to myself: “In order for this to work going forward, I have to find a way to create my own rhythm without wiping myself out every time.” It became obvious just how important routine, discipline, momentum and “chipping away at it” were. You may have often read of the writing disciplines that famous writers use to do just that – keep the momentum going. From everything I have read it seems the best and most used approach is to set a daily word goal and stick to it, no matter what life throws at you. Stephen King writes 2,000 words every day and does not go to lunch until he has done so (and as he gets older lunch time gets later and later). Hemingway wrote 500 words a day. It does not matter how many words you set out to do a day, the key is consistent and disciplined action. It is better to write 500 words a day then thousands in one go once a week. With a daily routine you stay “in your book” and have to work less hard to start again the next day. NaNoWriMo is an excellent challenge to help reset your clock around a daily target and the discipline required to achieve it.
Recently I worked with a multi-millionaire who attributes his success to a daily routine that sets up the day and puts him in the right frame of mind to do more and give more. Knowing my need to change my approach and just how much I love sleeping, I decided to take up the challenge and try a new habit for 21 days. I am now over 40 days down the line and I cannot imagine my life without it. You want to know the drill? I get up every morning at 5am, even on weekends. Yes, sometimes the alarm does not go off or I consciously choose to not get up at 5am. If I am not going to get up early I choose to do so the night before and not on the morning itself. These mornings are by far in the minority. After drinking a glass of water, I recite my memorised life goal and affirmations out loud followed by reading from a book filled with inspirations for writers. I then refine and check my “time diet” for the day – a matrix of every hour of the week mapped out, with every day having a short “hit list” of items that would really make that day count. I finish with a writing exercise that I plan for each day – a routine if you will – that has a different theme every day. And hopefully I get this all done before my 14 month old wakes up. Some days I get more time and other days get cut short.
I cannot even begin to tell you how this daily sacrifice and commitment to a routine has entirely changed my relationship with time. Although there are wobblies and unexpected changes to the plan, I feel, surprisingly and happily, that time and I are becoming good partners. I can now see my writing goals coming into my line of sight with the very real possibility that I can achieve them.
What is your own disciplined habit of making your thoughts and actions as a writer a daily focus? Even if you are not a writer, what are your daily habits that set the day off for greatness?