Friday, April 18, 2014

To Sleep or Not to Sleep?

The kids are finally asleep. I just kicked off a second load of laundry, straightened the living room (for the fourteenth time today) and cleaned the bathroom. Exhausted, I ignored the dirty dishes in the sink. It’s 9:27 PM, but it feels like 11.

I should write. I should work on that project that has been festering in the dark recesses of my mind for months, but I simply can’t find the motivation. I simply want to curl up with a good book or veg out with my husband in front of the TV.

For some writers, writing is like breathing. They can’t not do it. It’s part of who they are and naturally part of their everyday life. They feel incomplete without it.

For others of us, writing is work. We enjoy it; we feel led to do it, but making it a priority can be difficult. Everything else in life seems more urgent, more pressing, more immediately important. The kids need this or that and you can’t neglect your spouse or your house or the yard or your friends. You scheduled this playdate and that appointment and promised to bake cookies for So-and-so, and then, of course, there’s the day job and all of it’s requirements. The result? Writing often gets placed on the back burner. There it rests, waiting for Free Time to shout its existence.

For me, Free Time usually appears now — after the day is done and only sleep competes with my project.

Discipline and routine are important, but if you find yourself lacking motivation, it may be time to rethink your schedule.

One aspiring author worked as an editor during the day and did his own writing at night. He soon realized, though, that after working on other people’s manuscripts all day, the last thing he wanted to do was sit down and write some more. He simply didn’t have the energy, nor the mental capacity to do it. His solution: do his stuff first.

All the other stuff would obviously get done because he was daily held accountable. His clients would make sure he edited their works, his wife would make sure he fulfilled his duties as husband and father. But only he could make sure he worked toward his aspirations. A weary disciplinarian is too often lenient.

This writer chose to wake up two hours earlier every day. For two hours he would write. Not check emails or inquire about clients or eat breakfast or anything else. Just write. Just write his own stuff.

Now, I love my sleep. I need a solid eight or nine hours to function nicely. But I understand his dilemma and his solution. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be a question of sleeping or not sleeping. Prioritizing personal projects can be done simply by rearranging schedules. Go to bed early to wake up early. Put writing first on your to-do list, before checking personal email, blogs or forums. Eat lunch at your desk (instead of going out or hanging with coworkers) and use that time on your manuscript. Whatever works for you.

What’s my point? Don’t give your writing the leftovers. Reserve your best, most alert times for yourself.

Your Turn: How does your schedule make discipline easier?

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