I’ve been quiet in this space, but it’s been a busy few weeks in my life. Back to back birthday weekends (my daughter and husband) with a grand finale of Mother’s Day, which always stirs up my emotions. I’m relieved it’s over.
I prefer the quiet lulls between celebrations. Must be that introvert side of me, relishing the chance to duck back into my shell and recover.
Meanwhile, things in my brain haven’t been much quieter, but that kind of work I can manage better. I’ve been tearing through memoir and craft books, inhaling podcasts, and basically gorging on this new (to me) genre. I’m filling myself up with as much knowledge as I can before taking my own leap.
I never thought I’d be doing this, writing a memoir, and yet here I am, about to begin, beginning. I bought a designated notebook, a special pen, and I’ve been taking notes, writing out scene ideas. I feel like a train, its engine rumbling, steam rising, the whistle about to blow.
But once I get going, how will I continue my momentum once summer begins? The two words “school’s out” used to bring on waves of panic, but this year I’m not feeling as concerned. In fact, I’m making goals.
What the heck?! Two new words spring to mind:
(Well, that’s the goal. I won’t make any promises since this is quite a departure for me.)
Now please understand, I always get up early. My kids still wake in the night, and at least one rises with the sun (since birth, since birth!) and her clomping steps to the bathroom (if she doesn’t stop to peek in my bedroom first) always rouses me. Even if I pretend to ignore it, the cat doesn’t.
My old way was to grouchily flop back into bed and squeeze out a little more sleep, even the restless kind, because getting up at dawn felt like admitting defeat. I’ve fantasized about being the kind of writer who sets the alarm at 5am to write, but after being deeply sleep deprived for eight years, it seems sacrilegious to wake before absolutely necessary.
But then Saturday happened. I slept poorly (thanks kids and cat) and woke in a foul mood. The whole day I felt off, grouchy. It wasn’t until later that I realized why. That morning I had a chance to get out of bed before my kids. I heard my daughter close her door and knew she had turned on her requisite morning show on her iPad, but I forced myself back to sleep. Yet, for the first time ever, I understood that sleep was no longer winning. What I needed even more, at least in the hour of dawn, was solitude.
I read this post by a fellow writer-mama Sophie a couple weeks ago, Why Early Mornings Are Good For My Well Being As Well As My Word Count, and this line in particular struck a nerve.
“If I don’t take charge of my day, and instead fritter away the beginnings of it in broken sleep, then when I am finally forced out of bed by a hungry toddler I am way more weary than I would otherwise have been.”
I’m more pissy and grumpy, but same idea.
The sleep I get from 6-7am does NOTHING for me. So why not write, or read, or watch the birds flit around the feeder in peace, with no one clamoring for my attention?
I tried it on Sunday and it was like a miracle. Not only did I get some writing accomplished, but by the time my daughter appeared at 7am (as per my firm request and the assistance of Netflix) I was feeling generous and sated as opposed to annoyed and disgruntled. I may have been spotted humming while cleaning the bathroom later that morning, but that cannot be confirmed.
It’s been five days so far, and though I slept in a bit this morning (due to staying up too late writing this!), I’m going to keep on with this habit. There is something incredibly peaceful about being the only one awake and drinking my coffee in silence.
Will I ever set my alarm for 5 or 5:30am? I don’t know, but the idea no longer seems unattainable.
This summer instead of surrendering my writing time, I’ve decided to set some goals. Not small ones either:
- Record all 12 video lessons for my grief course (coming to The Gift of Writing in October 2016 if all goes well, click here to be put on the waiting list!)
- Write 50 pages of my memoir about me and my mother
The trick is walking the tightrope of trying to meet my goals and not beating myself up if I don’t. All I know for sure is that there is no certainty, not in parenthood, not in life. I can’t predict what this particular summer is going to look like. Can I rise at dawn and still have my wits about me to deal with my two (often sparring) children? Will a babysitter be able to wrangle them or will I have to intervene?
I want to enjoy summer – the laziness of it, the surrender – without stress. Well, without the added stress of deadlines. But at the same time, having a goal to lean toward could serve as my fuel, what gets me through the bickering and squabbles, knowing I have my mornings, whatever may come of them.
What are your summer plans, and do you make goals, or play it by ear?
I just read Mary Karr’s book as well. I’m struggling with the “School’s out” problem too and I really enjoy your solution. I hope it works well. My oldest is 9 and at 5:30 am is up and talkative! With slightly older kids my prime time is when both are fed breakfast and off playing with each other for an hour or so. Oh, and I write next to the pool during their swim lessons. Not sure what else I’ll get accomplished this summer!
Kristen, thanks so much for reading. What did you think of Karr’s book? I loved most of it, and now I feel like I should read one of her actual memoirs 🙂 OY to all the parents of kiddos who wake oh so early. I’m glad you get some writing done during swimming. Once my 4 year old allows me to leave his side during lessons, I’ll be doing the same!
LikeLiked by 1 person
I really liked Karr’s book-I even went through the section identifying what your flaws are so you can own them. I asked my husband to help me out with that and at first he refused on grounds of self-preservation 😉 But after I sincerely asked for a list of my pluses and minuses he gently gave me his POV which was really helpful. My younger guy (now 7) wouldn’t get it the water for lessons til age 5! I feel you!
Wow, I’m kind of afraid to ask my husband about my flaws! I admire your fortitude 🙂 Thanks for that info about your son, my kids are clingers, so I get it. My daughter wouldn’t even get her face wet until 5!
LikeLiked by 1 person
I love everything about this post! The energy and excitement behind beginning a new project, the commitment to early mornings (so happy to hear it’s working out!) things moving along. So wonderful.
My summer goals are focused on the upcoming move and transitioning all of us smoothly. I don’t want to lose the writing time I’ve carved out for myself. I like I think of myself as a planner but in reality I’m more of a “pantser ” (just learned that one!) so who knows what’ll happen!
Thank you Tara! I hope to keep up the momentum of my early mornings. The key is an early bedtime, which thanks to the black hole of Facebook, can be challenging 🙂 Moving is a big deal, so good luck and go easy on yourself. I’m a total pantser, too, by the way!
I am so excited for you! It’s not easy waking up early and making time for yourself, but it is so worth it!!
I am going to try and keep waking up early (although I have not been waking up as early as 5am since all the crazy home repairs). I also have a babysitter coming 2x a week for 2 1/2 hours. I am hoping to plow through some writing like I did last summer.
We got this, my friend!
Early rising is so worth it, but it was hard for me to accept it, still is 🙂 A sitter 2x a week is awesome, and I may have to get on that myself!
Wishing you many summer morning moments of peace, there is something special about the early light in summer. I started a memoir file and have a designated double-entry notebook. I just learned about those from Jessica Handler – so brilliant. I feel like I can tackle the boxes of Justin’s notebooks and personal items and have a place to record all what goes on as I sort and remember. I am thoroughly enjoying “Braving the Fire.”
We can’t seem to find firm ground for summer plans, we are having to let the days unfold one by one and it is a challenge for me. I am a planner, I thrive on detailed plans, and having to let that go is a struggle.
I hope your summer includes some beach time with long walks to let the sand and sea whisper to you.
Your comments always make me feel so heard and understood, thank you Terri. Thanks for reminding me about the double-entry notebook. I had completely forgotten about them! I hope your summer includes some beautiful scenic walks as well. xoxo
Adore this post, Dana, and it comes at the right time for me. Summer commenced in early May for our family. My daughter has been out of school and I am definitely struggling trying to carve out time to write. I usually wake early, but I’ve pushed the snooze button too many times since the pressure of the usual morning routine is not present. The extra time in bed isn’t really doing anything and I needed to read this post to recognize this truth. Thanks for sharing your process.
Thanks for chiming in, Rudri. I forgot about the early release out west! We have two weeks left. It’s hard to find a summer rhythm, and so easy to press snooze. I’ve been doing it internally for years, and now, finally, I can admit to myself that it’s not worth it. Writing in the mornings, even if I just squeeze in 45 minutes to an hour, is so worth it.
Such wisdom here. I love it. I am an early riser by nature and most of the time I get up and do something. Sometimes I lie in bed and read and just sort of ease into my day, which is okay too, but I’m going to pay attention to how I feel the rest of the day. I can’t wait to read your memoir. xox
I love the idea of reading to start your day, Lindsey. That is on my list of options if my own words don’t come. Reading and simply just being in solitude is so rare that I’ll take what I can get and savor every moment. I hope that if my memoir gets written and out into the world, it is worthy of your time! I so value your opinion 🙂
I too find it hard to rise early but do love that time for myself – for writing, meditating or simply greeting the day in peace! I tend to get up early weekdays (I could not do the school mornings without a little time to myself most mornings!) but sleep on the weekends. I try to get up early some of the time during school holidays though to avoid becoming a stress monster! Pleased to hear you’re getting going on your memoir – I look forward to reading it!
Yes to greeting the day in peace, Rachael! I’m trying, trying to make it happen more than not, and so far (fingers crossed) it’s been happening. I do think it’s important not to make it too regimented or strict, to let myself off the hook here and there, which is why I’m not setting an alarm (right now). Like this morning, my son woke at 5:30 and came into my bed. I could’ve impatiently hurried him back to sleep and snuck out to write, but instead I savored our time together, holding his hand and dozing off until a little after 6am. So worth it 🙂
LikeLiked by 1 person
Since I kept teaching when my kids were born, I always took summer vacations off from “work” to simply be a “parent.” When I requested a leave and ultimately resigned from the classroom, the kids were 9 and 11, ages where I still had to be actively involved in their summertime activities. So rather than make goals for my summer that I’d end up not meeting, I surrendered to their schedules and reminded myself that this time with them is fleeting.
That was 8 years ago. And I’ve never regretted it. But this summer, my son will turn 19 and my daughter will turn 17. They don’t need me to chaperone, drive, orchestrate.
It’s time to make some goals. I will write every weekday we’re in town, at least a little bit.
At least ten minutes.
But this is my last summer before Jack leaves for college. Then Karly goes next fall.
So my biggest goal will be soaking up the months with them.
I love and appreciate every word here, Julie. I know you get it. It makes sense to take summers off while working. I feel like that’s what I’d like to do also, which is why I need the mornings to feel like I’m taking care of myself. I know it’s a big shift when suddenly the kids don’t need you as much, and as much as I might wish away all the NEED in my house right now, I know I will miss it. Dearly. Thank you for the reminder to savor amid the every day chaos. xoxo
Dana I hear you loud and clear. But I love that part of the morning that is mine and mine only. Sometimes I go for a early walk, sometimes I do yoga and sometimes I write. Its the best part of the day. I feel cheated if I don’t get my me time too. Winter here but mostly Im working on art for a market stall. Hoping the money I raise from selling my art will go towards publishing the first picture book. Thats the plan only I have still quite a few illustrations to go. But I can see the dream quite clearly now. Wishing you all the best on your journey this summer.
An early walk sounds divine, Kath, especially knowing where you live! I feel cheated now as well, if I miss my quiet time. It’s become sacred so quickly. I hope you raise money with your gorgeous drawings. I love seeing your birds, and I can’t wait to read that picture book someday.
LikeLiked by 1 person
YES! You can do this. I remember when I made the switch and it was by the far the best change I made in my life. I still get up at 5 about 4 days a week, but the one bad habit I’ve allowed is some internet time during those hours. I need to re-protect them. It’s essential.
So funny, Nina, I meant to link to you because YOU are the one who I’ve had in mind this whole time while contemplating this early rise. I agree that you need to protect the time. I so easily fall into the FB hole during the day, and I definitely don’t want that to happen in my precious AM hours.
Hello Dana, I have tried to sign up to be on the waiting list for your Grief course and the response that I receive is that I already signed up but did not confirm. I was never sent an email to confirm. Thanks for your help. Blessings, Joni
Hi Joan, thanks so much for reaching out! Send me an email at email@example.com and I’ll check with Claire at The Gift of Writing and make sure you’re on the list. I’ll also ask her if we can send out a confirmation to everyone who has expressed interest.