It is early. Pre-dawn. The house is asleep except for me, and the heater hisses its warmth into the house. It is grocery day, and it will be another rainy one.
I have risen at 6 am, an hour before my family, nearly every morning for three weeks, to write. I love this time of day, with no sounds but the sounds the house makes, with no light but the dim living room lamp. Now, the furnace has stopped blowing, and in the silence I hear the dripping of rain and the clacking of the keyboard. Both soothing. Neither asking anything of me. This is my best time for writing.
The thing is, though, that as I do with everything I get excited about, I began this practice without training or easing in. I went from writing once or twice a week, whenever I felt like it, whenever I could fit it into the rare vacant time slot, to writing every day, for an hour each morning. I am tired, and my brain is stiff. My mind is sore from this vigorous effort, like my body aches when I work it out five times a week after lazing two months during the holidays.
Or maybe, more accurately, it is numb.
My husband gentles me, “Take a break if it’s wearing you out.” And I know he’s right. I could do that. But I am trying to build a new habit. I want this badly, to write well. I’m not sure I have ever wanted anything more. And I know the key is to keep writing, to write every day, even if my mind fatigues from the effort. Even if I fear the disappointment of mediocrity, or that I’ll never be as good as this Pulitzer winner or that guy in my writing group. Because I know this: “High achievers in the arts are more productive than average achievers. They produce more masterworks, but they also make more messes, create more duds.”† It reassures me when I realize my favorite authors surely have thousands of pages of garbage. Everything they write isn’t a masterpiece. Like a photographer, who may shoot a thousand frames for one perfect image, a writer must click, and click, and click, and click, tapping keys until she frames a perfect piece.
So I continue to set an alarm clock. I continue to scribble in notebooks. I continue to write when I am frustrated by a lack of ideas, or worse, by an overabundance of unfinished starts. I continue to write when I fear what I have to say isn’t worth saying, or when I scratch into my notebook, “I’m too tired to write anymore, I want to quit right now,” then keep writing because my timer has not gone off yet. I want this badly, to write well. I’m not sure I have ever wanted anything more.
†Long, Priscilla. The Writer’s Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life. Seattle: Wallingford Press, 2010. Print.