A change of country is like the start of a new year – a chapter-beginning that provides a chance to make resolutions and adjust habits. Over a good number of years I’ve woken up early (530/545am) on week days for exercise before work; usually a run or a circuits workout from a phone app. At the beginning of this month, I’ve made quite a radical shift – no more exercise in the morning, but instead, close to two hours of writing time, with a 5am wake-up. At about 720am I drop off my daughter at nursery, and then cycle off to work for 8am.
The main idea is that if writing is something I want to do long term, then I need to be doing it regularly. Up to now, this just wasn’t happening. So far in the morning writing hours, I’ve been keeping a journal (first task of the day), going through a fiction writing MOOC course with FutureLearn (one that I unsuccessfully started back in 2013), listening to the ‘Writing Excuses’ podcast, and writing blogs (most work-related).
Two immediate experiences after two weeks:
- Firstly, before the problem and stress was finding time for yet another priority. But, when you actually carve out a fixed time, then the whole issue with time just vanishes. It’s no longer about finding the time, because the time has been found. Instead it’s about working out what to do to fill the time. It feels very much like you’re giving yourself a daily present, a wonderful luxury. Perhaps from the outside, it’s odd to describe getting up at 5am as a luxury, but that is genuinely how it feels. It’s rapidly turning into one of my favourite moments in the day.
- Secondly, although I haven’t yet got a writer’s notebook off the ground to make little observations about the world, I can already see that the fiction writer’s obsession with the little details, should help me to be much more observant and aware in the world. How much am I missing as the world spins by? It would be nice to get some time in a busy cafe with a notebook just observing. Eventually, being a writer would also perhaps give me the permission (like a journalist) to get into people’s lives, and asks them questions about their internal life.
The morning writing hours will be fine-tuned, but I think I’ve established the building blocks for a quite interesting life change. In addition to the writing, it’s nice to see the sun rise (my position at the dining room table faces the window and the exact point where the sun comes up through the trees). And I also see my family rise – generally E the nanny first, then my young son J, quite an early riser. Then we have to get the rest up so D can be ready for school. Back in Freetown, I would do my morning exercise and head to work all in the dark without seeing anyone up.