I Am Taking More Time For The Things That Give Me Joy, Like Writing Early In The Morning

Writing is work. If you are a writer (one who writes in any capacity) and someone tells you that writing isn't work, I hope you are able to laugh in their face.

It's really early right now; everything is soft and dark and warm (heated mattress pad) and quiet. I'm trying something new to me: instead of letting myself drift back into sleep when I wake up with time before my alarm, I'm writing.

It's an idea I've been meaning to implement for a while. My mornings were highly regimented at one point because I was doing freelance before getting up for my day job — but the end result of that was just setting my alarm earlier and burning out faster so I had to stop. There was no alarm this morning, just the natural wakefulness that sometimes comes when I've managed to sleep particularly well even after a late night.

There are never enough hours in the day, I think. There are always more awesome new things I want to try or get done. I've gotten better at prioritizing some of that stuff over the years (people usually come first no matter what) and worse at some others (putting away the laundry is one of those tasks at the bottom of my to-do list). Obviously I can't avoid all even slightly boring chores — would that we could just stop doing stuff we don't enjoy — but, eh, it's not the end of the world if the clean laundry sits at the foot of the bed for a day or two, especially if it happens because I went to a class or got to see a person I've been missing.

What I've managed with less success is making room for working on writing-related personal projects. I come home from work and then I work on xoJane stuff, and eventually I am all out of words. My brain is reduced to hand signals and, "You know, the thing. I need the thing from the drawer in the kitchen." (Except the thing is inevitably in the bathroom or something.)

That's not great. I hate that. Because it means I've had several personal projects languishing for a while and I do not like leaving a manuscript unfinished even if I'm not actually going to do much with it. One of my old creative writing professors said you have to write your way through everything, get it all out, and when I can't finish something, I feel like I can't move on to the next thing.

At any rate, whatever, here is a thing that happened: I drove out to hang with a friend who is a writer and who is staying with a couple writer friends of hers. It was one of those glorious freaking Sunday afternoons that convince people to move to Florida in the first place, even if they hate the rest of the year.

There was a cook-out — burgers on the grill and people sitting around talking about their work and their travel and people they know. And then there was work, four writers sitting together and getting shit done.

We'd made room for it in the day, all of that time spent at the keyboard but not at a desk locked away from everyone. I figured out how to make the couch work as a writing desk for me and we took small breaks but we focused on the worlds that needed our real attention.

And it was such a pleasure.

Writing is work. If you are a writer (one who writes in any capacity) and someone tells you that writing isn't work, I hope you are able to laugh in their face, even just privately inside your own head — and it feels like work when you are grinding through the difficult parts of it. But sometimes it is also like driving fast down a long, straight highway at night with your highbeams on and your music loud. It's like the first big hill on a rollercoaster dropping you straight into a twisty, turny tunnel in the dark. It's holding your breath underwater and looking back up to see what the world is like for humans instead of mermaids.

I love writing. I love other people's writing and I love writing with other people around — I'm a social person in that way. And sometimes I still forget the rush of it. I wind up feeling the "Please take the trash out and pick up milk on your way home" everyday reliable sort of love.

Don't get me wrong, that's a great love to feel. It's a comforting and secure love to feel. One of the worst things about how mental illness works for me is that it takes that love away from me and locks it in another room. I know it's all there, all those words and feelings about words but I can't access any of it and also I feel like I'm probably wasting my time if I even try.

But when my brain isn't eating itself, when that room is unlocked and I get to sit surrounded by words and happier than if someone has give me a kitten bouquet, there comes the reminder to myself that prioritizing this sort of time is important, that not every moment needs to be dedicated to the work I give to others.

It's light outside now, not as early as it was when I started writing this. Ed and the dog are still asleep and my alarm is going to go off any minute now. Maybe I'll regret losing an hour of sleep this morning once the afternoon rolls around and I'm knee-deep in errands and other demands on my time.

But I think what is more likely to happen is that this moment, where I have simply been able to enjoy the keyboard at my disposal and the way words come together, will stick with me enough to get me through. The next time I wake up before my alarm (likely tomorrow morning, I have to be honest), I'll work on those personal projects without a raincloud of other obligations hanging over me.

That day I was telling you about, with the cook-out? After we worked, we wound up around the fire pit, toasting marshmallows for making s'mores. I left with the smell of woodsmoke in my hair and in my head, where it remained for days. All my thoughts and words were cured with it, hardwoods and pine in equal mix, the scent of something joyful.