Recently, I returned from my second residency for the Whidbey MFA in Creative Writing.
I cannot say enough about this program. What sets it apart is that it is taught and run by working writers, and their goal for all graduates is to become working writers. It is not run by a University with the goal of only producing literary novels. It’s open to all genres, all types of people, all with the same goal.
I. Love. It.
One of the inspiring authors who came to the residency was Randall Platt. She talked about staking a claim for your writing.
We all have excuses. Randi had us write our excuses on 3×5 cards, and she read them aloud. Most of them centered around time and being busy.
This is what she said, “Give yourself permission to be a writer. It’s your dream. It’s your gift. It’s your right, and it’s your responsibility to see the dream through.”
Randi Platt gets up at 4 a.m. to write. She’d done this for years because she says that is when she writes the best– early, when the house is quiet.
It got me thinking about my ideal schedule. I don’t work outside the home. My kids are home schooled, so I don’t have a school dictating a schedule for me. Basically, I can schedule myself however I want. I spent a week thinking about what my ideal schedule would be. If I am going to create and stick to a schedule, it has to be a schedule that capitalizes on my strengths and allows for my weaknesses.
I was a morning person until I had babies. They wear you out. When you’re up three and four times a night, you sleep whenever you can for as long as you can. It’s a killer on your sleep schedule, though. My last child was a total night owl. We adjusted our entire schedule so that she would sleep in. Our house is quiet until 8 a.m. And so, I’ve slept in, too. My husband is a night owl. He goes to bed at 11 every night. I can’t do that if I’m going to get up early.
Back in college, when we didn’t have kids and I had early classes, I went to bed at nine and got up at five to do my homework. It was so much easier to think first thing in the morning rather than late at night. So, I realized, Randi Platt was right. Writing needed to be an early morning activity for me.
I’ve laid out a tentative schedule for my ideal day:
5 a.m.- Get up
5-7 a.m- Write. New scenes. New words. This is not editing time. This is writing.
7 a.m.- Morning exercises- push-ups, pull-ups, lunges, sit-ups. (If I’m going to get my writing life into shape, I might as well get my body into shape, too. Plus, after a stint writing, I need to move.)
7:30- 8:00 Make breakfast for the kids. Like I said, they’ve been conditioned to sleep in so the youngest will sleep longer.
8:00 Shower and get ready for the day
9-10:00 a.m. Do school with my kindergartner. The rest of them are self-directed. I just have to check in and crack the whip.
10- 11:00 a.m.- Clean up the kitchen and cook a big lunch. This is another change I want to make in my family. We are home during the day, so I prefer a big midday meal instead of a big evening meal. Then the kids can have light evening meal.
3:00- Go for a walk. My friends and I used to call 3-5 pm the Suicide Hours. They are the hardest with kids– the winding down, dinner hour. For me personally, they are the emotional slump. I get depressed around 3 p.m. That is when I need to get out of the house and exercise. I’m not a runner. Walking is more my thing.
The evenings are when the kids have all their activities- practice, cub scouts, boy scouts, church activities. If I stick to this schedule, my writing will never have to take a back seat to all their stuff.
So, how did I do? Well, it’s only 11:00 a.m., and it’s a holiday. Some cousins are visiting, so my kids aren’t doing school. However, I was out of bed by 5:30 and I wrote for two hours this morning. It was hard. I’d been out of my WIP for so long, I couldn’t remember what needed to come next. This is just day one. Keep moving forward, and most importantly, write on!