How I Build Things
Writer’s block is the unwillingness to crawl. — Eve L. Ewing
I wasn’t always an early riser, but at some point in the first year or so after college, I had a temp job that started at about six in the morning. For about two months, in the darkest stretch of winter, I woke at four, stunned and blasted like an atomic atoll. I clung to my little kitchen table, stared blankly out at the silence. Then I drove through an empty city to a cold office behind an icy parking lot.
I soon moved onto my next job, which had very similar hours. And some semblance of a new routine began to coalesce. As the world slowly woke up around me. And I formed the habit of slowly waking up into writing by the window. I have remained an early riser ever since.
What I discovered almost immediately was that this early in the morning, the Artist is still sleepy and the Editor hasn’t even woken up, so no one is really thinking too hard about what’s being written down. Then, later on the day, when the Editor is in the Office and the Artist is ready to stare out the window with a glass of wine, the Editor can go over the pages, selecting, cutting, rearranging, maybe jotting down questions in the margins for the Artist to look at.
This sort of rhythm could have worked equally well, of course, had I stayed a night-owl: late nights for the Artist, the next morning for the Editor. This, in fact, was more or less what I’d already been doing. But that temp job helped me realize this had not in fact been working well for me.
To this day, I keep a notebook open on the kitchen counter in the morning as I make my coffee. I call it my “Ongoing” notebook. I jot down sentence fragments, syllabic rhythms, snippets of nonsense. Sometimes only a few lines, sometimes a full page, sometimes — all too often — nothing. I fill about two or three of them each year.
With some variations, this has been my overall routine, even when it wasn’t. Something I’ve noticed about me: simply knowing I have a plan helps me get work done, even — or especially — if I don’t follow the plan.
(This was the first half of whatever this is. The second half might appear before Monday, if I can figure out how to end it — or at least abandon it to my satisfaction…)