Archive | Never Surrender

Seven Tips for Getting Up Early to Write (Even if You’re a Night Owl)

5am writingFor many years, while I was working full time, I got up early to write before my kids woke up and things got hectic. As a die-hard night owl, adjusting to that schedule was rough. I’m not gunna lie. It took me a about eighteen months to settle in, but that was because I went about it all wrong.

If you’re a writer trying to eek out an hour a day, consider getting up early to write. Here are seven things I learned along the way that might make the process a little easier:

1. You don’t have to be a morning person.
I was absolutely NOT a morning person when I started. It was painful, no question about it, but eventually I got used to it because I had to. If you’re writing is important enough, you’ll get used to it. Here’s how:

2. Coffee.
If you own a coffee maker, it probably has a delayed start function. Take 10 minutes, google the make and model to find the owners manual, and read up on how to set it to start brewing ten minutes before your alarm goes off. You want the coffee to be ready to drink when you drag yourself out of bed. Hot coffee can be a powerful motivator.

3. A quick foot massage.
I know this sounds strange, but sometimes, when I was too tired to get up and even the promise of hot coffee wasn’t enough, I would pinch and roll each toe between my fingers for a few seconds. Somehow a quick little foot massage helped drag me into consciousness. (Maybe I’ll get my sis, founder at Green Leaf Acupuncture, to chime in on how this works in a future post.)

4. Do it (almost) every day.
For the first two years, I thought I was going easy on myself by only getting up early to write every other day. What I know now is that it is actually much harder to do every other day. Do it every day, or at least every workday. Just put it in your head that this is how you start workdays. It will be a drag at first, but eventually you will adjust. It will get easier. I struggled terribly with early mornings until I started waking up at 5am six days a week. I know, it sounds counterintuitive, but it’s easier to settle into it if you do it (almost) every day. (For the record, I’m a big believer in having one or two mornings a week to sleep in. It gives you something to look forward to, and it’s oh so sweet when you’re waking up so early every other morning. Trying to wake up at 5am every morning for ever will just lead to burn out.)

5. Establish a routine.
When you wake up super early to write you will be groggy. You will not want to think about anything too much until the coffee kicks in. For me, this meant establishing a routine. I would fill my mug and sit at the table with my coffee and my journal. I would aim to fill one page of the journal with whatever came to mind – seriously anything. It usually took me about half an hour, and I would notice my pen moving faster as the coffee kicked in. Then, I would close the journal, set the mug aside, and attack my writing.

6. Go to bed early.
Depending on how old you are, and how demanding your days can be, getting up super early on a regular basis will start to wear you down if you don’t compensate by going to bed a little earlier. As a night person by nature, I never used to get tired until after midnight. But I knew I needed sleep, so I started brushing my teeth and getting into bed earlier. For many weeks I would sit up and read until my usual crash-out time, but eventually the exhaustion caught up and I started falling asleep earlier. It’s embarrassing for a self-proclaimed night person to admit to going to bed at 9, but you’re a writer, damn it, and you’re doing it for your art.

7. Set an end time.
For me, writing time ended at 6:30 or when the kids woke up. Whichever came first. If you’re a mom, and/or if you’re working a full time job, you will need to set an end time. Write as much as you can in your allotted time and then pat yourself on the back. Whatever else happens that day, you wrote. And that is a fucking victory.

Happy writing!

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How to Handle Rejection

This is what I used to look like when I got a rejection letter.

crying

But it has gotten better.

These days, every time I get a rejection letter, I also get a high-five from my husband.

Last week, at the dinner table, I shared with the family that I got two rejection letters in one day. My husband held up his hand and I gave it a slap.

My daughter, who is old enough now to understand that rejection is supposed to be a bad thing, asked why we were celebrating. We told her what we always tell each other: if you’re not getting rejected, you’re not putting yourself out there enough.

It’s not that I’m happy about being rejected. Not at all. What I celebrate is that fact that I’m still in the game. I high-five because the minute I got each of those rejections I sent out my story to another journal. My husband is cheering me on in my relentless pursuit of publication.

So if you hate rejection (because who doesn’t) I invite you to make use of my two-step response.

  1. Send your story/query to the next journal/agent on your list immediately. (If you don’t already know who is next on your list, check out my Submission Spreadsheet. You should always know what’s next.)
  2. Find someone to give you a high-five. This can be via text, over the phone, or at dinner that night, but find someone to tell you that you’re doing an awesome job. Because you are. You’re fighting the fight. This is what it is to be a writer.

These two steps won’t do anything to mute the pain of rejection, but they will hopefully keep you from quitting. As a teacher of mine once said, “There are two kinds of writers: those who get published, and those who quit.”

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Seven Years Down, Three to Go

I didn’t get much writing done last week. We’re in the final stretch leading up to my sister’s wedding, and I’ve been spending a lot of time on preparations. Last week, I was wrapping up plans for the bachelorette party on Friday (so excited!) and on top of that, it was my birthday.

I have mixed feelings about birthdays as of late. I’m not really one to dread getting older. I don’t even mind the wrinkles that have been slowly taking hold around my eyes or the gray hairs that catch my eye in the mirror. The thing that set me squirming last week was realizing that I am now 38, and I started working on my novel when I was 31.

And it’s not done. It’s not anywhere near done. I got some very thoughtful feedback recently, and it has made me realize I actually have a ways to go with it. So I find myself outlining, again. In my darker moments, like this morning at 5am, I seriously consider throwing the towel in. I mean, seriously, seven years. Who am I kidding?

In my more optimistic moments, I think that really these past seven years have been training. There’s that old saying that you have to put 10 years or 10,000 hours into something before you can call yourself an expert. I wouldn’t even know where to begin counting hours, but I have been a writer for seven years now, both professionally and creatively. And that’s not even counting all the dabbling and short story writing I did before I decided to take myself seriously.

After I’ve had my coffee, I can accept that maybe this first novel is training. When I’m not feeling like I want to crawl into a hole and never come out, I can see that maybe my next novel won’t take a decade, because of everything I’m learning on this one. And then I think – what if does? Would I quit? I just can’t fathom quitting. I’m a writer, this is what I do, and as much as I love my job, I am not a technical writer at heart, I’m a storyteller.

Trouble is, it’s hard to stay optimistic. I think for now I’ll forget about being positive, and just resolve to reserve judgement for another three years. If I’m ten years in and still haven’t finished a book I feel is worthy of reading, then maybe I’ll consider giving up. But for now, I trudge forward.

#writingishard

Here’s a photo I took on a research trip to the OK Corral Ostrich Farm (in 2009).

Ostrich Writing

 

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Starting a New Story

writing spaceAt the end of last year, I was feeling frustrated by my novel, again. I promised myself that if I could push through to the end of the year, then starting January 1, I would start drafting this new idea I’ve been outlining.

I was excited to make the shift, I really was. But I slept in on the first, then it was the weekend, so I didn’t really get started until a week or so into the new year. And once I did actually get started, I struggled. If you follow the blog, you know I have a goal of 500 words a morning, six mornings a week. I get up at 5am and sometimes I’m done super quick. Sometimes it’s like pulling teeth.

The first half of January was like pulling teeth.

My theory is that it’s just been a really long time since I started something new. I just couldn’t hit a stride with it. Then I started oversleeping, missing precious writing time. At one point, I even seriously considered giving up. I told my husband that I was just too tired. Getting up early every day is hard.

He gave me a little pep talk and reminded me that I love writing. That hour and half of fiction writing every morning is what keep me grounded in the fact that I’m not just some hack working in marketing. I am a writer. And so I must write.

Of course, that doesn’t make getting up so early any easier. So I’m bribing myself. Starting this morning, if I can hit my goal of six mornings a week for four straight weeks, I will reward myself with an afternoon at a spa and a massage. Over sleeping is allowed (because honestly it happens some times) as long as I hit my 500 word goal every morning.

I love a good massage. And a good challenge. Hopefully this will help me rebuild the habit and make it easier for me to keep my regular writing time intact. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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A Friendly Rejection is Still a Rejection

If you follow my blog, you’ve likely noticed that I’ve only been posting once a week as of late, instead of maintaining my regular twice a-week schedule.

I assure you, it’s not the start of a long, downward slide into a static webpage, but rather the outward sign of me taking things easy for a bit while I wait for feedback on my most recent draft of the novel.

When I finished the last version and handed it off to a few trusted friends, I really just needed to rest. I needed to sleep in past my 5am writing date, and go to a few of my girl’s soccer games on the weekend (instead of locking myself up to write, write, write). That was early April, and I told myself then that I would not stress about writing until after my birthday.

Well guess what. I am now officially in my late thirties (though I maintain that 36 is late-mid thirties), and it’s time to get back to it. I already got feedback from two of my readers, and I’m waiting on word from four more. It’s time to reach out and set up dates for feedback sessions.

In the meantime, I got a lovely rejection letter for my most recent short story submission yesterday. It’s rare that editors take the time to actually send notes, and she was very flattering – saying how she really liked it, but it was a little too grounded in reality for their publication (which surprised me, as I submitted to them because I thought the journal would be a good match for my story) – but it was a rejection nonetheless.

Oh well, onward and upward. I’ve already sent the story to the next journal on my list. I’m still in my top ten, so I’m not feeling too down about it.

An acceptance letter would certainly be a nice ego boost as I head into the next round of work on the novel.

Fingers crossed.

 

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Writing Every Day, The Challenge Continues

On January 29th I declared that I was going to write every day for the rest of my life. In the name of being honest, I feel I need to share the fact that my resolution lasted about four days. Not that I’ve given up, mind you, but I’m realizing that the dedication and commitment it takes to actually make 15 minutes every day to write is no joke.

I missed that first day while on vacation with the family in Tahoe. There was so much going on that I just straight up forgot. I decided to pretend it didn’t happen and just carry on. No one need ever know, I figured, as long as I never forgot again. And then, five days later, I forgot again.

The thing is, I’ve incorporated the practice in to my morning routine. I get up at 5 and drink coffee for 15 minutes while I write, and then work on the novel until it’s time to get the kids ready for school. I do this about 4 days a week, usually Monday through Thursday because frankly, by Friday, I’m ef-ing tired and just want to sleep in.

But on those days that I don’t get up early to write on my novel, I find it challenging to make time to write for 15 minutes later in the day. For me, the logical second choice is to write just before bed, but I’m usually so frazzled by then that I often forget.

All in all, since I made my grand proclamation three weeks ago, I think I’ve missed five days.

Still, when I first decided to get up every morning to work on my novel, I only got my ass out of bed about two mornings a week. Over time I’ve gotten better at it. I still have hopes that I might actually manage 5 days a week before too long. I have to assume it will be the same with my goal to write everyday. I have no intention of giving up. If I’m anything, it’s stubborn.

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