Friday, December 5, 2008

The Hardest Part

The hardest part of getting up early to write is ... getting up early to write. Ha ha, brilliant!

Seriously. Three days a week I get up early to write. The other two I TRY to get up early to run. And no matter if I'm lacing up running shoes or brewing coffee, the hardest moment is just before I get out of bed. That tiny hateful moment when I roll onto my right side and sit up, hating everything.

After that it's not easy, but Lord, it's less bad.

Today I was in the middle of dream. My wife and I were on board the USS Constitution, a restored warship from the 19th century. We were the only ones on board, and it became important to lower the anchor. I chivalrously allowed her to kick the metal tang that would release the heavy anchor, and we leaned over the side to watch it plunge into the water. Chain poured over the side as the anchor sank, and sank, and sank.

It never reached the bottom. Instead, the ship started to tip, as if something big was tugging it over. The deck became vertical and we fell in! Luckily we swam into someone's basement (?) where we managed to dry off. Inconveniently I had to go to the bathroom. Even more inconveniently the only toilet was in the middle of the room. Most inconvenient of all, everybody arrived for a basement party(?) after I'd already -- let's say -- committed to my urgent physiological imperative. A dozen people, most of them from work crowded around and kindly pretended not to notice what was going on, as they made small talk and sipped punch.

Waking up from that was a delight, but the growing realization that sleeping time was over ... was not. I rolled over, saw the clock, and got up.

All of which is merely to say that I didn't approach my morning writing with any sense of optimism, excitement, anticipation, joy, or anything other than groggy resentment (why have to get up so early? why toilet not in bathroom? why basement party?) and the thick taste of strong coffee.

Too bad, I said. You don't have to like it, in fact, you're probably not going to like it. But this is what writing a book means: writing when you don't want to.

My job is just to show up and start putting words on the screen. It's the first draft: they don't have to be good, they just have to be salvageable.

And to my surprise I managed 1500 words -- some of which may even survive the first revision! Sometimes self-doubt is right (I bet I can't jump across that river) and sometimes it's wrong (writing this morning is useless). The trick -- for writing, not river-leaping -- is to ignore it.

Which means the only question worth asking of this first exploratory draft is not "is it good?" but "Can it be fixed?" Yes.

UPDATED: Creepy coincidence or serendipity? Either way, 4AM looks pretty early, even from 5AM: From Nathan Bransford's blog, Jeff Abbott on waking up at 4 to write his novel. Whatever it takes. Make that time sacred.

No comments: