Friday, October 7, 2016

The Perils of Having Too Much Time

When October began, it stretched before me as a landscape of unrivaled bliss. Or to quote John Keats:

SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
  Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
  With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run. . .

It was to be a month in which I had no looming deadlines, no accumulated store of Loathsome Tasks to dispatch, no trips to prepare for or recover from. It would be a month in which I would have three days a week, 8:30-2:30, when my adored two-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter would be off at her adorable preschool to play with her sweet new friends. Time to write a proposal for a new chapter book series for my publisher! Time to revise and expand my scholarly paper on Ginger Pye and Pinky Pye by Eleanor Estes. Time to research an idea I have for a picture book biography! Time for everything!

Alas, a week into the month, I must confess that my vines have been been loaded and blessed with a most paltry amount of fruit. Here's why.

I wake up each morning at 5, as I am wont to do. But instead of hopping out of bed to make myself a mug of Swiss Miss hot chocolate and settle down to write, I think, "Oh, but I have all day! I'll have SIX WHOLE HOURS to get work done." And so I snuggle back down under the covers and doze a little bit longer. Or I do wake up but instead of writing I do some email or read one of the huge stack of books I have from the library for my judging of the Children's Literature Association's Phoenix Award. After all, those tasks have to be done, too, right? And I'll still have SIX WHOLE HOURS to get real work done later.

But when later comes, when those six beautifully empty hours finally begin, I find I've somehow lost all desire to work. It feels to me that today is already as good as over, and oh well, it didn't work out as planned. But not to worry! The month is still young, and so much time awaits!

And then this same scenario repeats itself. And repeats itself again.

This shouldn't surprise me. I've had decades now to learn this basic truth about how I work. If I don't give my first, best hour of the day to the work I think is most important - in my case, writing - I'm not going to get the writing done at all. Period. I've been getting more work done on my time-pinched days than on my time-luxuriant days, because on those rushed days, I've followed my tested routine: get up early, drink hot chocolate, write for an hour, walk for an hour. Then I hug myself with joy for the rest of the day - and end up accomplishing all kinds of other little things as well, with all that momentum to carry me forward.

Why do I have to keep reminding myself of this over and over again? I know that early hours work for me, and nothing else does. I know, in fact, that ONE glorious early hour is all I need to have a happy, productive life. 

So tomorrow I will leap from bed - or straggle from bed - or crawl from bed - at 5 a.m. I will write from 5:05-6:05 while sipping hot chocolate. I will do it! I will! I will! If I do, the rest of my life will be wonderful. If there is anything I know for certain, this is it. 

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