Early morning writing: becoming ME again

STANDARD WRITING PROBLEM: GETTING STARTED, BUTT-IN-CHAIR (BIC)

I have been battling early morning starts.

I got to the computer chair, but I wasn’t making the decision to block the net for several hours and get my writing done, even though that’s what I always want to do, and it’s the only time I can (before the world crashes in and demands things).

So I stopped to have a think – usually a good idea.

DATA: What is actually going on?

And I found that the first thing I was demanding of my bleary-eyed self was a huge decision: blocking out all my writing time, and getting to work.

And I couldn’t make that important a decision – yet. So I’d surf for a while, check the emails, searching for something ‘out there’ that would get me started, all the while dumping the vast garbage dump that is the internet (even when you confine yourself to a few well-known blogs) into my brain for composting.

Don’t even ask me to do yoga or go for a walk – the decision-making engine isn’t on yet, and I wake up stiff as a board.

It occurred to me I was going about it wrong: what if the answer wasn’t ‘out there,’ the trigger, the jump start, the on switch? What if reading and commenting and bookmarking – just because my brain wasn’t up to full speed – was actually physically counterproductive.

One of the most difficult jobs we do is to mine for gold nuggets from the tons of ore – because it takes brain power to mine, and the brain ends up loaded with stuff which must be cleaned out before it can think.

Copying my writing process: who am I?

I do that when I switch pov on my characters: I take some time to ‘become the character again.’ I re-read the character’s last scene, and the end of the previous scene (if the previous scene was a different character). I take the time, think it through.

What if the first thing I have to do every morning, as in every scene, is to become ME again?

Instead of looking at the early morning planning time as: check the to do list, pick the important stuff, load the brain up, whip it into action, hurry, time is running out – what if I see it as (though it doesn’t feel this way – maybe from years of assault?) time to remember who I think I am, and to let a positive attitude (preceded by smile and prayer) to creep into my brain BEFORE I subject it to the long list of things I WOULD do today (most of which won’t get done)?

Am I reinforcing my own brain fog?

What I really want: to write

I am a writer. That is a constant PLEASURE.

Regardless of how my writing time is spent, in principle I allow myself some each day – because that’s what I’d do if I had no pressures on me.

Writing is ME.

Writing is pure JOY – and I do it playing in my own mind, with only myself for company.

Wow.

I don’t need those people I keep looking for on the internet, in my family, in emails which sometimes come but most often do not.

My best play time is spent alone, unless I’m too tired to enjoy it.

Writing is how I communicate with my soul, though I will confess: NOT all of what I think will ever get written. Someone may later read my words and be hurt. I can’t keep frustration – we all have it – completely out, but I try not to do it deliberately, and certainly don’t want people to be hurt by what I really think – which I do only part of the time, anyway. We ALL have relationships with other people which VARY by the minute. Relationships are the sum of what we feel and think PLUS what we let out, conscious that we are not perfect ourselves.

Now that I know what I WANT, what do I DO?

Behavior – which includes speech – IS in our control.

Even thoughts – indulge the thought or work to replace it with a more loving Christian one?

Think of a pink elephant in the room.

Now imagine painting nice blue spots on it with a big brush.

Controlling your thoughts isn’t that hard.

And not having to deal with the huge playground/temptation/bottomless pit that is the internet before I’m even human seems to help. A breather. For my soul.

Update after a week: It is working!

I block the internet for a half hour only, and use that time to just sit at the computer, wake up, start the day by becoming ME again.

I’m starting the day with a brain just a physically muddled – that has to do with the disease, and there doesn’t seem to be a way of modifying it (yet): not caffeine, not breakfast or skipping breakfast, not sleeping little or a lot.

But, the same way I become a character before I write from that pov, I’m becoming myself before I have to face the world with it.

After the half hour, I take a superquick (less than 10 minutes, with the timer on) look through the emails and ask myself if things can wait. 99% of the time they can – and it seems so much easier to re-block the net for a bunch of hours and get to work than it had been.

Lesson: keep watching yourself.

Somewhere in your own data may be the answers to your questions. You know yourself better than anyone.

Does any of this resonate with your process for getting started – and around you wasting your own time? Or is it just me?

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27 thoughts on “Early morning writing: becoming ME again

  1. Catana

    “So I’d surf for a while, check the emails, searching for something ‘out there’ that would get me started, all the while dumping the vast garbage dump that is the internet (even when you confine yourself to a few well-known blogs) into my brain for composting.” This is me. And the body that doesn’t work well first thing in the morning. Sometimes, the brain is working, for a short spurt when the hypnogogic state just before becoming fully awake has given me a new idea. I try very hard to finish the surfing by 9:30 or 10:, having gotten up at 7:30, but don’t always succeed. Add in the little chores that need to be done, by noon, then start writing. Good intentions all, seldom followed up. Days when I’m persistently exhausted don’t help. Physical excess (what anyone else would call mininally active) one day means one or two days of recuperation.

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I am still trying to shorten that first ‘wasted’ period, but the concentration that I need to write isn’t available most days that early.

      I want to give it a good test again: block the internet, and let the futzing about be within the Scrivener file for Pride’s Children: NETHERWORLD, rather than on the internet, where it seems I have to wander farther and farther abroad (present company and regular commenters excepted) to find ‘something to read.’

      I’m going to try – I’ve been up a half hour. I’ll block – and see what happens. I hate wasting time IF it could have been used for writing – and possibly finishing my day’s sting earlier, so there is something left.

      Thanks for reminding me. I’m weak – what do you expect?

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      1. Catana

        A net blocker would help keep my surfing in line, but then I’d have to turn it off whenever I needed to look up something. And despite years of proof that I have very little will power, I have to keep trying. When I succeed, it’s very satisfying. Failure is just business as usual.

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        1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          The program Anti-social can be configured to block certain specific websites (not just social ones like FB).

          If you find yourself surfing Wikipedia, because you left it accessible for research, I can’t help you.

          But at least you’d be learning more than with random internet surfing.

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        2. Catana

          Anti-Social might be useful, but it would take forever to set it up. I don’t surf randomly, but the number of sites: news sites, writers’ blogs, book reviews and news, amount to two or three dozen. The only actual social site I’m on is Google+ and I don’t spend much time there. Hardly ever use Wikipedia, by the way. It’s a start for some subjects, but rarely adequate.

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  2. Janna G. Noelle

    I don’t write in the morning, however I do still experience the delay in my writing brain “waking up” when I first sit down to the computer. Since I unplug my modem every time I sit down to write, I’m unable to give into the temptation/danger of surfing the web. Instead, I just sit un-diverted with my stuckness, confident that it will lift eventually – that my brain with eventually generate something since idleness is an unnatural mental state.

    This isn’t say it’s an easy process to work through, but I believe it’s quicker than to try to split one’s focus with some sort of distraction. I also try to prevent this problem by leaving details notes and reminders in the document when I stop writing for the night so I’ll know exactly where to start the next day.

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      ‘Split focus’ – I like your wording.

      My brain thinks it should be doing something, ANYTHING – so if writing isn’t possible, it should do something else, Sudoku, Bee Cells, reading, surfing…

      But all those things generate debris – which then has to be washed out of the brain. So they actually delay getting going.

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  3. Lily White LeFevre

    My best time is always first thing in the morning, but i prefer to start with no input from web ever. I think it’s an ADD (or HSP – whichever i am) thing. When i wake, my brain is a perfectly raked patch of gravel, and every thought/experience/sensory input is like a footprint. I save web for when i am done writing – on my ideal days. Those are gone, for a few years into the future. But as everyone else, love the analogy of slipping on self like a character.

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Love the image of the perfectly raked patch – it is perfect.

      My problem is that, under the very best of conditions, we won’t get above the minimum necessary for writing for over an hour. But it’s worse if I fill the brain with stuff which needs processing – because the processing fills my brain with chaff and debris, and that takes even longer to remove.

      As if someone didn’t just walk across your patch, but instead had a whole herd of wildebeest chased by lions go through it: it takes an extra effor to clear out all the… dung.

      I do best when I block the internet and wait, reading my own words, try to make sense of them – but it isn’t pleasant to try to start that. It almost hurts my brain to try to force/encourage it. So it must become routine.

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  4. J.M. Ney-Grimm

    Alicia, that’s brilliant. “Spend some time becoming me.” I love it.

    I’m going to try it. I’ve done “morning pages” (a la Cameron’s The Artist’s Way), and I like them. But it’s easy to head off on tangents of “to do.” And it’s easy to prolong them. For me, it is, anyway. I like, like, like the idea of using a few minutes each morning to “become me” again. In writing, just as I would for a character in one of my stories. I think I forget while I sleep, as crazy as that may sound. Thank you!

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I definitely wake up every morning ‘some assembly required.’

      Caffeine does it for many people.

      But what I was concerned about was the mindlessness of it – drink your coffee (in my case 1st Diet Coke) and get – what?

      The deliberate thing I’ve been asking myself is Who am I? Why am I doing this writing? Do I want to keep doing it (yes)? and What am I afraid of today? Becoming me is my best way of describing it: taking control of the process and having a goal for it.

      Otherwise, it took all day to become me – and I hated going to bed.

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  5. Widdershins

    Bravo!!! … It’s like that WIBBOW thing … Would I Be Better Off Writing?
    Funny though. I use my emails to get my brain into gear … well, that and a pot of tea! 🙂

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      My emails, and the other regular blogs get me started into – what I don’t want to do. It can usually wait until the writing time is over.

      I have a note somewhere that sitting there struggling with the writing when my brain is mush is still far more pleasurable than surfing – it is attempting to do the A1 task, and making a bit of progress. What if that’s all the progress I got that day? Then I’m still ahead.

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  6. juliabarrett

    Everyone has a different sweet spot. I write best at night. I’m distracted during the day by the sunshine and the pretty butterflies! I do think you’re on to something though!

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I have tried, Julia. But throwing the B1 into the system in the morning gives me a blip of usable brain, peak maybe around noon, and all downhill from these.

      If my data had shown ANY effect in the afternoon, I’d be pushing it for all it’s worth. There is nothing THERE there – it’s scary.

      I’m a realist – use what I have, instead of pining for what I don’t have.

      But it does make me fractious when I see people wasting energy and time I would kill for – and use much better than they are.

      Your data, your records, your body and mind and soul – fine tune.

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