My son Benjamin was born in late March. He is our second child. I assumed finding time to write after his birth would prove challenging. But surprisingly - even to me - the opposite has been true.
The past few months have been a process of stripping away the unessential. As my plate becomes more full with domestic tasks, I've been forced to let go of time sucks that interfere with the larger picture of what I want out of life. I've asked myself over and over again, what's important? And then the reverse: what can I let go of?
A few I've either cut altogether or decreased dramatically:
- social media trawling
- checking email (I've set up an auto-responder relaying that I only check email once a week on Tuesdays. Hat tip to Timothy Ferriss, author of The Four Hour Workweek.)
- spending time with people who don't truly fill me up
- eating crappy food (Have you read any of Michael Pollan's books? The Omnivores Dilemma or In Defense of Food? No? You should.).
Sloughing off these activities has helped me stay focused on what activities are essential in my life. Writing is one of them.
The beauty is that writing begets writing. Make a few small adjustments and watch your writing practice grow exponentially. Some more thoughts on keeping the pen hitting paper on a consistent basis:
Build Structure, or Harness the Structure Already in Place. Early days with a baby have a simple rhythm: wake, feed, diaper change, hold and play, sleep. Repeat hourly. I use this structure to trigger writing. OK, he's down for his first nap. Ten minute writing practice. Go!
Now think about your daily rhythm. When can you naturally insert writing? This fall, will you be dropping kids off at school? When you get back in your car, don't go anywhere. Set a timer on your iPhone and write for ten minutes on a prompt. Have an office job? Use your break for lunch as a trigger. Write for ten minutes before biting into your sandwich.
Make Writing Friends. On Monday mornings, I meet a small group of writers in the East Bend library. We might say a brief hello or no greeting at all. We're there to write. In silence (or I should say semi-silence, Benjamin typically squeals and bubbles), we push pen across paper or peck at laptops. Knowing this group will be there motivates me to silence any clever excuse my mind can manufacture on why I can't or shouldn't write that morning.
I make similar writing dates with Tara, a friend I met at a Natalie Goldberg retreat in Santa Fe two years ago. We call each other weekly using Google Hangouts. One of us throws out a prompt. The other sets a timer. We write for ten minutes, then take turns reading aloud what we wrote. No feedback, no comments, just being present to the words the other wrote.
(But I don't have a writing friend, you say? Meet one in one of my workshops.)
Define What is Important in Your Life and Strip Away the Rest. Like I've been doing recently, ask yourself what's important, followed by what can I let go of? (Two great writing prompts! Ten minutes on each question. Go!)
I'll dole out additional tips on how to write more consistently this fall in a one-day workshop through COCC Community Learning. Join me.