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New phase, new schedule, tired writer

I’ve finally faced up the reality of my History of the Medieval World deadline, May 1. Which means I’ve now admitted that there’s very little chance I’m going to have a finished manuscript in another five weeks.

After an eerily complicated exchange of emails with my editor (for some reason I have lost the ability to make myself understood in everyday matters–maybe it’s a side effect of reducing medieval theological debates into straightforward prose–the obfuscation pops back out in another place, like a balloon squeezed in the middle), we have decided that as long as I finish the manuscript by the end of the summer, the book can still come out on schedule.

I’m pretty sure I can finish it in August. Not sure in a really absolutely CONFIDENT sense, like I sometimes am. (Of course I can cook dinner for twelve at two hours notice! I’ll be happy to check your Latin translations and supervise your brother’s violin practice at the same time! Yes, naturally I’ll call the church square dance, just let me get a couple books out of the library and read up on it!).

No, this is “pretty sure” more in the sense that I might say, “We’re going on family vacation in July.” (Providing that no one throws up or breaks a bone first.) Or, “Yes, we’ll have enough money to replace the tub in the kids’ bathroom this fall.” (Providing that the cars don’t break down and I balance my checkbook correctly.) Or, “We’ll go out and ride Max this afternoon.” (Provided that he’s still in the fence when we get out there and not chowing down on the neighbor’s priceless turf farm.)

However, I’m feeling a little more confident thanks to a schedule change. I’ve started writing from 4 to 10 AM every day except Sunday. Yep, every day.

I’ve heard of writers who do this for their entire working life, although I’d never tried it myself. But I’ve been feeling like I needed to do something totally different to shove myself off dead-center with this manuscript and get some new momentum.

I’ve been following this schedule for about a month now, and it’s having a truly fascinating effect. For one thing, working every single day (before this I was working every other day, for a longer period of time) creates a sort of continuity and flow that’s suddenly advancing me further and further forward. For another, there are NO interruptions. No matter how carefully I guard my writing time during the day, there is always SOMETHING that can’t wait.

At 4 AM, nobody wants to talk to me. It’s phenomenal.

Most of all, by 10 AM I have done my hard creative work for the day. I feel like I’ve finished the most difficult task in front of me, and all the hours to come can just be…fun. I can be with the kids or work on the farm without being preoccupied by undone writing. Even if I’m doing business later in the day, I don’t have that uneasy uncomfortable feeling that I’m taking time away from the original writing that’s the foundation of my professional life.

So it’s been great for my brain.

My body’s having a little more trouble adjusting.


(Ah, the glamour of Eastern Roman history before dawn.)