It’s amazing how much an hour can change everything.
Last month I read Murakami’s Novelist as a Vocation, and he talks about writing his first book during a time when he owned a bustling jazz cafe. After very long days at work, he’d write for an hour or two in the middle of the night, his only available “free time.” He had no idea if the novel was any good or if it would sell, but the need to get words on the page was too insistent to ignore.
I thought about this, how useless I am after 10pm and how agonizing it would be to try and string sentences together in the hours before dawn. But then I thought, If this were my only time to write, would I? Hopefully I will never need to answer that, but it made it clear that, given my work-from-home schedule, I had zero excuse to not work on my romance novel every day. Seriously–zero.
My work days consist of filling tiny food orders, and once those are done, tackling any non-fiction projects I have in the works. By the end of a typical 8- to 9-hour work day, I want to get up, move my body, hang out with my husband, go outside and see if this year’s goslings have been born yet (they’re here!!!)–basically anything but sit at my desk for another few hours.
And so, since finishing a third draft last fall, the romance novel has been sitting in a digital drawer. Sure, I’d add notes of things I wanted to revise to a Google doc for safekeeping, but the manuscript itself remained unopened.
I recently shared in The Portal that when the gap between where I am and where I want to be, particularly in my creative life, widens too far, this creates a space for addiction to sprout through the cracks like weeds. To dull the pain of not treating the dreams of my soul with proper devotion, in the past I would drink and do drugs. A lot.
Nowadays, I’ll feel the siren call to shop needlessly. Or zone out in fantasy.
I’ve learned to meet these stirrings not only with compassion and curiosity, but also with an attitude of, “Okay, enough mucking about. It’s time to get shit done.” Disciplined action is one of the most potent reversals when I’m in danger of slipping down the slope of self-destruction.
This is not, let me run away from what I’m feeling through busyness.
This is, let me run straight toward what my soul came here to do.
Which brings us back to the romance novel. Inspired by Murakami’s midnight commitment and sensing the discontent brewing with myself, I decided to do an experiment. For the next week, I’d start my day with an hour of working on my romance novel. I could brush my teeth and eat breakfast, but otherwise it was straight to writing. And, this was a biggie: no email, no phone, no exceptions.
I told myself, If you totally hate this, in a week it will be through and you can go back to your regular schedule.
Well, dear reader, not only did I very much not hate it, but this hour a day has completely altered the rest of my life. Perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration–but only slight.
Here’s what I wasn’t expecting:
To feel a marked increase in energy for the rest of the day, such that I’ve been knockin’ all sorts of things off my to-do list, including stuff that’s been on there, for, oh…I don’t know–two years?
Not only is the novel rapidly taking final shape, I’ve been writing more non-fiction, doing all sorts of fun tiny food projects, and I’ve had time left over for extra dance classes, woodworking (new bookcase, here I come…), and a rather elaborate sigils working in my magical practice.
An ability to focus like nobody’s business. This one, in particular, is so interesting to me. I had not realized how much my attention was being subtly yet consistently pulled from center by the nagging, often so quiet I didn’t know it was there, thought of, Damn, I really should get back to those romance novel revisions soon.
With my hour-a-day, this project is simply being taken care of. Sure, it might take me all year to get the manuscript completely done, but that’s a lot sooner than never, which was the natural timeline when I wasn’t working on it at all.
I don’t have to wonder when or if I’ll fit it in or feel crappy when I don’t. In fact, I don’t have to think about it all. It just happens every morning for an hour.
The sensation of time expanding. I’m finding this to be delightfully trippy. Each day, I have the same number of tasks that I normally would–or, I suppose you could say I have more since I’m adding in an hour of writing to the mix. But I routinely find myself, an hour or two before my usual end time, realizing I have nothing more that needs to be done. I’ve worked ahead on so many projects, and sure, I could get a head start on something else, but I can also just…rest.
Do something else. Go for a hike. Make a leisurely dinner.
I had an opportunity, about three weeks into my new schedule, to see just how much the fabric of time has shifted for me.
It was a morning when I had an early dentist appointment, so I’d decided the night before that, instead of writing until I left, I’d package up tiny food orders from the day before. That way, they’d be done and I could come home from the appointment and dive straight into the romance novel. In other words, the tasks were the same, only the order in which I did them changed.
Ten minutes before I had to leave for the dentist, I still wasn’t done packaging up tiny food, in spite of what I thought would’ve been plenty of time and no apparent dilly dallying on my part, and I felt frazzled AF. I hadn’t eaten yet either, and I’d have to brush and floss afterward so I wouldn’t make my dentist sad. Craaaaaaaap.
Driving to the appointment, it occurred to me, This is how I used to feel all the time. Like there were never enough hours and I was always at least four tasks behind.
Yet on days when I started with writing, instead of checking emails to see how many orders I had that day or deleting weird spam porn that somehow made it through my filter (“I am 18+ years old, I have a lot of youth burning in my body.” Sorry, I guess? That sounds…painful?), there was somehow more than enough time to get everything done at a relaxed pace.
What I’m currently exploring is how this might affect the success of my magical workings. If having additional energy and focus is profoundly altering my “mundane” affairs, I can only imagine what will be possible, magically speaking.
I’ll keep you posted!
In the meantime, what passion project can you devote regular time and energy to, even just 10-15 minutes a day? Maybe you can’t start your day with it, and that’s okay. Where can you fit it in? (Maybe you choose to Murakami it in the wee hours?)
Try not to think of this as energy you’re taking away from something else…
…because that formula, in my experience anyways, leads to a tight, scrimping fearfulness that everything will fall apart when we’re not running ourselves into the ground tackling “real responsibilities.” (As if inspired joy isn’t one of the most powerful, and unquestionably real, forces in the world, capable of producing seismic change.)
As Ghandi famously said, “I have so much to accomplish today that I must meditate for two hours instead of one.”
I think you’ll be astonished by how much you get back when you make those regular offerings to the Muses.
Happy Full Moon.
This month in The Portal, we’re using the tarot to explore the pathways of money in your life. Where do they exist, are they constricted or free-flowing, and more.