“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.” ~E.B. White
This will be the view from my new bedroom window after our move takes place two months from now. I anticipate staring out at this fountain for many long hours as I contemplate the construction of witty prose for my hearty followers of this blog. I still chuckle that any apartment complex in Florida feels the need to warn its residents NOT to swim in these man-made cesspools of water that are the haven for alligators but then again, we do live in a litigious society these days.
As I considered how my life will change in the coming months, it got me thinking about the struggles that writers face when they try to plan their daily schedule of writing. Everyone has a different routine that they are comfortable with to accomplish the goal of turning out something worth reading. Some writers are shot out of cannon first thing in the morning and get to their latest project the minute they roll out of bed, bright eyed and bushy tailed. They don’t even need the benefit of caffeine, a morning jog or even a brush across their morning breath teeth before they have pumped out a good five pages of completely legible material. Then there are some authors who don’t open their room darkening curtains until well after the clock has struck noon and despite two hours of padding around the apartment aimlessly, consuming a full pot of coffee and then partaking in another long hour of sitting at the typewriter, they are still staring blankly at a sheet of paper before their fingers strike a single key. Regardless of which category the author may fall into, the task remains the same… the work must get done.
When it comes to my personal behavior as a writer, I have a very odd pattern and it is totally related to my Chronic Lyme Disease. First of all, I have NEVER been a morning person so it goes without saying that being shot out of a cannon would definitely not be my style of writing. I truly believe it harkens back to the fact that I was born in the middle of the night, 2:20am to be precise. From the glorious day that I entered the world, I have always enjoyed the darkness and being awake when everyone else is asleep. There is a peace and tranquility that is only found in the middle of the night when you know that the phone will not ring to interrupt your train of thought, no one will be entering your writing space to ask you a question and time tends to stand still because the sun is not tracing its way across the sky telling you that the hours are passing. It allows you a singular focus on the task at hand that is not available to you when you write during the day.
Being a writer with Chronic Lyme Disease can be difficult because we often wake up in terrible pain. This disease inflicts a level of muscle, joint and nerve pain that is simply indescribable unless you have suffered from other similar diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis, severe osteoarthritis, lupus or similar autoimmune diseases that affect your mobility. It takes us HOURS every morning to slowly work out the kinks of the aches and pains that have settled into our bodies overnight. We need time to allow our medications to work, time for our stomachs to settle from the food we have forced ourselves to eat for breakfast and time to swallow the 15 to 20 pills and potions that make up our normal morning routine. Simply taking a shower and making ourselves presentable for the day can take us hours, or we may actually have the blessing of being able to remain in our pajamas for the day which is why many of us have chosen to be writers in the first place! We are often unable to work outside the home due to our diseases so a flexible schedule is the only option that we have if we are going to bring in any money to supplement our disability incomes.
This disease is also relentless when it comes to insomnia. We have great difficulty falling asleep at night. After spending many months trying to force my circadian rhythms to function like a “normal person” by using traditional methods like no electronic stimuli after a certain hour, wearing dark sleep masks, taking a night time bath and waking at an early hour with an alarm clock every day, I finally accelerated my efforts to pharmaceutical assistance. I attempted herbal remedies: valerian root and melatonin; muscle relaxants: flexeril, norflex, zanaflex and robaxin; sleeping pills/anti-anxiety medications: ambien, klonopin, Benadryl, Xanax, Rozerem and finally… I just gave up. I determined that my body was going to do whatever it wanted to do so I was better off just accepting it and making the most of my time whenever I was going to be awake.
Writing is a great career to have when you are a daytime sleeper and awake all night because it doesn’t wake up your housemates! It is something that you can do very quietly and it actually works to your benefit to be writing at night because no one is bothering you. Not to mention, if you happen to LOVE writing then everyone is a winner! The one drawback can be that sleeping during the day is not always an easy task to accomplish. I have come to determine that the general public is not always in tune with the fact that there are people in this world that actually sleep during the day.
Landscapers still have grass to mow, right under your bedroom window of course. Delivery people, like UPS and Fed Ex, simply do not know how to knock on your front door quietly. Household chores must get done by your other housemates, like laundry and running the dishwasher, which is not their fault because the world must continue to function even though your body happens to run on a different sleep schedule. Of course, you must also make exceptions of losing sleep on those days where you have to attend scheduled appointments during the day (doctor’s appointments, errands etc.) that simply cannot be done during the middle of the night so you are performing them like a walking zombie. On those days, you simply have to explain that it is the “middle of the night” for you but you are doing the best that you can.
So, choosing to change careers and become a writer has been a wonderful experience for me thus far. I have truly loved every minute of it! I was always told that it was an avenue that I should pursue someday but I was so wrapped up in my quest for a medical degree that I never gave it much credence. When I was stricken with Chronic Lyme Disease and my world came to a screeching halt, I had months and months of being bedridden to think about it. This blog has given me back a huge piece of my life. I was languishing there in bed with very little hope for my future until the day that my older brother shipped me this laptop computer so I could start a blog while I was confined to bed. Little did he know that he was giving me back a reason to live.
There is no right or wrong way to organize your day to become a good writer. Like E.B. White stated at the beginning of this post, the only thing you have to do is get up every day and put something on paper. If you are waiting for the perfect conditions to arise before you actually sit down and put something on paper, you will never become a writer at all. I waited YEARS to finally stop the frenetic pace of college, career, making money, pushing for the next accomplishment and I just kept postponing the dream that one day I would eventually write the way that I wanted to. For me, it finally took a life-threatening illness to make me stop long enough to put words on paper. If becoming a writer is on your list of things to do before you die, please consider doing it before it is too late. There is no right or wrong way, there is only the WRITE way.