People ask me a lot. Actually, they usually ask, “Where did you find the time?” But, it’s pretty much the same question. I’m obviously not the most prolific author that you know. I’m just starting out. But, I do have the answer to how I wrote the first one.
(By the way, the most prolific author that I know gave me a stern command: “Quit the blog. It’s draining all of your energy.” But. She knew my blog.)
I was wondering how to do it a couple of years ago when I moved to D.C. I went from a Solo pastorate to an Associate, so I no longer had to write a sermon every week, but I didn’t want to give up that discipline of regular writing. I used to sneak down to Politics and Prose, which has nightly readings, and listen to the authors. Usually someone in the audience would ask, “How did you write your first book?” I began to see a thread. Here it is:
The author had some sort of need. The stories were pretty amazing. It was rarely sheer determination (unless there were children who needed support). Usually there was a mundane need involved. It was stuff like, “My coworker wanted a pool. His kids were really bugging him for a pool, so he asked me if I wanted to write a book with him. So we sat down and I co-wrote my first book.” (Carl Hiassen)
For me, my needs are much smaller than pools. Because…well…I would love to sell like Anne Lamott and Sue Monk Kidd, but I’m just starting out. So I needed a dishwasher. I got one. Now that my book is selling well (or at least it does well when Amazon’s not sold out of it…which has been every freaking day in the last week…), I need roof.
The author got up in the morning. There was some physical weirdness that forced the person to get up before anyone else. Insomnia. A cancer that didn’t require a lot of treatment, but did require a regular dose of steroids. Something like that. Ted Kooser got up at four in the a.m. and went to his barn to write and watch the geese fly by before he left for his insurance job.
Hearing these stories broke the writer’s myth in my mind: I didn’t need to have Hemingway’s schedule. You know, get up in the morning, work until noon, drink the rest of the day….
My physical weirdness? I have Epstein Barr and my body reacts poorly to caffeine. So, I fall asleep early most nights. Which means that I wake up early most mornings.
What? What’s that you say? You have no ailments that would give you such a bizarre schedule? Okay, then. Here’s my plan for budding artists and authors who have no time:
(1) Figure out a need. That shouldn’t be hard….
(2) Turn off the television. I know. It sucks. The Daily Show and Colbert Report are never as good the morning after. But just thank God that we live in the day of YouTube and iTune downloads. If you feel completely left out of all cultural references, you can still watch the shows without staying up all hours of the night.
(3) Get a cat. Not a cat person? Even better. Do not declaw the cat.
(4) Set your alarm clock for 4:30 a.m. every morning, and feed the cat at that time. Do this for a month.
(5) Do not nap. Resist the temptation.
Congratulations! You now have an extra three hours in your day.