By the week before Christmas, I felt desperate and hopeless. My paycheck didn’t begin to cover my expenses, and I couldn’t see how I would be able to keep up with my car payments. Not sure what else to do, I scouted the neighborhood for bus stops, in case I had to give up my car, and I scoured the listings for better jobs, but found nothing. My friends were all sympathetic, but only one had a suggestion. It arrived via email on the evening of the winter solstice. “Write, write, write,” Sander Freedman urged from Toronto. “It is your soul work. It is your gift.” Sobbing, I read his words over and over. Then I remembered a commitment I had made to myself on the drive back into Albuquerque from my road trip, that after a decade of fits and starts, it was time to complete The StarQuest. “Regardless of what it takes and what is required of me,” I had declared, “I commit to getting it done. It’s time, and I’m ready.”
Now, I resolved, I had no choice but to transcend all disruption and distraction and act on that commitment. Now, at a time when I had no time, I had to make time. That meant writing every day, something I had not done since early drafts of The MoonQuest, when all I had was time. Now, writing was the only thing that could matter — more important than job, more important than car, more important than condo. In The Voice of the Muse, I had quoted Abraham Lincoln as saying, “Determine that the thing can and shall be done, and then we shall find the way.” I made the determination. Now I had to find the way.
My first question was, When? Morning or evening? I have always been slow to get going first thing in the day, and mornings have never been my best time. Still, I had made it through the first draft of The MoonQuest by working on it as soon as I woke up, before any opportunity to procrastinate could arise. Mornings would be tough, but evenings, when I was physically exhausted from my day at Hobby Lobby, would be tougher.
My next question was, How long? Many job-bound writers wake up at four or five in the morning. Could I do that? I had to be realistic, and honest. I was trying to create a schedule I would stick to, not one that would melt away after a week...or a day. I knew myself. A four-in-the-morning routine wouldn’t last. What would, then? After many internal negotiations, I chose to set my alarm fifteen minutes earlier than I needed to. I would stay in bed and write during that time. Fifteen minutes wasn’t much, but I had to follow the same advice I gave workshop participants: I had to set myself up for success. That meant establishing goals that I could meet easily and, perhaps, exceed. Setting the bar too high was a recipe for disappointment, failure and giving up. As well, I would take the manuscript to work and try to squeeze in a few minutes more during my breaks. And I would write for longer periods on my days off.
It worked. Progress was slow at first. But by July I was finished. After two false starts, the first dating back ten years, I had finally completed a first draft of The StarQuest. I had left Hobby Lobby by then. Rather, Hobby Lobby had left me.
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