It was quite a long time ago that I read Julie Morgenstern’s Organizing from the Inside Out (maybe it’s time to reread it). But what I still remember from that book was her advice to look around you (dear reader) and take note of what you have already organized. For me, that was the bathroom. Back then I was trudging off to the college every day; I had three little girls (ages 8, 8, and 2), and I desperately wanted to figure out a way to get some writing done. My house was very very low on the list of priorities. My make up and hair and teeth stuff, though? I knew exactly where each item was. I could open a drawer or reach up to the shelf, and grab what I needed. It was always there, always in the same place. Every day, just when I needed it.
Sadly, I did not go on to organize my entire house. What I did accomplish, was organizing my writing life.
I realized that my morning routine in the bathroom did not take oodles of time, and yet somehow I managed to fit it in every day. What if I could do that with my writing?
Whenever I hear a famous writer say that she doesn’t write every day, I think, Then when do you write? For me, it’s like brushing my teeth. Okay, so I have a bit of a focus problem (that’s what the fifteen minutes is about — dedicated, intentional focus for 15 + 15 + 15, etc. on the work), but sitting down with my journal and some poetry? That happens every day. If I am on my way somewhere — to visit Mom or to drive a daughter somewhere or whatever is needed — it might be only for 5 minutes. I might pack my journal with me and write on the ferry to Kingston, or parked alongside the road somewhere. But every day, the writing happens. It begins with my journal, and it builds from there.
As I understand Morgenstern’s advice, the first step to making a change is to build some awareness of your ability to achieve your goal. Awareness is so much better than despair. I practice this with my girls, too. When I focus on how messy they are (!) or my almost-23-year-olds’ seeming inability to emancipate from us, I get discouraged. When I remember to make small good choices, just like when they were little girls, and to catch them doing something right — and point that out to them — it helps.
Noticing what is working in my writing life helps, too. Two clean pages yesterday. A blog post today.
Consciousness is the first step.