So I'm now well and truly launched into the project of co-writing the FGS history. At the beginning of the school year, when I was doing archival research, I was going over to the library after classes and working for a couple of hours at a stretch, and it was totally wiping me out, such that I had some serious moments of doubt about whether my goal of having a draft of the first chapter done by mid-December was even possible. Not that it would be a disaster if I missed that entirely self-imposed deadline, but having committed to it, I want to make it happen.
But then I mostly wrapped up the archives work and had to settle down to writing, which continued to be difficult in September ... as did everything else, really. I was not feeling a lot of joie de vivre in September. And I faffed about, intending every day to actually start writing but never quite doing so.
But then, on Monday, October 1, I woke up ridiculously early, 5 a.m., and was wide awake and feeling like life was clearly going to be better now that September was over. So I decided to get up and write before I went to school. And I pounded out about 300 words before showering and heading to school. 300 words is not a lot, of course ... but hey, it was the first 300 words of the project! And I had done it before 7:00 a.m.! I felt a warm glow for the rest of the school day.
The next morning, I slept until my alarm went off at 5:45**, so no exceptionally early start for me ... but then it occurred to me that there was really no reason I couldn't shower quickly and still sit down and write for maybe half an hour before leaving for school. And I did.
And then I did it again the next day. And the next. And pretty soon I had written before school every single morning for the entire week and had written about 1500 words. Hurrah!
Now, these words are mostly in bits and bobs, small paragraphs not clearly connected to the paragraphs next to them, and everything will have to go through some serious revision before I can call it truly a rough draft. But I always find it easier to tackle revision task than the getting-it-down-on-paper task.
I've now kept this routine up for three weeks, although I lost some steam this past week, partly because I had grading to do before school a couple of days but also because I'd run out of obvious small pieces to write. So yesterday afternoon I printed out all of my research notes and marked them all up, labeling them as to topic, and made a list of several small-ish topics that are of an appropriate size to tackle in one or two or three mornings. That list needs some further work this afternoon, maybe prioritizing the topics, and I also thought I'd do some copying and pasting of my research notes so that I have everything for one topic all in one place together, ready for my 6:00 a.m. brain to grasp it and start work quickly.
Motivation for all of this comes from the feeling of immense satisfaction I have the rest of the day when I have written before school, as well as from the accountability of Dame Eleanor's writing group, which has been fabulous.
If I can keep this up for the rest of the term, then I should definitely be able to have a bits-and-bobs draft completed by the end of November; then I can spend the first half of December hammering it out into a more cohesive draft. My plan is to give that draft to my co-author and a couple of other colleagues by the time that school breaks on December 20. In a way it's stupid to push and push and push myself to be done *before* winter break ... but damn it, I want to take an actual break and really relax, and that will be much more possible without the draft hanging over me. Besides, I think my colleagues will be more likely to read it over break than during school.
It's funny what having limited time does for my productivity. Knowing that the clock is ticking and that I absolutely *must* step away from the computer by 7:00 a.m. at the very latest or risk being late for school means that I don't mess around checking email or blogs or Facebook and that I get right down to work. Today, on the other hand, I've been dinking about for two hours and haven't accomplished a damn thing. Some of that was deliberate -- I needed some down time after a busy week and an early morning yesterday to go proctor PSATs -- but also it's because when time stretches before me, I waste most of it; when time is short, I tend to make good use of it. I think that's why this early-morning writing plan is working well so far, and I'm hoping that it becomes habit very quickly. It's not quite there -- I still think that it could all come crumbling down if I took one or two mornings off -- so clearly the task is not to let myself slip into hitting the snooze and thinking "well, I'll write tomorrow." But getting to add to the word count over to the left is a real inspiration to me; I'm hoping to make that blue bar move further and further to the right in coming weeks!
** I am not one to spring out of bed, so I credit being able to get up and write at 6:00 a.m., moments after waking up, to the fabulous alarm clock that we bought last year: the Philips wake-up light clock, which creates an artificial dawn such that I usually wake up well before the mellow chiming begins. The clock isn't much good in the summer, obviously, but once it's getting darker in the mornings, it's a miracle worker. More money than I've ever spent on an alarm clock before, but so worth it.