Hard won.


After a few starts and stops, I am sitting at my keyboard with a cup of coffee, typing my first blog post of the year. It’s going to be a good one, I can tell. Year, that is, not blog post. But actually, I have no idea whether the year will be good or not. But I have right now, and I have today, and those both seem to be all right.

I set intentions, and then I don’t reach most of them, but halfway is better than zero, so I continue with goals and ideas and thoughts about what I want in my life. When I reach for something, I get somewhere. The tricky part is not flailing around because the goal is too high or I’ve mussed it up again. 

For example. This hard won cup of coffee and sitting at my desk.

I don’t make resolutions, but I do use the New Year as a time to shift into a new season of work. Part of this season for me is getting up even earlier, at 5:00 AM now, in order to get more writing and work done before the kids get up. I’ve learned it’s the only way. If I am at home (and not on a writing retreat or something like that) any writing left to be done later in the day does not get done. 

So Rae’s number one tip for creative motherhood? Get up in the dark. Unless you are a night owl. Then stay up and be focused. It really helps to work when you are best, but I recommend getting it done first thing, because you will feel so accomplished later on. Yesterday morning was amazing. I woke very early, wrote out some chapter notes, and then went on a walk and dictated the first two chapters of World Whisperer 4.

But anyway, this morning I turned my alarm off. Great. My body is adjusting to the new wake up time, and I don’t even remember turning it off, but when my eyes opened, I heard the birds (a good signal that it’s past sunrise), so I groaned and reached for my phone, which read 6:28. I blinked into the dark room for a few minutes, reminding myself that there is always tomorrow, that waking up late is not a crisis, and other encouraging things that I have taught myself over the years, after a lot of dramatic behavior about the ruined early start. I’m so mature now. 

In the kitchen I discovered an empty coffee grounds jar, a new casualty of life, due to the fact that three other people in my family drink coffee now. Chinua has started, after sufficient scientific evidence that coffee is healthy, and my teens drink coffee (Kai a cup in the morning and Kenya occasionally). I have raised a parcel of kids who love hot drinks, an accomplishment I am very proud of, especially when my fifteen-year-old is introducing our friends to our tea collection. (Did you know iherb.com will ship tea to you?) But I have been known to mutter that I can’t afford to live now that we all drink coffee. 

I stared at the empty jar. I was too busy bottling kombucha last night to check out the coffee situation and time was already short. I looked at the tea, but nope. So I got on the motorbike and drove to the day market, where my favorite market lady laughed and said, “She’s here so early! Did you wake up early?” “I always wake up early,” I told her. “I just don’t come shopping early.” She showed me the dragon coffee that she was is the best in the shop. It’s the only place open so early and they don’t carry the coffee I normally buy. It’s pretty good, if a bit dark.

But anyway, I sped off in the growing light and ground some beans when I got home. I made a mess with the filter, and added too much cold milk. I reheated it in a pot and finally here I am, sitting with my coffee, my plans for the morning in shambles. 

But this is what life and intentions are like, and this is where the life is. Surprises, plans that don’t work out quite as you thought, crying kids wandering into your workspace, ignored alarms, accidental late nights. My advice is to just keep ticking on. You will not get it perfect, and either will I. If you are a creative parent you will need to take advantage of the moments between moments. Use your frustration. Laugh at yourself. Trick yourself into working by assuring your inner artist that you will only do five minutes, then write (or paint, or sew, or sing) longer. Make goals in order to get halfway there. Reward yourself. 

And make a practice. I am a monk, I remind myself in the early hours, when I don’t want to work. This is my practice. I am the kind of person who wakes in the dark and writes. I don’t finish things for deadlines, I am not polished or punctual. But I practice, and surprisingly enough, as I do, work happens. I’m excited for another year of writing in the mornings, for the beauty of words and for seeing the sunrise from my spot at my desk. 


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