How have you been?

You may delay but time will not.
-Benjamin Franklin

Decades of routine die hard.

This week will be my seventh week of retirement. 

But you wouldn’t know it, if you were a fly on our wall each morning. 

Still up around 5:30. Still a quiet period of study, prayer and journaling with the cat curled up beside me. Then my get-ready routine kicks in so that about 7:15 there’s usually a mascara wand in one hand while I check for iPhone emails with the other. Not much different from my work routine except that I’m not rushing out the door and I’ve pulled on comfortable jeans instead of a suit.  

It just feels better to get going. 

I remember another time when this worked well for me. 

Years ago I had a similar situation when I abruptly stopped working. I was laid off from a job as an advertising manager for a patio furniture company in Passaic, New Jersey. Glad to end the traffic-crushed commute through the Lincoln Tunnel each day I started looking for a job in NYC. My only time collecting unemployment benefits. I lived on 30th Street in the Murray Hill area of Manhattan (between Second and Third Avenues) in a 2-room fifth-floor walk-up. That first night, climbing up 10 sets of cracked linoleum stairs, rounding each corner of its scratched dingy walls, felt like a climb of defeat.

Even though I was jobless, each morning I’d still rise at 5:30, pull on shorts and running shoes, then skip down that stairwell to run three miles of city blocks. The same routine I’d had when working. I loved morning runs. The sidewalks seemed broader without the day’s crush of people; the air cleaner because of the cool dawn air. 

As I ran along, the city felt friendlier than during the day. Fewer cars cruised the streets. Gradually, shop owners would arrive to pull up the garage-door covers of their storefronts, the metal jangling as the doors rose.  It felt good to feel part of a new day starting.

I remember thinking that if I could keep the same routine when working, I’d be ready, in a more open state of mind to find a job. At the end of the run, I’d charge up those stairs, gasping, to the top. A quick shower, dress into decent clothes, hair & make-up…and then I’d sit on the edge of my futon paging through want-ads over coffee and toast, planning that day’s strategy. 

For a long time I felt stuck. No job leads that fit or some that started out as promising but petered out into nothing. Morning after morning, though, I still followed the same routine.

Until one day, I picked up a phone message about a job lead. I paced in front of the futon to call the hiring manager. This HR person agreed to interview me. That interview led to a second interview, then another with Dan, the person hiring. Then Dan offered me a job as a writer on his communications team at Met Life, the large insurance company headquartered then on 23rd Street. 

This job enabled me to stay in New York where I ran road races and talked about racing with a guy I met who invited me to a group run up Fifth Avenue every weekend who became the guy I married. 

Would I have found a job and met Juan eventually anyway? I don’t know. But I think the be-ready morning routine helped.

So now I’ve been following a similar approach. 

After the writers’ workshop a few weeks ago, I hit my mornings with new momentum, using former office hours to work on the crappy first draft. I have been doggedly going at it. But as I write new questions form: 

  • Should I stop writing in order to dig into more research (Questions are piling up - were carriages more common than cars in London? Did Paris have cafes then)?
  • Should I stop writing in order to go deeper into developing my protagonist (First I had her mom be a meanie, then I changed my mind and killed her off, but which scenario would impact Johanna "best")? 
  • Should I stop writing in order to take some time to work on my writing as craft (This first draft is so basic)? 

I need feedback. So I am thinking of joining a program in which I start working with an editor right now, even before a first manuscript is done. I have a feeling the questions will only increase and an editor will have the experience and perspective to answer them. 

I’m making the decision this morning. Right after coffee.

How I'm Writing the Book
Scrivener Writer Software: The software is downloaded; my writing uploaded into it but then I promptly got tangled in it. "Uncle!" - after burning a bunch of time trying to figure it out, I bought Jeff Michael's training material, which is chunked up by short 3-minute videos. I'm learning faster than trying to DIY-it. 
Squarespace:  My web designer, Jamie, walked through some Squarespace basics so I can publish this blog straight to my website myself. Learning and taking notes is the first step; next step will be to actually do it.
88 Cups of Tea: I just recently started to listen to this podcast of inspiring interviews with creative people. Good for listening to while on the elliptical machine!

Before I end this, Juan and I just got back from Kansas City this weekend. We met with a wedding planner (Miranda — she used to do wedding planning at Disney! — we like her) and then Cristina and I went bridal gown looking with strict instructions not to buy yet. Except we had to. We found the perfect gown! Cristina claims it will be her last act of rebellion….

In closing, recently, I read a surprising note about Benjamin Franklin. So many of his witty observations have become a part of our daily language I was surprised to find out he was not a “natural” writer, but worked diligently to develop his writing ability by collecting essays, reading and rereading them, then putting them away so that he could attempt to rewrite them in his own words. He’d then compare his version to the original, identifying flaws and trying again. 

This type of diligent practice of writing helped him to develop his own style and aphorisms, such as: “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest;” “A penny saved is a penny earned;” and “Never leave till tomorrow what you can do today.” While there are many more I’ll leave you with this:

There are no gains without pains. 

May you have a gainful week!