On jet lag and writing routines
It’s five AM, and I’m wide awake. This is not the norm for me. But, after traveling home over the course of two days where sleep meant nothing and time went backwards, I am still feeling the effects of jet lag, much longer than I ever did when I was younger. Typically, I struggle to fall asleep, but then stay asleep. Now, two days after returning home, I’m still exhausted by bedtime, so I’m falling asleep right away but waking up early. A reversal.
I usually work out (go for a walk, etc.) first thing when I get up. But since it’s still been dark the past two days, I have reversed that routine as well, taking care of tasks in the morning (laundry, housework, putting up the Christmas tree) and taking my walk in the afternoon. Another reversal. It all feels a little strange, like someone else’s life. But it has me thinking about how reversals or changes in routine can make things new.
For example, I am usually not a morning writer. Yet, here I am, typing this while my husband and dog are still asleep. And I have been struggling with my poems lately. What might happen if I became a member of the #5AMwriter’sclub I see so often on Twitter? (To be honest, I can’t imagine making this a regular thing. One of the best benefits of being retired after 36 years of teaching is NOT having to get up early to an alarm, and I have never been an early morning person.) But I could start doing morning pages, taking just ten or fifteen minutes at the start of the day to empty out my head. I could alternate my morning and afternoon movement time to see if my focus or concentration or openness in all aspects of my day change as a result.
I could do a lot of things. I could start getting out of bed the first time I wake in the morning instead of heading back beneath the blankets. I could set aside a specific amount of time every day to dedicate to words instead of working haphazardly when ideas come to me or when I have a specific task/project at hand. I could draft on the computer and revise longhand, the opposite of how I have always worked on poems. I could force myself to write to a prompt every day, even though I know that prompt work isn’t always fruitful for me. Or…
I could stop worrying about it altogether and let the writing return when it will, as it has done in the past. Reverse my spiraling negativity and fear about the dwindling of ideas into the knowledge and confidence that the words will return. Easier said than done. But I never thought I’d be getting up at 5 AM, either. :)
(And yes, that’s two year old me in the photo. Falling asleep with books since 1964…)
Just for today, reverse the mode of composition that is most familiar for you. If you usually hand write, use the computer. If you draft on the computer, move to a notebook. If you brainstorm first, jump right in. If you usually jump right in, make a web or an outline. See what happens when you reverse pieces of your usual process.
Take a poem that isn’t working for you and Missy Elliot that thing…lay down, flip it and reverse it.
Make the last line the first line and then, changing the syntax as needed, work up toward the opening. Or make the end words of each line the first words of each line in a new draft about the same topic. Or anagram your current title into something else and see where that takes the poem.