First Things First

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I’ve had to break myself of a habit recently. It’s a habit I developed once I became self-employed, when if I wanted I could chuck every supposed responsibility and spend the entire day watching reruns of Seinfeld. I like Seinfeld, but this doesn’t actually sound like a fun way to spend a day. Yet the very fact that I could do it, that I had to choose to give a day some kind of shape and structure, drove me to this morning habit.

Which was that as soon as the alarm went off, and my eyes opened, and my mind oriented to the room and the morning and my wife beside me, my first thought was a list of everything I would do that day. I was like a soldier who’d heard revelry and had to be out of his bunk and in formation by 0600. It seemed like a practical sort of thing to do, but I sensed some panic in it, that I was reminding myself that I had something to do, that there was in fact a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

This is one of the advantages of a traditional job. People are depending on you, and if you don’t show up, if you don’t get out of bed and get dressed and have breakfast and brush your teeth in a timely fashion, there will be all kinds of consequences, including you not being able to do this job that you hopefully enjoy doing. But really it’s those other people, and the money, and again, those other people. You’re needed. You’re valuable.

Then there’s the writer’s life. Yes, sometimes I have a contract and I’m expected to finish something by such-and-such a date, and sometimes I have an interview or a podcast or a client, but mostly my day is completely my own. No one is depending on me for much of anything. And so this habit, this reminder that there is a scheduled, real working-world reason to get up and get dressed.

But it’s actually a depressing way to start my day. Moreover, it’s also a missed opportunity. Writing taught me that I mustn’t be too seduced by my own good ideas. I never really know whether an idea is good or not until I bring it to the blank page and I learn what it actually wants to become. A day is no different. That first moment of wakefulness is like the blank page, an opportunity to find out what is actually there for me. And so, if I can remember, when I wake I forget my plans, my obligations, my outline, and see instead what is there for me, why it is I actually want to get out of bed.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual coaching and group workshops.

William KenowerComment