“Be regular and orderly in your life like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”
— Gustave Flaubert in Letter to Gertrude Tennant (December 25, 1876)
I like schedules. I believe that a good schedule just gives me some nice guardrails, and I can play freely within each block. A couple of times a year, I will lay out my schedule anew, and it will run smoothly until it doesn’t. I had a pretty good schedule for the first half of this year until it slowly crumbled, piece by piece.
This was my schedule (until it wasn’t): wake up, get my four-year-old ready, take him to school, come back home and work, workout in the garage, pick son up, entertain him, and write after he went to bed. I have written in the morning and evening, and it was fun to write after the house was dark. I’ve also worked out at different times, but I enjoyed the break after work. A few months ago, I got a rowing machine, and I decided to wake up earlier to use that before my son was up. No big deal.
Then, life slowly changed. We’re going through a record heatwave in Texas, so working out in my garage in the afternoon went from “I need a fan” to “I could die.” I’m stubborn, so I stuck it out.
More importantly, my son is now four-and-a-half, going on twelve, and he has decided he doesn’t like going to bed. He really doesn’t like going to bed while I’m still awake, and he was making that clear every ten minutes at my office door1. Plus, I’ve made it clear that I will always pick him over writing, and I stand by that. He’s not a distraction, but I did have to make a new plan.
So, I’ve thrown out my old schedule, and I’m embracing a new one:
- Wake up even earlier
- Workout in the garage before the heat can kill me
- Get cleaned up
- Write for an hour
- Get my son ready and take him to school
- Pick my son up, or use the rowing machine on the days I don’t pick him up
- I’m done… relax with my son, or clean, or work on a side project
- Go to bed at the same time as a four-and-a-half year old
How’s it working? Like I said, I’ve written in the mornings and the evenings (and I’ve even written about making this shift before2), and I realize the most important thing is finding the time to focus. I’m reminding myself (again) not to be too precious with my routines. They exist for a reason, and that reason is, in my case, finding time to be a dad, earning a paycheck, putting words on the page, and trying to keep my body from falling apart (in that order). We have an incredible ability to adapt, and this will work (until it doesn’t).
For now, I’ll just embrace the change, make an extra shot of espresso, and pray for the day that I can enforce bedtime like a champ.