Every day, barring some kind of deathly illness and even on vacation, I'm up by 6 o'clock. Usually, it's even earlier - my mental alarm clock waking me before the one set on my iPhone. Also, there's the matter of Bax, the anxious beagle waiting by the side of my bed; when I stir, he nudges a wet nose under the sheets, connecting with my hand for his first rubdown of the day.
I wake up LG, our rat terrier who could sleep until noon, and the three of us head outside, where I shuffle from foot to foot in the cold, planning out the hours in front of me. Later, over breakfast and coffee that doesn't have a chance to grow cold, I'll sketch this out on a scrap of paper, sometimes, in my more obsessive and busy moments, with a little time stamp. Dog walk 6:45-7:15 Gym until 8:15 Shower 8:30 Answer emails/start load of laundry...
We take our walk at sunrise, while most of the neighborhood is still asleep, their houses dark, only the occasional car engine or bark of a dog stirring the air. I'm writing while I walk - not a phrase or a sentence, but a next scene, a new direction. I let my mind play during this time, while my feet move idly forward, LG and I following Baxter's sense of smell.
By the time we're back home, all muddy-shoed and wet-pawed, I've got a rough map for the day and a sense of direction for my writing.
Each semester, my life changes with my teaching schedule - an early class here, a late class there, sometimes Monday through Thursday, sometimes marathon Tuesdays and Thursdays, where I come home exhausted and shaky and strung-out, like I'm coming down from a high. I try to grade as many papers right then and there, until my handwriting becomes increasingly illegible or I find myself rereading the same simple sentence five times without any comprehension. (Although, to be fair, sometimes these sentences do defy comprehension.)
Luckily, I've learned to be flexible with my writing life - I can do mornings four times a week and evenings twice; I can pull long Sunday afternoon shifts. I travel with my MacBook Air, since it's slim enough to slide into my bag along a stack of student papers, and I have no shame in setting it up on a cafe table or when I'm waiting for a seat in a diner. I believe strongly that the words will come, and they will beget more words, and more, and the individual circles of story will eventually overlap, like that most beautiful and basic function of existence, the Venn Diagram.
This semester, though, I'm struggling to find my groove. I know it's because of a holiday weekend and a temporary relocation while our very ugly bathroom became a very lovely one; during this time, I craved the few minutes alone I could scrap together here and there--the morning dog walk, the tedious commute south and north on Highway 99. Thursday, I found myself with three hours to kill (normally, a prime writing situation), and my mind was too scattered to write anything other than a few stilted sentences. I kept drifting - my mind to a daunting to-do list, my browser to other websites, to The Atlantic, to Pinterest boards, to Google a phrase that had been haunting me and figure out once and for all who said it. (But not once and for all - the knowledge is already gone, stored in a temporary brain pocket since turned inside out in the wash.)
I know I'll get it back-- I'll find the rhythm, get my foot back to tapping the beat.
Maybe tomorrow, then -- I'll wake before my alarm to a beagle's nudge and slip outside while the world is asleep, and begin one more time.