I don’t much like talking about my morning routine. Whenever I do, the reactions I get often fall into two buckets: an uncomfortable mix of amazement and disgust (“that’s insane, I could never get up that early everyday”) or an even more uncomfortable series of questions, often determined to uncover an end goal (“so are you trying to become a bestseller?”). Though I am proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish through keeping to my routine, I’ve always felt a bit awkward not having anything to really show for it.
It’s been over two months since the first collection was published and I have yet to make any sales. For me, that’s okay – after all, this year isn’t about making money off of my writing. While that will likely change as a goal later on, right now, there’s still a lot to learn. Even though I’ve been writing since I was a child, this whole process of publishing is still new to me. Concepts, writing, selecting, designing … All of it is new and bewildering. Rather than rush through it, I’d like to take my time and improve little by little.
I was going through some old documents on my computer recently and I found a folder of stories I didn’t recognize. The most recent file had notes that could only have been from my past self. There was a list of future ideas, things to do, things to read, what to improve, what to complete.
I had no idea what it all meant. In a way, I felt like a detective, trying to piece together these clues that, years ago, I had left for myself to find.
Once I started going through the other documents, it all started to make sense. In front of me was the first draft of a novel I had written years and years ago. It was almost like an out-of-body experience, that is, what I would imagine such an experience to be. One part of me was reading the words and following along with the story, which actually wasn’t bad. The writing needed work – it was evident I’d typed the story out as quickly as I could, what with the sparse description and clunky phrasing. But the feeling was there.
Meanwhile the other part of me was putting together where that plot element or that character had come from, what inspiration I had been influenced by, and how years later, it had evolved subconsciously. It was eerie. For example, in this draft was actually the proto-character for the tea master Miyo in my published collection. But I had completely forgotten all about that proto-character until I had read (reread?) the draft.
How strange, I thought after I’d finished, that I would forget such an important work.
I admit that I do feel envious of prolific writers. There are so many ideas and stories that I want to share and it’s frustrating to not yet be at a point where I can write and publish them as quickly as I’d like. Even though I’ve published that first collection and am well into the process of creating a second, it’s hard to have so little to show.
Sometimes in the pre-dawn darkness, I’ll stare at my keyboard and wish that it could just take the story from me fully formed. Other times I’ll end up opening up a new document and writing a completely different piece than the one I’d planned. And yes, there are still times where I type just for the sake of having put down some words, having a time to log, and being able to say that I did my writing for that day.
But even on those days, I know the words are still important. I may not remember them, and they may not get published, but it’s upon those words that I build my routines and center my life. Because even if I have empty hands, I know the words are still working their way through me, in this story, in the next, and in the stories they inspire others to create as well.