A to Z: Coffee

Day three, A to Z: Coffee, toast, raspberry jam.

04:30. That’s a.m. It’s dark. Always. Sometimes, the alarm still shocks me. I hit snooze. Maybe more than once. By 05:00, though, I’ve opened my eyes, spent a few moments breathing, set an intention and roused myself from bed. I’ve staggered down the stairs. Sometimes one of the dogs manages a feeble tail wag. Even more rarely, Angus lifts his head. Lulu never does. She’s a Lab-mix who knows the value of sleep. Little distracts her. Water in the electric kettle. The little blue light tells me help is on the way. The scoops of coffee into the french press. The bread into the toaster. Butter, knife, jam. I stretch. I breathe. I wait.

This is my pre-writing ritual, Monday through Friday. It has been since the second semester of my time in the Creative Writing MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte.

I tried all manner of ways to avoid this. I tried sneaking out of work for long lunches, scuttling off to Starbucks during my daughter’s dance classes in the evenings, ducking into the nearest bar at any spare moment, waiting until the children were in bed, always looking for spare moments to open my laptop or notebook, squeezing in some writing time.

I’m not suggesting that taking every opportunity to write is bad. I am suggesting that it isn’t enough to fully drop down into the writing, to make the full commitment required.

I’m not a morning person. I can barely form audible sentences when I first waken, no matter the time of morning. 04:30 is not a natural hour for me. It is, however, a time when my children never need me. Not even my dogs can be bothered to ask for attention. The world is still.

Coffee and toast in hand, I climb the stairs, light candles on my desk, slip on my headphones, select the same Pandora station, write. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. This is my creative writing time. Not blogging time, or replying to email time, or anything else. Just fiction, creative nonfiction, the odd poem. At the end, I close the notebook and the laptop, meditate, tiptoe downstairs to start breakfast for my daughter, enter the rest of the day.

Yes, there are still times when I wangle extra time later in the day. There are times when I must, but this morning ritual is a critical foundation for my work.

Find the time. Any time during the day. Write or type it into your calendar. Commit. Establish a ritual that works for you.

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5 responses to “A to Z: Coffee

  1. Great blog. And thanks for liking mine.
    Coffee and toast is part of my writing ritual, it gets me in a cosy, comfy zone ready for work.

    • Heather Marshall

      Thank you. I think ritual is important, not just to writing, but to make note of what’s important to us.

  2. this is what I need to do!
    I’ve been saying it for ages, but I’m so useless in the mornings – I wonder how I could write.
    having no kids… maybe I could start a bit later….? 🙂
    auntyamo
    http://ficticiousamo.wordpress.com/

    • Heather Marshall

      The specific time doesn’t really matter. I arrived at 04:30 by backing my way into it. I started with 05:30, which felt awful and didn’t give me enough time before I had to get moving on breakfast for the children and getting ready for work. So I moved it back half an hour. And then another half an hour.

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