The New Normal: How I Accidentally Developed My Morning Writing Routine

April 3, 2018 § 24 Comments


By Kristin Boldon

If the road to hell is paved good intentions, there are a lot of bricks down there with my name on them. A few of the things I’ve vowed over the years: Do more yoga. Meditate. Write every day. Read better books. The list goes on. I’m sure you have one, too. Instead, my life looked more like Whack-a-Mole, with me desperately swatting at tasks, sometimes connecting, sometimes not. Most days, the alarm went off at 6AM and my husband and I snoozed till 6:30AM. I went downstairs, made coffee, checked Facebook and Twitter, and wrote in my journal if I had time before getting our boys up at 7AM.

Things changed around the new year, after my husband read Discipline Equals Freedom by a former Navy Seal, Jocko Willenk. George set our alarm an hour earlier so he could go to the gym. It was his change of routine. I could have kept sleeping. Instead, I got up too. Rather than rushing to coffee and my phone, I did a few yoga poses, then journaled in my office, instead of downstairs at the cluttered dining room table.

After a few days, something weird happened.

I didn’t quit.

I went to sleep earlier so I could get up earlier, and I started to do a little more each morning. I remembered a chant I’d learned at a yoga retreat a few years before. In my office I had a few items I rarely used: at my desk, a light therapy lamp to combat the dark Minnesota winters. On the wall, a wooden labyrinth that used to be downstairs until one of my sons used it as a maze, tracing the meditative path with a red Sharpie. On my bookshelf, memoirs and books on writing, many unread. I threw these into the mix. After yoga, I chanted. In my office, I turned on the sun lamp, took the labyrinth off the wall and traced it with my fingers. I wrote in my journal, ending the entry with a short to-do list for the day. Then I read ten pages from one of the writing books and took notes.

After a few days of this expanded routine, something weird happened.

I didn’t quit.

Instead, I looked forward to getting out of bed and into my office. It went from being something I should do to something I wanted to do. In a short time, one seemingly simple change—getting up an hour earlier—resulted in a morning routine I’ve done every day for almost three months now. I didn’t have to buy new gear or equipment, or even learn new things. I started with yoga and my journal, then glommed on things already at hand.

The whole thing fits into about an hour. I’ve done it in as little as 20 minutes on days I need to get to work early, and for over an hour on weekends. Since I started, I have only missed one morning, when my husband was sick. One of my favorite parts is the short daily list. Each morning, I look back to check off what I did the day before. Since I begin every list with the steps of my routine:

  • Make bed
  • Do Yoga
  • Chant
  • Labyrinth
  • Journal
  • Read 10 pages

I can always quickly cross off six items from the previous day’s list. Plus, I’m more consistent about the rest of the list. Sitting in my writing chair first thing warms it up; I’m eager to get back in it as soon as I can, even if it’s hours later. My writing productivity has increased significantly since the beginning of the year. After months of wandering in the middle of my memoir, I was finally able to finish the second draft.

After years of wishful thinking, I now have a morning routine that includes meditation, reading, writing, and yoga. I don’t do anything in depth, but I do a little of several things that matter to me. I leave my office energized, and not just from the sun lamp. It’s uplifting to know I’ve done all these things before my day has even officially begun. Like the Queen boasted to Alice, I’ve accomplished six impossible things before breakfast.

______________________________

Kristin Boldon writes memoir, essays, and fiction. She was born in central Ohio, moved as far away as Guam, then settled in Minnesota sight unseen, where she lives with her husband and sons. Her work has been featured on the Taste Blog of Minnesota Monthly, and at Simple Good and Tasty. She blogs sporadically at girldetective.net, and is a member of too many book groups.

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§ 24 Responses to The New Normal: How I Accidentally Developed My Morning Writing Routine

  • caralembo says:

    As a writer of Nonfiction I am delighted to have found this medium and your blog. I had thought about this for so long now, I am hopefully going to contribute this week. Thank you for sharing!

  • caralembo says:

    My Morning Routine was awesome!

  • Laura says:

    Oh thank heavens. There’s hope for me yet. (Mine rivals your quantity of bricks down there, I’d bet.) Thank you for this inspiration! Setting alarm…now.

  • Carrye says:

    This resonates so strongly with me. Thank you for sharing and reminding us that big things can develop from small steps. You’ve inspired me to start again.

  • Nora Pace says:

    Thank you for this! I’m trying to accomplish two goals this month: feeling more productive and less anxious about my days…. and writing poetry each day. I think one of the keys is revamping the beginnings and ends of my days, so this is very helpful. Congratulations on your success!

    • kjboldon says:

      That sounds like three to me. Feeling more productive and feeling less anxious are tricky because not so quantifiable. Good luck!

  • equipsblog says:

    Cool and totally obtainable. To your continued success! Cheers. Thanks for sharing.

  • Katie Marie says:

    Glad to hear things are going well, I’m trying to do this myself ☺

  • imjustneen says:

    I am inspired by you & i just joined and am so glad to read this it gives me the hope and inspiration to put my poetry out there and start writing and sharing life storys with followers. i belive it will help others hearing my stories and it will help with anxiety snd depression ive dealt with for years. Best of luck to you .

  • A. L. Kahler says:

    I am also a big believer in morning routines, though I seem to do well with one for a few weeks and then it all falls apart. I rebuild and try again. Faltering seems better than not at all, right? Here in Australia we have just had that small grace of the clocks slipping back an hour for autumn, so I SHOULD be able to easily establish a killer morning routine this week. And yet…
    Best wishes for your continued success, Kristin.

    • kjboldon says:

      Faltering is better than not at all! Two books I outlined were Devotion and Still Writing by Dani Shapiro, in which she quotes meditation advice of “Come back.”

  • gabriellaquintini says:

    I like the sentence ” Instead my life looked more like Whack-a-Mole, with me desperately swatting at tasks, sometimes connecting, sometimes not.”

  • PowerAgers says:

    Empathized with your obstacles. I am all about lists; especially one that includes making bed as a success.

  • Jacob Shull says:

    Your writing here is enjoyable, and your story is a little slice of inspiration for an aspiring writer who is currently attempting to find a routine that works. Thanks for sharing!

  • Lindi Roze says:

    Wow! As I lay in bed reading your sucess story, I’m impressed and hopeful. Thanks for sharing. At least I’m starting the day feeling motivated…baby steps.

  • saryansha says:

    After I planned my routine and made everyday goals, I accidentally stumbled upon many sub-routines I’d never imagined about and accidentally made my life easier. But, it was really my planning that helped me.

  • I have found a similar phenomenon where a small tweak to my morning alarm opens up such possibility. I have reconnected with my body, and my innermost desires. I have learned to say “no” to things That are not good for me. It has changed my life. Thank you for sharing your experience!

  • purplewriter says:

    “It went from being something I should do to something I wanted to do.”

    This. I think this is something that makes all the difference when it comes to creating a routine and sticking with it. I have ADHD so getting into a routine and sticking with it has always been a huge struggle for me (along with chronic insomnia that makes me a bit more productive at night), but I think I’m going to check out the book you mentioned in your post and see if it can offer some insight.

    • KJBoldon says:

      The book is interesting. It’s geared to fitness and health more than personal habits, though it applies to those as well. It certainly is less touchy-feely than many writing advice books are!

  • Kai says:

    Great read. I’ve never realized how important having a morning routine was to me until I stopped having one for a bit and saw the effects it had on my overall wellbeing. It definitely puts me in a great mood having had the time to meditate, read, and write before I even start my day!

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