8:30pm (the night before)

Tidy up the corner desk in the living room, where the majority of your writing “gear” lives in our 2BR apartment. Make sure the keyboard and mouse are plugged in. Attach reading lights to the shelf above the desk’s surface—turning on any of the lights in the living room creates a bright enough, and wide enough, glow that your wife or daughter might stir. Connect your bluetooth headphones to their charger at the feet of the chair you’ll sit in. Put on the desk’s surface the little to-do list you’ve mapped out for yourself. The topmost bullet point: Write 1,000 new words on environmental story. Second on the list: Edit kids story. Third: Read chapter of The Bone Clocks.

They’re the same three bullet points you’ve written for the past six writing sessions. Yet you rewrite them and you place them here, because maybe, just maybe, you’ll cruise through it all in the morning and it’ll then help you keep on track.

Go to the kitchen. Fill the tea kettle with water—about two cups’ worth—and place it on the burner for quick, easy, and relatively silent, access in the morning. Pull the box of English Breakfast tea from the cupboard and set it by the stove, and from that box take two individually wrapped tea bags, setting them alongside the mug you grab next (a metal camping mug you use every single day, which sometimes helps make you feel like you haven’t become an indoor cat), from a different cupboard. What you know you’ll really want is coffee, but the machine is sooo damn loud.

Again, it’s all about minimizing future noise. Your wife has to leave the house by 6:30am for work, and if you wake her up at 3:30am, chances are high that she won’t be able to fall back asleep before if time’s for her to get moving.

Before you lay down in bed, put on the $20 vibrating wrist alarm you bought online for this very thing—to wake yourself up without an audible alarm (i.e. your phone, a clock on the nightstand, etc.). Well, the vibration from this thing is technically audible, but, yeah, it’s minimal by comparison.

Remember, when you work full time, and are a parent, you can either write early in the morning or late at night. And you’re a mess late at night. You eat garbage so you can stay awake. You drink too much caffeine, too late, and end up grinding your teeth in your sleep even more than you normally do.

Set the alarm for 3:30am. Go to sleep.


Wake up in a panic. Shut the alarm on your wrist off; that thing is jolting. Take a breath. Carefully get out of bed (the frame creaks on your side). Pull on your sweatpants and sweatshirt. Step into your slippers. Grab your phone from the nightstand, round up the dog from your wife’s side of the bed, where he sleeps every night (he’ll cause a ruckus if you exit without him), and leave the bedroom, quietly closing the door behind you.

Go to bathroom. Pee. But don’t flush just yet; come 3:00am, your daughter turns from a deep sleeper into a light one. In the past, a toilet flush has woken her up, despite her door being shut, and despite the white noise playing in her room (waves crashing).

Go to the kitchen. Turn the surface light from the microwave on (it’ll be pitch black otherwise, save for what the apartment’s cheap blinds let in from the street lamps outside), and then the burner. Wait. Take a swig of water. And another. Take your glasses off and splash some water on your face. Wake up.

Try not to look at your phone. And if you do look at your phone, don’t check your email, or go searching for things that’ll ultimately distract you from the entire reason you’re up so early.

Grab an apple. A knife. Some peanut butter. Slowly make your way to the corner desk in the living room and set these things, plus your water glass, down—the surface of the desk is small, so you’ll have to draw up the blinds nearest you and use the windowsill.

Open your laptop. Squint from its goddamn glow. Click on the reading lights overhead. Walk back to the kitchen. Wait for the water to heat. Once it does—but before it’s truly boiling—pour it over the teabag you’ve draped in the mug.

Go to the corner desk. Take your headphones off of their charger. Pull one headphone out of the case and put it in your ear—one, and only one, so that if your daughter stirs you can hear it. Connect the headphone to the laptop. Open up the Microsoft Word document you’ll be adding to this morning.

But don’t read what you wrote three days ago, the last time you woke up and wrote. If you do, you’ll spend the time you’ve set aside for new words fixing old words.

Instead, open up Google Chrome. Open a new tab. Go to YouTube. Search, “seattle earthquake,” a topic near to the subject material of the story you’re about to add to. Find a five-minute video from a decent source in the results and click on it. Half-watch & half-listen while you grab the knife and slice into the apple. Dip the apple slice into the peanut butter.

Hope that your creative juices will start flowing.


Move the knife, apple and peanut butter aside. Close YouTube. Return to the Microsoft Word document. Stare at it. You have a thought—put your hands on the keyboard. Maybe even start typing it.

Naa. Delete. Not quite right.

Stare at the document. Wonder if you’re ready to start writing. Wonder if “the conditions” are where they should be. Wonder if you should read first. Or edit.

Don’t look at the clock. Don’t worry about its ticking down—your writing time ticking down. Tick, tick-tick-tick.


Type your first words of the day.



While you’re up, re-heat the water left in the kettle. Add the second teabag. Pour.

Return to the desk.


Your daughter stirs. She’s two and a half years old, so “stirs” is more like, “shouts.” Growing pains, maybe. Molars cutting through. Bad dream. Maybe all three at once. Being two and a half seems rough. The body always pulling at itself.

Sigh—not because she’s doing something wrong, but only because you just fell into something of a rhythm on the page. The words aren’t “flowing", you’re not “flowing,” but something is happening that’s intriguing. Like another piece of the puzzle is being revealed.

Check the baby monitor. She’s resettling. Closing her eyes again.

Keep typing.


Another shout from your daughter. This time there’s a cry, too. You check the monitor again. She rolls around. Grimaces. She’s frustrated—she wants to be asleep, but is struggling to re-settle.

You have a choice. Either go in and help her resettle, which, if successful—these days a long shot—can take 30+ minutes. Or, let her try and figure it out herself. But if she doesn’t get back to sleep, she’s going to have a rough day at daycare, and a subsequently rough night when she gets home.

Either way is a gamble.

Watch the monitor. Give it another minute.


Your daughter resettles.

Read the last few sentences you wrote so you can get back into it. Continue writing.


Pee again, lighting your way to the bathroom with your phone. Wonder if you have an overactive bladder.

Prepare yourself for the fact that, despite having twenty minutes before your self-imposed cutoff of 6:00am, you really don’t have enough time to wrestle out some more sentences.

Again, don’t flush the toilet, but return to the desk and beneath the paragraphs you’ve written start writing directions to yourself for the next time you sit in this very chair and write. Put them in all caps so you knows where the manuscript stops and the directions start.


More cries from your daughter. No turning back now. No re-settling. She’s awake. Sitting up. Standing up.

Save your work. Copy what you’ve written to your laptop’s clipboard and paste it into an online Word Counter. 621 words.

Look at your to-do list. Cross nothing off.

Shut your laptop. Haul the knife, the apple core, peanut butter and mug all into the kitchen. Turn lights on. Pull the toaster out from a shin-high cabinet. Plug it in.

Assemble your daughter’s breakfast.

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