This morning I knocked off another 10 pages of final edits on Checkin’ For Deads – my new novel. It was my 27th day in a row that I’d gotten up, grabbed some coffee, and gotten to writing.
And I realized that I was closer than I’d ever been to actually being what I’ve always wanted to be.
Having something truly done – complete, finished – at the ‘sure, go ahead and take a look’ stage – helps. A lot. I have another manuscript – Cogh and The Machine: A Children’s Book for Adults – out in beta read right now. It’s been very well-received; some people have cried. Some have asked if they can give it to someone else that “should really read this”. Others, without any prompting, have read it twice. It’s even getting a little interest from the publishing community. Very exciting stuff.
For some reason, when I finished Cogh a couple of months back and started this process of ‘getting it out there’ (and figuring out exactly what that meant), I also decided to put in 10 pages a day on finalizing Checkin’ for Deads – another book I’d written that was actually ‘finished’ 2 years ago.
‘Deads’ was my first-person urban fantasy/mystery first-in-a-series baby before Cogh came along and consumed me, becoming the pushy sibling that demanded all of my time and attention for the past 22 months.
What didn’t realize at the time though, was that when I made my seemingly minor 10-page a day commitment, I was actually starting to take my dream of so many years seriously.
And somehow, in simply sticking to this small routine, things started to change.
I’ve always had a picture of what I wanted my life to look like – a lot of people do, I think.
For me, it would be getting up in the morning, grabbing a cup of coffee (yeah, uh, about that – back on the joe, sorry), and getting to write for maybe 4-5 hours. Then a quick workout, and off to do some interesting stuff out in the world among actual people – which is where I get my ideas. Maybe working on some other projects with some good creatives.
Later, in my perfectly visualized life, I’d come home, spend some real time with my family, and then at night reread what I’d written earlier in the day. Finish the day with a little guitar/gaming/reading – some kind of down time – and off to bed.
Problem was, this picture was always out there; fully imagined to the tiniest detail, yes, but not real. It was on a pedestal up ahead of me: I could see it, but there was always the same stubborn distance between where I was today, and where it was ‘someday’. And I couldn’t seem to ever make up any ground toward it.
But despite all that, I still believed that somehow I’d wake up one morning and it would all be in place.
As much as we like to think that happens, it doesn’t.
And as much as we’d like to think we should just drop everything and go for it, we don’t. Not if we have kids and spouses and businesses and mortgages and well, y’know, Lives.
But we can’t Not – not if the dream is persistent. Not if we don’t want to sit back at 85 and say, I should’ve…
So what we need, I think, is a practical approach to changing our lives and becoming what we want to be. And I think I just stumbled upon one.
I realized this morning that, by sticking with my minor daily 10-page-a-day commitment, I was actually ‘trying on’ a new life.
Let’s look at what I’m really doing, right now: I’m getting up, writing, (usually) working out and then heading out into the real world (where, fortunately, I work as a copywriter and brand strategist – creative stuff, most days).
If you paid attention up top, you’d realize what I’m really doing: I’m living a dry run of the life I’ve always wanted – a trial period of sorts, and maybe – especially for those of us who can’t just drop it all and go – that’s a very good thing.
Because what if the life you’ve so meticulously envisioned isn’t what you thought it would be?
Sure, if you left everything and jumped, maybe the net would appear, but would it entangle you and put you in a worse situation?
I’m not trying to be a downer, here: instead, I’m saying that the best way to wholly change your life is to do it in small parts.
Commit to living an hour of your ‘new life’ every day. Just ONE hour. Exactly like you picture it.
If you want to be a cook, go cook in a commercial kitchen for an hour a day – even if it’s volunteer work. If you want to be a librarian, go be a page at your local library. Whatever you want to be, go be it for an hour a day. Every day. And make sure that you’re not just researching these things, but actually doing them. Every day.
If you do this, there are only 2 things that can happen:
It’ll either be great, and you’ll gain momentum and do it more and more until before you know it, you’re actually doing it!
Or, it won’t be what you thought it would be. And that’s okay, because you’ll be Free again to choose something new. Without the ‘what if’s’, the ‘I shoulds’ and, perhaps the most insidiously dangerous, the ‘I’m gonna’s’.
So picture what you want your life to look like, and commit an hour a day to living that life for awhile. Try it on and see if it fits, if you grow into it, or if you shed it.
Either way, you’ll know. Now. Not in some imagined future that’ll never come.
And that’s pretty great.