Benny and his friend Griffin at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

Monday, May 22, 2006

5 a.m. Swim Time

Look at the time on this post. It's not even 7 a.m. yet. I've been up since 5 a.m., surfing the web, reading email, reviewing notes for my novel. I should feel very virtuous, but instead I'm just crabby.

This is the first salvo in my campaign to write every day. Early morning is the only guaranteed time I can sit at my computer and wrestle with my fiction. Until 7:30 a.m., it's just me and the cat. After that, Ron leaves for work, Benny starts romping around and the weird guy next door starts power washing his driveway or something.

I used to write at night; that's how I wrote my first Europa Society play while holding down an editor position in San Francisco. For three months I worked until 6 p.m., napped until 8, then typed until midnight. But that's not practical now. Evenings mean dinner, bath and bedtime for my toddler, and are often my only time with Ron.

I've tried to write while Benny naps, but I just can't relax. I start at every little sound, whether it's the cat playing with a toy or our neighbor playing with his motorcycle. I'm sure Jack has a good reason to park his bike in the driveway, rev up the engine, and stand around staring at it for 30 minutes twice a day. But it doesn't do my nerves any good. When I manage to ignore the cat, the motorcycle, and somebody's noisy landscaping service and actually start typing, Benny wakes up an hour early.

So that leaves the appallingly early time of 5 a.m. for optimum writing -- after a shower and two bottles of Snapple, of course. This morning my brain wasn't fooled at all: "Why aren't we in bed?" it asks. "What is this thing called Light? I don't like it." So I coaxed my brain with Google News and four scenes from "Dr. Faustus," and it has graciously allowed me to post on my blog.

As in any crazy endeavor, I first look around for someone who's already done it. But none of my friends and family are insane enough to ponder sticky plot points at 5 a.m.

The best role model I could find was Lynne Cox, a long-distance swimmer who has kicked her way across the English Channel, the Bering Straits and the seas of Antarctica. Next to her, I'm nothing. This gal spends her life getting up at 5 a.m., diving into icy water and splashing around for a couple of hours.

I read Cox's memoir "Swimming to Antarctica" last year with bewildered astonishment. As a teenager, she'd meet her coach at dawn by some horrid bay, all ready to swim. "I can't believe you're doing this," her coach said once. "There is frost on my car windshield."

Cox knew she was a little obsessed. She underwent a series of tests at an underwater lab and scientist found that her body had exactly the same buoyancy as seawater. This should be a wakeup call.

Her response? "It's not easy to get out of a warm bed at 4:30 and do this. You have to really want it."

I guess that sums it up. If you're serious about a goal, you have to do whatever it takes. You have to really want it. So here I am at 7 a.m., trying to be a writer. I hope I want it as bad as I think I do.


Elizabeth Browne said...

Yeah! Whoohoo! You go, novel writer!

That Chick Who Cleans Up Around Here said...

right on, lady. I want to hear more about the heroine in Casablanca limbo.