Update to “Just Write It”

I’m writing my first post from our new familyroom. The construction is finished and 99% of the interior painting is done, so yesterday my spouse and I spent a couple of hours moving back in. (We bribed a neighbor’s teen at $10/hour to help us haul the boxes and move the big pieces of furniture.)  For the last four months, after squeezing all our furniture & tchotchkes into the rest of the house and cramming my computer desk into our already-crowded study, I felt like I was simulating submarine life at home again.  (Especially #11 with contractors.)  Now our study is back to “normal”, and it seems so empty without all that extra familyroom furniture in the way. (Spouse has the study to herself again, and she’s secretly relieved that I’m not sitting right there behind her. She knows where to find me if she wants me.) I’m going to spend a lot of time in this new familyroom.

The new familyroom.

The space is big & tall enough to double as a racquetball court, and it still echoes as we move things around. It’s so quiet (thanks to the wall insulation and energy-efficient windows) that I can hear the PC’s ventilation fan and the monitor’s transistor whine.  I think I’m going to enjoy this new writing environment!

Here’s the room before we cluttered it up with the boxes and furniture. So far only my computer desk is where it belongs on the left-hand wall of this photo.

Ko'olau sunrise, and maybe a papaya for breakfast...

I just had to take a moment to admire one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve seen in months. Part of it is because I haven’t been in here for nearly four months! But I’ve enjoyed nearly 4000 Ko’olau sunrises from this east-facing room, and this morning’s solar event is still quite an accomplishment. (Another one of those sunrises is the background for my Twitter feed @TheMilitaryGuid.) There must be extra Kilauea vog in the air this week, but the reds and oranges and purples are simply fantastic.

It’s appropriate that the first post in this new room is about writing. I should’ve figured this out years ago, but my writing habits were shouted down by my old workplace habits. I don’t have a workplace interfering with my time anymore, and last week’s big epiphany was that a new room gives me a chance to develop new writing habits.

I’ve been an early riser since July 1978, when the U.S. Naval Academy’s dormitory bells started blaring us awake at oh-dark-thirty for our daily dose of screaming fresh air & exercise. Later in the submarine force, when your sub was inport you wanted to be onboard before 6 AM so that you were ready to get scolded talk with the Engineer or the CO about any problems your troops had last night. Ashore I had to be in before 6 AM to review the overnight message traffic for the admiral’s fury brief. Underway I routinely rose at 4 AM to get ready to yell take the morning watch. Even at the end of my career, when it was less critical to review the overnight news and deal with the boss, I was still going to work early. We were beating the rush-hour traffic or getting in an early morning workout, and I’d be at my desk well before the rest of the command started finding things for me to do. I’ve been retired for nearly a decade, yet I’m still waking up at 3-4 AM. Hence those 4000 sunrises.

During two decades of work my morning routine evolved from paper stacks of message traffic to e-mail, but at the end of those years I was still trying to catch up on the submarine world before I started my own projects. Bad idea. I didn’t have to brief the boss first thing in their morning anymore, so I should have started working on my own projects. When I retired, I became the boss– I should’ve started working on my own projects as soon as I woke up!

Researchers have concluded that morning e-mail greatly inhibits our effectiveness.  When we arrive at our desks, relatively fresh and full of creative thoughts, our e-mail manages to completely distract us from all those great plans. Writers have reached the same conclusion about “writing time”. We feel a daily pressure to write something– anything– and it can just as easily be frittered away on e-mail jokes as it can on crafting a book outline. In one of my favorite writer’s blogs, one author actually feels that she’s wasted her day if she hasn’t worked on her writing.  Her problem was that she wasn’t setting aside the time to write, and as the day raced by she got crankier.

Then she changed her habits. Over Thanksgiving she started writing during that first morning hour– before her houseguests were stirring– and she managed to feel productive for the entire weekend. She also got her “urge to write” out of the way so that she could relax and enjoy the day with her family & friends.

When I wake up it’s usually with a good writing idea that I literally dreamed up overnight. But then I check e-mail, I get a thoughtful question on the blog, I start crafting a response and tweaking it… two hours pass before I realize it. I’m writing, but I’m not working on the things I should be writing first. I have to get a blog post ready and write a couple of book paragraphs. Even my favorite posters can wait for another hour.

It seems so simple in retrospect. Now when I stumble sleepily into the familyroom at oh-dark-thirty and turn on the computer, I don’t read e-mail. After I admire the night sky or the impending sunrise, I start working on a blog post. Every morning, seven days a week. I thought it would be a waste of time because I’d still be waking up, too fuzzy-headed to really be productive. I thought I’d have to admonish myself that I was going to keep working for at least 20 minutes. Instead, even before my first cup of tea is ready, I find the words spilling out of my keyboard. By the time I’m ready to admire the sunrise, I’m usually halfway through the post!

What do I write about? That’s turned out to be the easy part. I have a topic list. Or maybe I wrote a few paragraphs to a discussion board yesterday, and I cut & pasted that text into a document to work up into a blog post. Or my daughter learns something at her NROTC unit and has a career question. Or she reads something about money and has a financial independence question. Or my spouse and I start a project and blog about it. Or one of you has a question or a comment, and the cycle starts all over again.

If you’re a writer then you write. You can’t help yourself. You’re going to write something. The challenge is to manage your effort so that you’re productive every day, and so that you’re working on the blog first (or the next book) instead of on your e-mail.

Just write it.

So what subjects would you like me to write about? (I get plenty of inspiration from this blog’s statistics and the phrases you’re searching for when you get here.) What questions would you like me to answer?

Related articles:
Just write it.
“So, Nords, how did you start blogging?”
Writing and publishing

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About Doug Nordman

Author of "The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement" and co-author of "Raising Your Money-Savvy Family For Next Generation Financial Independence."
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2 Responses to Update to “Just Write It”

  1. Jay Woolston says:

    Congrats and enjoy your new familyroom! Seems the acceptance trials are going well.


    • Doug Nordman says:

      Thanks! Somehow all our “stuff” is expanding to fill the room’s entire volume. (Again.) But we love the design and the quiet and all the little details that we added in…

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