By Steven Biggs
As I walked my youngest son, Keaton, to the local drum shop to sign up for lessons I thought, “The noise will drive me bonkers.” He was already whacking a big bongo drum and shaking maracas as I filled out a form and paid.
Sitting outside the studio for the first couple of drum lessons, I thought, “Wow, that’s loud.” But I also caught my feet and hands moving to the beat. Not long after that I took my kids, Keaton, Quinn, and Emma, to a drum workshop to fuel Keaton’s excitement. I also came home with drums on the brain. All that talk of texture, layers, and colour really intrigued me.
I asked Keaton’s instructor, Altaf, if he has adult students. “Lots,” he said, explaining they typically have desk jobs and want to blow off a little steam. Then he started talking about rhythm and life. He made it sound so obvious as he described the importance of rhythm in life.
That talk of rhythm got me thinking about writing. I was coming out of a writing drought and sensed that rhythm was key to regrowing my writing habit. A good routine makes me a far more productive writer.
I started drum lessons the very next week. One week after that, I backed the van into my driveway and unloaded an old drum set to the amusement (and horror) of my wife,
The Early-Morning Writing Beat
Quality writing time doesn’t just happen. I have to make it happen. And making it happen depends on having a good rhythm in my life.
My best writing time is before the rest of the household awakens. I love the early morning. When my mind is sometimes still foggy I can imagine things that I can’t at other times of day. I can connect dots that don’t appear at other times. Stray thoughts aren’t chipping away at my focus.
Over the years, I’ve tried different early-morning routines including meditating and jogging. I now know that for me, early mornings are best reserved for writing. I don’t waste them on anything else.
To wring the best results out of my early-morning writing window, I minimize distractions. For starters, I prepare the coffee percolator the night before so that all I have to do in the morning is plug it in. As the coffee perks, I turn on the light at my desk, fire up the computer, and grab a red pen.
E-mail is the easiest way to contaminate this time, so I leave it for later. The same goes for the social media vortex. Seed catalogues are a definite no-no.
Different Times of Day, Different Tempo
As I walk home from the schoolyard after the get-the-kids-ready-for-school hustle, my mind races in a dozen different directions. This time of day is a good time for phone calls, e-mails, and less creative work. Mid-morning, when I shift gears and get back to writing, I turn off the telephone ringer.
By early afternoon, when I’m bleary-eyed from writing and my neck and shoulders are stiff, the drum set beckons. It’s an afternoon espresso, a workout, an adrenaline rush, and a stretch all rolled into one. It’s a new anchor to my routine.
Rhythm, Writing, and Life
A good rhythm makes me much more productive. The beat that anchors my writing habit is regular early-morning writing. Drums jazz up the afternoon. And the Thursday
afternoon drum lesson punctuates the week.
Sometimes I lose my writing beat. It’s normal. Life is full of unexpected opportunities and challenges. There is also the predictable rhythm of the seasons, bringing gardening weather and the temptation to write less. But I can get back in the writing groove when I make time in my life for good rhythm.
Meet the Author
Horticulturist Steven Biggs writes and speaks about farming, food, and gardening. He is the author of the Canadian bestseller No Guff Vegetable Gardening (No Nonsense Vegetable Gardening by St. Lynn’s Press in the USA), the award-winning Grow Figs Where You Think You Can’t, and Grow Gardeners: Kid-Tested Gardening with Children, which he wrote with his nine-year old daughter, Emma. Find Steven at www.stevenbiggs.ca.