My day starts at 2:00 a.m., when I wake up from my first four hours of sleep. If I’m lucky, I’ll go back to sleep until 5:30 a.m. If not, I might drift in and out of what I call “snapshots” – snippets of sleep characterized by strong, visual dreams.
At 5:30, the radio turns on. I hear National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” faintly through my earplugs. After a half hour, my husband gets out of bed, where Rosie, our extremely spoiled Lancashire Heeler, greets him. A few minutes later, Rosie and our 17-year-old cat JJ are fed, and my husband starts the coffee.
I remove my earplugs, visit the bathroom, and pull on yesterday’s outfit, which I left on the floor beside the bed last night. This morning, I’m happy to re-wear my favorite corduroys and red cotton T-shirt. I greet my husband and prepare my breakfast: one soft-boiled egg and a slice of sourdough bread with butter and Marion berry jam. We sit down to read the New York Times, and interrupt each other by reading parts of the stories out loud. My husband gets the front page, while I scan the arts section and then start the crossword puzzle. My brain wakes up as I ponder clues; hmm, fifteen across: “Ancient land in Asia Minor” and eleven down: “Ljubljana resident.” My husband finishes his muesli with bananas and blueberries, kisses me goodbye, and drives to his office.
My goal is to be at the computer by 8:30. I’m a morning person, and I need to catch my ideas early. I’ll check my journal, where I jot down things as they occur to me.
These could be fragments of conversation, dreams, random thoughts, or a few sentences. Quite often, something I read in the newspaper will trigger some writing. Then I attempt to craft these bits into something cohesive, a poem or an essay or an article.
I’ve been writing short personal essays about subjects that range from grief to gardening. Recently I wrote an article for a pet magazine about color vision in dogs, and three poems about rooms. I don’t stick to a word count (i.e., 1000 words a day) but I do try to make significant progress on my writing every day.
My energy starts to flag around noon, so I shut down the computer and eat lunch. If there are no leftovers from last night’s dinner, I’ll eat my standard lunch: Tillamook cheddar melted on rice cakes. I also read the front page of the newspaper, scan social media, and check my email.
My two grown sons live at home, so they might be in the room while I’m eating lunch. The dog barks to be let in or out, depending on which side of the door she’s on. If it’s a good day, I’ll be back at my computer by 12:30. This is when I look at yesterday’s work. I’ve found that, at least for me, it’s a bad idea to start editing a draft too soon. Often my work looks weird or even alien to me right after I write the first draft. I need a day’s distance so I don’t inadvertently spoil a poem or an essay with too much editing. I always keep the first draft in a Word file or handwritten, so I can trace back to my original thoughts.
In the afternoon, I often struggle mightily against the urge to nap. I get drowsy after lunch, and it takes all of my strength to stay off of the couch. Sometimes I give in, but naps don’t often refresh me – I usually feel weird for the rest of the day after a nap. For me, sleep is never easy.
I switch from writing to video editing or to creating curricula for classes I teach. I’m developing a new class called “Five-Minute Memoirs,” where students will create short videos based on an important event in their lives. I also teach on-line poetry classes, which include phone support with my students, and I’m always looking for new writing prompts.
In between writing and thinking, I’ll stop and read from a book of poems I have at my desk. Right now I’m reading a collection of World War I Austrian poet Georg Trakl’s poems, which have exquisite and enigmatic titles: “In the Red Foliage Filled With Guitars” and “Three Glimpses Into an Opal” are tiny poems as well as titles.
I also use the afternoons to work on marketing. This is when I research places to submit my work. My poetry collection, Night Court, just came out, so I look for venues to read, write blog posts, and communicate with reviewers about the book. I’ve also created two videos from the book.
By 4:00 p.m. I’m usually done. If I don’t quit by 4:00 or 5:00, I might get a second wind and then stay up all night, which would not be a good thing. I need time to relax, read, and socialize with my family. My husband comes home from his office by 5:30 or 6:00 and makes dinner. We have a glass of wine and tell each other what happened that day. After dinner, my sons and I clean up while my husband plays the guitar or does some additional work.
I usually read until the news comes on at 9:00 p.m. I’m reading Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, the third of Elena Ferrante’s four Neapolitan Quartet novels. Reading helps quiet my mind, letting me transition to the restful place I need. I have trained my brain to understand that reading several chapters of high quality fiction is part of the ritual. I have my journal nearby to jot down any thoughts that occur to me as I read.
By 10:00 p.m., I’m usually curled up on my 100% organic cotton mattress, where I sink into my first phase of sleep. See you at 2:00 a.m.
About the Author: Erica Goss
Erica Goss is a poet and freelance writer. She served as Poet Laureate of Los Gatos, CA from 2013-2016. She is the author of Night Court, winner of the 2016 Lyrebird Award, Wild Place and Vibrant Words: Ideas and Inspirations for Poets. Recent work appears in Lake Effect, Atticus Review, Contrary, Eclectica, The Red Wheelbarrow, Main Street Rag, Pearl, Rattle, Wild Violet, and Comstock Review, among others. She is co-founder of Media Poetry Studio, a poetry-and-film camp for teen girls. Please visit her at www.ericagoss.com and connect with her on Facebook, Linked In, and Vimeo.