It’s 5:30 a.m. and I’ve got one of those alarms that sound like the damn birds. The chirping is joined by a soft, infuriating tinkle that crescendos as I rush to snooze my phone. I try not to wake my partner. But it’s very early and I am not burglar-material. I spill a glass of water or drop my phone on the ground or several books, I forget my laptop is under the bed, or I can’t find my glasses again or my blue fleece pants that I like to wear while I write, I hit my toe against a book, or trip over my blue fleece pants bunched up on the floor then the birds in my phone are chirping again and I’m rushing to silence them –
Eventually, I manage to slip on my fuzzy purple socks and lightly, I shut the bedroom door to an interminably patient and awake boyfriend.
Downstairs, I boil water. I stare out the window while I wait (the day is black-blue in the fall, sometimes pink in the spring) then I look at the time. In the kitchen, it’s on the microwave, the oven, the clock above the toaster, and my phone. The clock is ahead of the oven by seven minutes. The microwave is the conciliator, settling on somewhere in the middle.
(I’ve also got a brain like a galaxy at this point, showering me with each of the day’s expected events that I avert, dodge, push away because it isn’t time for them yet.)
Teabag in hot water, I head back up to my study. If it’s the spring or the summer, I open the patio door, and let the sun slowly start to shift inside. If it’s the winter, I turn on a space heater near my feet and keep the lights dim.
It’s 5:45 a.m., and I don’t have much time.
I spend the first ten or fifteen minutes re-reading where I’m at in a story or my novel. I might also give myself a little, internal pep talk (“just focus”; “it’s fine”; “don’t be scared”; “just write”). Then I spend an hour and a half writing. Something new is best, since I’m freshest and less doubtful of my abilities in the morning, though sometimes I spend this time fiercely editing.
On a good day, time trickles like water, and I write with slow, deliberate purpose. On a bad day, I flicker between the blank page and my taskbar wondering when 7:30 a.m. will arrive.
Then 7:30 a.m. arrives and it’s a feeling of relief, or it’s dread, depending. Time to get ready for work. So I do. I get ready. I put clothes on and under-eye concealer. I brush my hair.
I have no kids of my own but I’ve got sixty of them that rotate through my classroom between the hours of 8:45 a.m. and 3:15 p.m. My days are whirlwinds of photocopied handouts, whiteboard marker smudges, marking, parent emails, website updates, lesson planning, PowerPoint presentations, meetings, student hellos and goodbyes, student jokes, student complaints, detentions, lecture-giving, discussions, debates, dramas, informal counselling –
If I’m lucky, and writing went well that morning and there’s a sudden and inexplicable lull in the madness that is teaching, then my mind slips back into the story, the novel from earlier that morning. It’s a small, sweet moment, only several seconds, before I’m back where I am, but these shifts are little victories, reminders that I am more than my obligations to my job, to money.
In the evenings, I’ll write again after dinner, until around 9:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m. This is if my day wasn’t particularly challenging or draining, or if a birthday party, or literary event, or some other something doesn’t come up.
It’s true what my mom always says: on peut pas faire des miracles. We can’t make miracles. I do the best I can with the time that I have.
And if it’s true that a writer needs a room of one’s own, then it’s also true that that space comes at a cost, and that cost is time and energy spent elsewhere, doing work for someone else, having other responsibilities.
At around 10:30 p.m., I go to bed. In the morning, I do it all over again.
Sofia Mostaghimi lives, writes, and teaches in Toronto, Ontario. Her stories have appeared in The Unpublished City Anthology, THIS Magazine, The Hart House Review, and Joyland Magazine, among other publications. She is currently working on completing her first novel.