Before I can make the hundred-foot dash from my back door to my desk, I perform morning chores. These chores follow breakfast, which comes after an hour of writing by hand before dawn.
In winter, my first task is to heat my studio, a jewel-box of a room with six windows and no internet. Even though there’s lots of insulation, the place cools overnight, so I start a fire and go about other tasks while the studio warms up.
Depending on the weather, this means shoveling snow or sanding ice before feeding and watering the hens. I fill bird feeders and split wood.
The wood stove in my studio is about a cubic food, roughly the size of a breadbox and burns wood about the size of toast. While the studio’s warming, I splinter small hunks of wood into fuel. About once a week, I also need to cut kindling, a time-consuming task that involves cutting scrap lumber on a radial saw then splitting it with a hatchet into toothpick-sized tinder.
Most mornings, I like the rhythm of walking back and forth from the house to the studio to the chicken coop and back to the house. When the studio is warm, I carry out my laptop and a jug of water, and settle in at my desk.
During the summer, when I don’t need a fire, I tend to the meat birds we raise in the field and work in the garden before going to work.
On good mornings, I think about what I’m going to write as I fetch and carry water, collect eggs, and split wood for the day. On good days, my ideas fall into place while I fill bird feeders or weed.
But for reasons that are both obvious and obscure, not all mornings are good ones. Some mornings, it’s just hard to get to my desk. Sometimes, an appointment upsets my routine, and sometimes its blue devils that arrive to torment me with paralyzing doubt.
Appointments can’t be helped, though I always try to schedule them after noon. Blue devils are something else. The trick, I’ve learned, is to keep them out of the studio by inviting them to do chores, even if it means spending all morning getting practical things done. Fortunately, living in place means there’s always something to do, from splitting more firewood to hanging out laundry or putting food by. Most of the time, completing some small, household or homestead task chases the blue devils away. It may be that blue devils bore easily, but I suspect their disappearance has more to do with the satisfaction I glean from performing simple, useful tasks from beginning to end that sets me to rights, like a kind of domestic meditation that allows me to clear my heart and my head and sit down to write.