I’m an English teacher so I don’t have to justify wanting to write about writing; that’s nice because I really didn’t like the paragraph I had for just that purpose. It was boring and reminded me of dull sample teaching philosophies that I read when I was applying for jobs. They used phrases like “transferable skill” and “intrinsic motivation” and “utilize.” Rest assured, I have a varied and valid interest in the subject and my desire to write about writing should in no way be seen as indicative of how boring I am as a person.
Anyway, that’s enough justifying my not justifying this post. Onto the good stuff: I write every morning and have never eaten a frog.
I had a boss a few years ago who made it his mission to communicate to our shared high school students that working hard was something they’d have to do–a surprise to some–and getting the hardest work done first could be rewarding in ways they didn’t yet realize–because they usually waited until the night before to get their shit done. He, and I’m guessing everyone who has read whatever books this phrase or ideology came from, called this eating the frog. The thinking behind it was that you get the hardest, worst thing of your day done early so the rest of the day is easier and there’s nothing painful looming over you.
Naturally, eating innocent little slimy leg-babies is how some people choose to communicate this ideology.
I write every morning, and I used to grade in the mornings, and in grad school I was working constantly and slept in tiny fits so every moment in which my body boiled and begged for the creamy descent into death felt like a morning. My life is honestly not that hard right now, but I’m familiar with getting the worst work done first…
…and it sucked so much.
I think a lot about how my students get their work done, how they look at the projects I give them, how they start that work, how they break it down, how they get it all done. And when I think about all this, it really worries me to think that they’re getting everything started bright and early because I’ve seen them bright and early and I’m certain I’ve caught shoes on the wrong feet. Imagine you’re in school, doesn’t matter what level. Imagine you have a little essay to write, and this essay requires a little research. This research can be as simple as finding a website or as complicated as conducting an interview online with a board of specialists in their field. Now, imagine you’re doing this immediately after the day’s first encounter with caffeine. Imagine your sleepy delirium, your frustration that you didn’t get to the part of the dream with the ice cream and alluring sexual partners, your kind of vague headache that might be because of your dependence on chemical stimulants or that you grind your teeth at night. Imagine being in this state of mind and having to get the day’s most important work done.
For another example, I dropped a stapler in my tea mug a few months ago. I was stirring my tea with a pocket-sized stapler because I didn’t have the energy to find a clean spoon. It was in that state of mind that I completed my thesis. Why would anyone voluntarily inflict this upon themselves?
I know this way of working isn’t limited to groggy mornings, but imagine you’ve just made it to your office building or your cubicle or your kitchen, wherever you work. Why would you make the first experience you have in your professional day also the most strenuous. Get some momentum first. File some shit, bake a cake, talk to a customer that doesn’t have the personality of a Roomba, do whatever you can to get yourself going because I fucking hated doing all the terrible stuff in the morning. I burned out harder than a bonfire… that’s outside.
Doing the hardest thing at the hardest time of the day when you should really be eating breakfast or getting little internal rewards for getting manageable work done before you tackle the big shit, it just seems like a really fantastic way to dread getting started doing anything. I know because I dread starting things.
Which is why I write in the morning. It’s one of my favorite things to do, and it’s not that hard, and it’s so rewarding to see that even with all my sleepy typos and unfinished jokes that didn’t get cut in revision, people still seem to like what I write. I think I haven’t burned out writing here yet because it’s never exhausting and it never feels like I’m shoving the writhing long-limbed body of a hapless croak muffin down my gullet.
So to any students or people with jobs or people who just have a ton of shit to do, maybe don’t do it first. Give yourself a minute. Do some other stuff. Get a rhythm going. If you’re a student, do some easy homework. If you’re a cook, chop some shit. If you run the last operating guillotine, maybe give a few haircuts before taking any more off the top.