It’s easy to go big when you’re thinking about starting new habits. That’s a mistake. Changing everything all at once means you’ve lost your stability. You need to make small changes first, let them become habits, and then repeat. That’s what I’ve discovered, this year.

I’ve never been a morning person. It’s easier to stay up late than it is to get up early. And instead of changing my momentum, I’ve just let that inertia carry me along.

I would try to schedule a lot of my writing late at night. When I lived alone—or at least, before we had a child—that was pretty easy to do. But once the night was consumed with all the routines of parenthood (and adulthood, if I’m not being charitable to myself), it was easy to push that writing time away.

So I started to build writing time into the nights I’d go to martial arts. I’d leave in the middle of the afternoon, write for a few hours, then come back after kung fu. While it put me in front of the book, it was irregular enough that it was hard to stay in the currents of the story. It also meant shunting a lot of the work of being a parent onto my wife.

Everything had to change when my son was born. With my wife indisposed, I was solely responsible for my daughter—no more writing time at night, no more kung fu, either. The routine was broken, but that’s okay, because it wasn’t working great, anyhow. I started to write in the mornings, after I’d drop my daughter off at daycare. That worked pretty well for the two weeks I’d saved up to take off from work.

(Sidebar: Parental leave in this country sucks.)

But when I went back to work, everything was in flux. It was an opportunity to reevaluate how I structured my time. It was also the chance to put a personal commitment to the test:

If I wanted writing to be my first job, I needed to treat it like my second job.

So I did.

I’ve been getting up every morning at 5:45 and writing for at least an hour. Even Saturdays and Sundays. My wife drops the kids off at daycare, and since I get off work earlier than she does, I pick them up. We split things, because we’re a team. And now that I’ve restarted my kung fu habit, I don’t vanish on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Even though I’ve never been a morning person, I am now, because this is what works for us. It isn’t about me, not entirely. It’s about the family, and the future.

So where has it gotten me?

I wrote more in January than all of 2018 combined.

This is the year I finish The Wire Road.

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