The Four O’Clock Habit

Photo Credit: Jukai Fujiki Flickr via Compfight cc

Two days ago, Facebook reminded me that I had posted my first article on Sunstar on February 22, 2013 entitled Earth and Sun.

It was just over four years ago when I asked Sunstar Editor-in-Chief, Stella Estremera, how one goes about writing a column for a newspaper. We talked about several things like knowing how to connect with your audience, and how to sustain your writing. I said that I’ve long wanted to try writing a weekly column, ever since I was in my early twenties. I’ve always been afraid to apply for the job, however, as I could not imagine coming up with something to write about week after week.

She said that’s a problem a lot of writers have. They start strong, but drop out early and fail to stay in the race. I acknowledged that and expressed my admiration at professional writers like her who can churn out words day after day. There was a time I tried writing every day. It was also a time when I tried jogging every day. I was based in Manila then and I would get up early in the morning and go jogging around the pool area at the 6th floor of our condominium.

After jogging, I would go up and sit down in front of the computer to write my “jog blog” — basically a synthesis of the thoughts I had while jogging. I think I lasted about a month or two of this. I lost my blogs when decided to shut down. This was when Facebook was new and quickly gaining popularity.

Oh, and yes, I stopped jogging as well.

Anyway, I had a new blog by then called ZenBananas, but I didn’t write regularly and updated it only every now and then. Nevertheless, I gave Stella the link for her to peruse my writing. Then I didn’t hear from her for about two months so I figured she wasn’t interested.

Then out of the blue, I get a message from her asking if I was still interested in writing a column — because she suddenly had a vacancy and if I wanted the space, it was mine. I jumped at the chance, thought of a column name, then bought the domain to match it. I then renamed my old blog from ZenBananas to Freethinking Me where I decided to publish (with permission) a copy of all the articles I submit to Sunstar.

And then there it was, the weekly deadline. It was scary at first and I had to think of topics in advance. I tried to find a rhythm in writing. My articles come out every Friday so my deadline is every Thursday afternoon. I would often start writing on Wednesday night. If I couldn’t finish it, I would rush to finish it on Thursday morning.

Later on, I settled into the four o’clock habit, which has been quite successful for me. I decided not to write on Wednesday nights as my mind is usually tired by then. I sleep early (for me, anytime before 12 is early) and set the alarm for 4 am.

I wake up. My mind is fresh, and I prepare breakfast and a pot of tea. At around 4:30, I settle in and begin to write. Sometimes, if I don’t have any idea on what to write by then, I browse through Facebook while sorting through the many thoughts running in my head. By around 5 or 5:30, I usually have the germ of an idea already.

I start by writing the first sentence. If it doesn’t sound that good, I rewrite it. When I’m happy with it, I move on to the next, and the next and so on, and pretty soon I’ve written entire paragraphs. Most of the time I finish the article by 6:30 and email it to Sunstar and my wife who is always my first reader and proofreader. If she catches any typos before noon, she tells me about it and I send a corrected version to Sunstar.

So here we are, at the end of another of my four o’clock habits, just when the neighborhood is about to wake up. The birds are singing, the roosters are crowing, some dogs are barking and the sky is beginning to lighten up. A car engine starts in the distance as I finish off the last cup of tea.

Happy fourth birthday, Freethinking Me.


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