It’s a Monday morning, and my internal alarm goes off right on schedule, a few minutes before 6 a.m.
Before last March, my weekdays had a predictable order to them. I would get up just before 7, get my son, Noah, now age 5, ready for preschool, get everyone fed, and kiss my husband, Jason, goodbye before he left for the office. I’d drive Noah five minutes down the road to his school at 9 a.m., then come home and write until it was time to pick him up at 1:50 p.m.
Then, the shutdown happened, and suddenly, all of my writing hours evaporated in an instant. I had a book due in November; when would I write it?
Fast forward thirteen months, and we’ve found a new normal—if you can call it that. Noah still isn’t in school, and I’m the one teaching him all the things he would have learned this year, so my school day with him starts at 9 a.m. That gives me the hours between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. to write.
Back to today. I roll out of bed at 6 a.m. The house is still quiet, Jason and Noah still asleep. There’s coffee brewing, so I pour myself a cup and head to the computer. There are 27 emails waiting for me, and I make my way through them as quickly as I can, but still, an hour has passed by the time I get my morning text from fellow author Mary Kay Andrews. “Who’s up and writing?” it reads.
Since last summer, I’ve been writing with four other writer friends – Mary Kay, Patti Callahan Henry, Kristy Woodson Harvey, and Mary Alice Monroe – each weekday. We all live in different places, so we don’t physically write together, but we keep each other accountable via text message. Today, my word goal is 1500—but I don’t know if I can knock that out before 9 a.m.
I don’t. I manage only 1273 words. I’ll have to work a bit longer on Saturday to make up for it.
After school and lunch, Noah and I head to the playground, then, at home later that afternoon, I do laundry and vacuum the floors. Very glamorous, I know. At 5pm, Jason finishes work, and I head in to quickly wash and blow-dry my hair, in time to sign on for a 6pm virtual event with an independent bookstore. I eat dinner with Jason and Noah after my event, and then, Noah and I read a bedtime story together before he goes to bed.
We live in Orlando, Florida. We used to go to Disney World (just 25 minutes away) a few afternoons a week, and I used to tour extensively for my books around the United States and Europe.
Now, that all feels like a distant memory. The world has gotten smaller. But in that smallness, I’ve found joy. Noah and I used to thrive on external stimulation—Mickey Mouse! Theme park rides! Travel! – but now, we’ve learned to look inward. And in that way, perhaps these last thirteen months have been, in part, an unexpected gift.
I crawl into bed by 10 p.m., exhausted, knowing I have to do it all over again the next day. But that’s okay. The book is taking shape. Noah has learned to read this year. And one day, the world will be open again, and life will be back to normal. In the meantime, I’m thankful for the peace and quiet of my early mornings, and the hope of new beginnings.
The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel is published 29th April 2021 by Welbeck in paperback original, priced £8.99
I start my working day with my third cup of tea (yes, really – I chain-drink it!) at 9am. I have two precious days a week writing when my eldest kid is at school and my little one is in nursery, and so I treat those days like I'm some kind of a drill sergeant...