Typical Day in the Life of a Writer

7 AM – Wake up early, roll out of bed, and go for a walk. This is part of the writing process, you tell yourself; the beauty of nature opens your mind and allows your thoughts to combine in new and creative ways…

8 AM – After doing a few floor exercises to tone your saggy writer’s butt, shower and don your lucky writing sweater. Sit down to a breakfast of oatmeal with walnuts and raisins. You can’t concentrate on writing when you’re worried about the state of your ass or when the grumbling of your stomach is louder than the whisper of your thoughts.

9 AM – Read both newspapers cover to cover. That way, if you don’t have any luck writing your novel, the anger inspired by the jackasses who share your world will lead to a passionate blog post.

10 AM – Call a friend to vent your frustration about the jackasses who share your world. “Can you believe the Sanitation Head staged a work slowdown during the blizzard but the Mayor fired the EMS Director because his guys couldn’t get through the unplowed snow to save people’s lives?”

11 AM – Feeling a bit peckish, but the sorry state of your ass prevents you from eating again until at least noon. Start to get ready to write. Assemble your BIC 4-color pen, multi-colored college-ruled notebooks, a Papermate mechanical pencil with pink eraser, AlphaSmart Neo word processor, lap desk, the latest draft of the novel, notes to self, list of scenes, various pages of scribblings, and your winged, Goth, fairy girl figurine, a tangible representation of your Muse. Set everything up just so on the living room sofa and coffee table. Grab a throw in case it gets chilly. Satisfied that all is in order, look at the clock. It’s noon. Yay!

12 PM – Open refrigerator and stare at shelves. Close door of refrigerator, open door of pantry, and stare at shelves. Repeat three times. Sniff a few of the leftovers, pick one, and pop it into the microwave. As lunch heats, stare out the back window and allow nature to continue to form your thoughts in new and creative ways. Beep beep beep. Chow time.

1 PM – After using the bathroom, because there’s no concentrating with a full bladder, look in the mirror and notice the patch of dry, flaky skin between your eyebrows. Apply some moisturizer on the spot. Smile wide. Hmmmm. Get out the expired box of Crest Whitestrips and apply them to your top and bottom chompers. And while you’re still in the bathroom, grab your tweezers and get rid of that stray hair that’s ruining the arch of your right eyebrow.

2 PM – As you pass the computer in your home office on your way down to the sofa to write, sign in to Twitter and tweet “The Mayor is a boob.” Sign into Facebook and watch the video of GloZell using Nads to rip her armpit hair out. Laugh hysterically. Fool. You should know…you tried that once with Zip meltable wax and it hurt like a bitch. Not to mention what it did to your college roommate’s soup pot. Shhhhh.

3 PM – Get comfortable on the sofa, lap desk in position. Stare into space. Tilt your head the other way and stare into space some more. Write the date at the top of the page. Draw a few speckled amoeba at the bottom-right corner of the paper. Stare out the window. Aaaaah, let nature do its work. Meet the contemptuous gaze of your cat. The little furry bastards always let you know exactly what they think of you, don’t they? You lookin’ at me? Giggle. Jump up and run to mirror and say that line over and over again in a DeNiro accent. Giggle some more.

4 PM – Tea time at the inn. Yay!! Put the kettle on. Warm the tea pot. Select the right tea. Will you be writing an Earl Grey kind of scene or maybe the White Pomegranate is the one? Set up a tray with a china tea cup, tea strainer, tea cozy, Demarara sugar cubes, festive napkins, and a plate of…open pantry door, stare at shelves. Close pantry door. Open pantry door again and have another look. Climb up on a chair and find that stale box of Scoobie Snacks and arrange the dog-biscuit shaped cookies on a delicate china plate. Carry the tray into the living room and settle down with your throw and steaming cup of tea. Stare out the window and sip. Feel the creative thoughts permeate your brain with the help of the steam drifting up your nostrils. Organic writing at its best.

5 PM – Holy Cow. Dinner time already? Yay!!!

6 PM – Realize it’s been just about a week since your last blog entry. Crap! Run upstairs to computer and whip up a quick blog about how ripping out your armpit hair with hot wax is a lot like writing.

7 PM – Stand, stretch, yawn. Gather up all the writing materials for your novel from the living room sofa and put them away. Everyone knows you can’t summon up creativity at night. That’s a morning pursuit.

Procrastination

Happy Birthday to my Mom, a woman who never procrastinates.

Friend and fellow writer Deborah Atherton recently blogged about procrastination. I filed my nails for four days and finally read her blog. I’d been in a rut—nothing going on except the worrying that nothing was going on. In case you’re wondering, not writing was the nothing going on.

It’s quite odd to not get started on something you really want to get started on. It got me thinking about the cause, and it was at this point that I read Deborah’s blog and the article she refers to, which puts forth several good theories. When none of them resulted in an aha moment for me, I continued my pondering until some surprising conclusions surfaced.

For many years, I’ve fought the idea that a writer must write every day. As an unstructured person, I never did and it didn’t seem to be an issue. I chalked it up to personal preference and never understood why others made such a fuss. But suddenly, I’m rethinking that. I realize that for me it’s all about momentum, and that procrastination is a symptom of the loss of momentum, stemming, I think, from the dread of the effort it’s going to take to get back on track.

Case in point, last year I was in a regular exercise routine when August arrived and I jetted off to Scotland for two weeks. When I returned, I never resumed exercising. Just. Stopped. Completely. There were some attempts to restart but nothing took hold. Then, in April of this year, I decided to take the advice of Olympic Gold Medalist Jennifer Azzi, who recommends never letting two days pass without doing some kind of exercise. Almost seven months later, I have stuck to that. I exercise every day or every other day. Missing two days has happened only on rare occasions. Last month, I went on a two-week holiday to Italy. When I returned, and let me admit that re-entry was difficult, I realized that I wasn’t getting back to the routine and recommitted to Azzi’s principle.

I think we can all relate to how difficult it is to start an exercise routine when you’re not in shape. Writing is no different. When I’m engaged, the ideas are flowing along with the ink. Even if I miss a day, my mind is still simmering and “writing” in thoughts that will later be committed to paper. But when I’ve let it all go mid-novel, when I haven’t worked in weeks or months (or, dare I say, a year) and can’t remember where I left off, the thought of picking up the pieces is torture. I can’t just start writing at that point. I need to first find the novel on my cluttered desk, and reread it to figure out what the heck I was thinking, consult my notes about the various thoughts I had as I was writing, and then resume the work. Contemplating how much has to happen before I can dig in again is draining. It would have been so much easier to stay in the groove. I think it’s time for me to apply Azzi’s rule of exercise to writing. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

There was one more point that nagged at me. What is it exactly that takes me out of a task? I love to write, why would I stop? I feel great when I exercise, why would I stop? In the absence of a commitment to a principle such as Azzi’s, it comes down to something as simple as my personality type. I am a “putterer,” easily distracted. I jump from one task to the next. My friend Richard Lamb, who writes a regular movie blog (and even had posts ready to run while he was away on vacation…sigh) says I’m like a magpie, a bird prone to thievery, according to folklore, because of its penchant for shiny things. I can be in the middle of one task, when “something shiny,” as he says, catches my attention and I’m off on another adventure. He’s right. And so, it’s not the lack of desire for the task at hand, but the promise of something new that gets me every time and usually distracts me long enough to break my much needed momentum.

Lucky for me, the shiny bits this week were Deborah’s blog, Rich’s good example, and the memory of Jennifer’s sage advice. Let the writing begin anew.

Update 1/25/2011: See my new blog series Magpie’s Shiny Things.