Jane and Her Average Writing Day

“The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.” Agatha Christie

I measure my workdays by Waylon’s. On the average weekday, he clocks 9.5 hours at the office + 1.5 hours at the gym + 1 hour in traffic, so we work 50% of the day. Twelve hours a day sounds severe, like I’m a machine shop pumping out fragments and repairing sentences, but we writers know how much of the craft is sitting down, staring at the wall.

6:00 a.m. Waylon’s alarm buzzes us awake, if the unfinished projects and/or the cat-sized pigeons purring on the eavestrough haven’t already woken me. I rub my eyes and paw my nightstand for my glasses. More than likely, I knock my book to the carpet. More than likely, the bookmark falls out.

6:05 a.m. For breakfast, I scramble organic eggs and sausage (Thanks, Costco) and sprinkle in whatever Safeway marked on sale last week that threatens to turn first. Waylon insists that, like me, he is fated to die young. He is Polish; I’m a Virgo (in the company of the early-departed Buddy Holly, Freddie Mercury, River Phoenix, Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston, and Paul Walker–RIP, kindred spirits), so I cook as farm/ocean-to-table clean as possible to tack as many years as I can back onto our lives.

6:47 a.m. Before I do anything else, I inspect my checking account to ensure I am not in the negatory limbo, the 24-hour grace period in which I can transfer funds from my measly savings without penalty. I update my weekly budget, tallying expenses (Sunday’s ritual Panda Express take-out, student loan payments, groceries, the birthday/Christmas/wedding presents I space out, so that I can participate in being a good human being). 

7:14 a.m. Social Media Round One – I look for opportunities because I plan to be at AWP 2016 with a pretty business card: JANE WRITER freelance writer and editor, lawn care, kidsitter, dog walker. (Whatever will be, will be, because we all know what the real dream is and that takes longer than a year.) Plus, that whole money thing . . . I search for résumé and CV bullets, free submission periods, part-time work that I can tolerate. I check Twitter, Pinterest, the sites I maintain for organizations. Because I am only saying aloha-hello to the world, I favorite interesting posts for later, rank my email correspondence according to importance on a Stickie note, copy and paste links into my job search spreadsheet. If anything productive happens, I grin with momentum.

7:43 a.m. I head to the porch to greet the morning with my current library book.

8:41 a.m. Sometimes the words strike me early, sometimes later. If I’m inspired, I bring my laptop outside and write until the sun blasts me inside. If I have to wring the words out, I recline in Waylon’s magical blue chair, scratch my head, twist my fingers in my dirty hair. When the magic fades or my old, overworked laptop begins to burn my thighs, I knock the mail on the kitchen counter to the floor and stand, my DIY stand-up desk.

10:16 a.m. Social Media Round Two – I read those favorited items, respond to an email or three. If the book is of the can’t-put-down kind or the cause of my writing burst, I pick it up again.

10:45 a.m. After my creativity putt-putts, I house a jar of dill pickles for energy and read more, hoping new words happen shortly.

11:42 a.m. Whether I like it or not, I write. Usually some words are okay, some horrible. If all of the words are horrible, I revise or edit, email colleagues, try to forge new connections, apply for work prospects, circle the house hopelesslyshuffling my feet, hanging my head.

12:48 p.m. When my brain is mush, I lament the blinking time on the clock, mourn that the writing day is half over, and I soak pans, load the dishwasher, prep veggies for lunch and dinner while listening to podcasts, other creatives, hoping I gain intelligence through osmosis.

1:15 p.m. Often I read about writers, their odysseys and lessons learned, to understand how they “made it” or to dispel the mystery of query letters.

2:17 p.m. Social Media Round Three – Let’s be real. I sharked the internet the entire time. Let’s not track how much I stalk my inboxes and notifications.

2:44 p.m. By now, I feel so dirty that I clean.

4:01 p.m. I run. Sometimes I feel like I am running from something. Sometimes I feel like I am running to something.

4:42 p.m. For the formerly depressed administrative-assistant me with poems pinned to my cube walls for “resting my eyes,” I capitalize on idle minutes. During cool down, I smash in more words, adding to that word count, or finish reading what I abandoned when I fled the house, myself.

4:54 p.m. I primp like the December tradewind. Between the hours of six-to-five I live in squalor, so I attempt to erase all evidence of my gross writer habits. I shower. If I have time, I paint my chipped toenails, pluck stray eyebrow hairs, brush on eyeshadow, pinch my cheeks. If it’s a good writing day, I write more. Last Tuesday, I greeted Waylon, wrapped in a towel, post five-minute shower with a life-sized Batman in my cave. When the bathtub is your Kleenex, I guess that’s a real-life risk you take.

5:23 p.m. I cook a hopefully life-lengthening dinner, Army-sized, so I have leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch. Saved minutes are precious.

6:07 p.m. Waylon and I eat dinner and discuss our days. Then we do that thing that couples in a happily familiar relationship, who have done much courting of each other, do, where we retire to the living room and respectively ignore each other. In these hours, we peruse the internet and halfheartedly listen to DVRed TV shows for the first, second and sometimes third time. Periodically we stop to tell each other something we forgot to mention or to state fleeting thoughts about football or a new movie, but mostly he reads and I read/blog/edit/revise/tweet/write until our eyes and old bodies insist it’s time for bed.

9:48 p.m. We fall asleep: him to the flash and flicker of the TV, me to a book. Our feet tangled, the position in which I feel the utmost love and gratitude. Once in a finger-clipping moon, I feel manic. Mostly I feel that I have harnessed whatever it is in me that only full-time writing seems to satisfy, but striving to be the best version of ourselves is constant work. Some things I hope to change: the only leaving the house to run, the erratic pitter-patter of my writer heart, the restless fingers.