“Always choose creativity over fear.” –Elizabeth Gilbert
Maybe it’s because the sky was just spattered with fireworks and I wore a festive crown representing possibilities and blew a noisemaker while sipping champagne, maybe it’s the recently-passed Mercury retrograde (thank the stars), maybe it’s because there are a few transitions looming beyond tomorrow, but I have spent much of January reflecting.
A year and some days ago, I wrote a similar post, Jane and Her Average Writing Day, not knowing where life would take me. That a year and some days later, I would write this. Tsk tsk, I should have known. Especially after I shed the previous job, or the previous job shed me. Knowing I am not bred for the office, I try not to let the dingy day-to-day sequester my creativity.
A Day in the Life of Jane Worker
6:20 a.m. Waylon’s alarm buzzes. He hits snooze.
6:30 a.m. Waylon’s alarm buzzes. He showers.
6:45 a.m. Somewhere between water running and the water twisting off, I hobble downstairs to brew coffee.
7:59 a.m. Somehow I arrive at my desk—not the white space at home with a gold pyramid, shells, and a ratty collection of poetry and craft books—but the one with the dual computer screens, drab carpeting and Steak-and-Shake-like lighting. I sip my coffee, stuff some kind of nutrition in my face (usually the doctor-recommended Greek yogurt), and sleep with my eyes open.
8:03 a.m. The only thing I can manage at this ungodly hour is checking all of my social media accounts for any notifications whatsoever. I delete all the shoe and makeup and sale e-mails because I rather not be tempted into giving any of my hard-earned money away. Not when every paper dollar and zinc penny signifies freedom. Basically, until I have the guts and funds to risk full-time writing, I’m saving.
8:10 a.m. As my officemate pops in and out—her kitten footsteps surprising me again and again—I wade in the beginnings of work: checking messages, populating my timesheet, reaching for the manila folder in my file cabinet.
8:37 a.m. I write a few licks. Shake those writing ligaments awake.
8:43 a.m. I write some policy.
9:16 a.m. Snack.
9:49 a.m. When I need to rest my eyes from the company lingo and legalese, I slide a few pages of my manuscript under the policy to revise.
11:11 a.m. I shut my eyes and make a wish that includes a lot of commas.
11:35 a.m. During lunch, I read an article on craft or freelancing. Over leftovers or a salad, I type some notes (snippets of conversation, current obsessions, sticky dream mush). In this half-hour, much food is dropped, and many shirts and skirts are ruined.
12:06 p.m. I edit some policy.
1:39 p.m. Snack.
2:41 p.m. I sneak a piece of candy, or three, out of the lady down the hall’s treat bowl.
2:42 p.m. I indulge in some chocolate and writing.
2:50 p.m. I format some policy.
4:41 p.m. Snack.
4:59 p.m. As the workforce trickles out to beat traffic and meet their dinner dates or mix their vodka and lime or whatever they do, I edit my manuscript. Once in a while, someone sticks their head in to say bye. I guiltily hide my tab, and they definitely know that I was not working.
5:31 p.m. Hoping the next morning is fuss-free, I prep a numbered to-do list.
5:48 p.m. I save all of my documents to their respective places (e.g., folders, flash drives).
5:56 p.m. I leave work just in time to witness the sunset, which astonishes me pink night after pink night.
6:20 p.m. While listening to my fav podcasts, I fix dinner. I like losing myself in the washing, chopping and stirring of cooking, and I like multitasking.
6:52 p.m. We eat in the living room while watching Anthony Bourdain eat on Netflix or our DVR.
7:20 p.m. Because I cook, Waylon tidies the kitchen. I shower, unless it’s a good writing day or I’m reading a good novel or I have a literary deadline approaching. You get it. I am driven, and disgusting.
8:06 p.m. While Waylon watches TV and reads or dozes, I do busy work: editing, scheduling payments, researching submission deadlines.
8:59 p.m. We trudge upstairs—imagine the most exhausted trudge you can imagine.
9:07 p.m. While I floss through my night routine, I listen to the baby crying through the wall.
9:20 p.m. I read and breathe, read and breathe, and play footsie with Waylon under the covers until he runs his fingers through my hair. This is, by far, my favorite time of day. My happy place. True rest.
9:21-11:30 p.m. Depending on how good the book is, I read until I PTFO. It sounds peaceful, but it can be dangerous. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s hefty fiction, I’m convinced, is a deadly weapon to the bedtime reader.
By skimming an outline of my weekday, I know and you can see what’s important to me. I’m conjuring the guts to let go of the things that don’t matter, and do what I love. But until then, because being a writer is an essential part of me, I will find ways to write. Even the littlest pockets of time can ease the creative soul.
In Cheryl Strayed’s interview in The Great Discontent, she professes, “I believe in writing as a calling. If you truly feel that calling in you, then listen to it and respect it, but don’t expect that anything is going to be given to you—you have to get it.” When I was a preteen, I wanted to be a nun. I’m glad I didn’t follow my little-kid dreams, but what I became wasn’t too far off. To me, writing is service work. We do it because we have to. Nothing else will whisper down the anxieties. And we do it, often, for nothing. We do it so we can sleep. We do it for the tired souls who may not even read it. We do it for peace.