My Neighbors Never See Me … or A Day in a Writer’s Life

It’s true. My imagescrazy.jpgneighbors never see me anymore. They know I’m home, in here somewhere, doing my job. Gone are the old days, when I’d sit outside watching my kids play in the street with the other kids, while the mothers swapped stories images2.jpgabout school and shopping, sharing their innermost thoughts. Now, my kids are grown and I define myself not as a part-time childbirth educator any more but as a full-time writer. It’s not glorious or glamorous but it’s work I’m passionate about. That’s not to say I don’t have some “pull my hair out” days.  I do and they aren’t pretty. Most of the time, I’m racing with the clock. There isn’t enough time in the day for me.  Often times I’m working 7 days a week – it seems rare that I get a weekend without a few trips to the computer. This is not news to writers. I’d venture to guess we’re all about the same.

I had the good fortune this Saturday to sit with bestselling, award-winning author, Stella Cameron during my Romance Writer’s of America chapter meeting and she remarked about people’s preconceived notions about our writing life. So I picked an “average” day and thought I’d share with you my routine. 

As soon as my dh kisses me good-bye (After 30+ years, I’ve learned the man isn’t a conversationalist in the a.m. so I don’t get up until he leaves – I’m too chipper for him).  I imagescoffee2.jpghead straight for the kitchen and brew some decaf.  While I’m waiting I log onto the computer and pull up my emails. A slow email day is 20, a busy email day is 5o. If I miss a day due to a computer glitch (I’m presently angry with my computer!) I’ll log on to over 100 emails.  Most emails I simply read and delete,  but many require a response.  I get my coffee and sit down and spend the next hour going thru and answering the emails.  One email requested me to send in my profile, an interview and bio for the Mills and Boon site, the request coming from an editor.  This takes time, so I set this aside for the time being as I try to figure when I’ll be able to get to it.   My coffee is tasting really good by now and I’m almost ready for my morning breakfast of Weight Watchers English muffins and another cup of coffee.  I try to limit my email time to one hour, but often I exceed that. 

By 9 AM, I’m ready to really dig in, but as I check my email messages one last time, I see a note from my editor- she needs my bio and dedication and a Dear Reader letter for my upcoming release.  Okay, that can’t really wait.  I bring my breakfast to the computer and I think what I want to say in the Dear Reader letter.  The bio is easy, but the dedication isn’t.  I like to make them short and sweet and today it isn’t really coming. wordtree5.jpg The Dear Reader letter takes me almost two hours.  The ideas from my idea tree aren’t formulating easily. 

 When there’s a knock on the door, I freeze. I’m never dressed before noon and I have to decide if I want to answer the door in my fluffy lavendar robe.   Yesterday, I didn’t and I missed an important package.  Today, I decide to take my chances and go for it.  I open the door to Gayle, my mail lady and she’s got my AA’s (author alterations) for my March  historical,  Taming the Texan.  Wonderful … the AA’s require going over every word in the 300 page manuscript looking for errors.   There’s a deadline and luckily I’ve got more than a week to do them. After I sign for them, teasing Gayle that I’ll only open the door looking like this … to himagesmailady.jpger, she replies, “I’m sorry, I always seem to wake you.”   The irony makes me smile. To this I reply, “I’ve been working since 6:30 at the computer.  There’s no need to get dressed – I can’t afford to waste the time,” I explain and we have a laugh.  (I’m still not sure she believes me.)

With AA’s in hand I head back to the computer. I’m feeling slightly put off – I haven’t gotten to my work in progress yet and it’s almost noon!  I have this uncanny habit of checking my email every few hours.  So I check it again and have a message from my daughter. There’s always time to answer her.  And I have a cute joke from my hubby.  By now, I’m needing a lighter moment, so I read the joke and it makes me laugh.  There’s 10  more emails to read and I  answer as many as I can quickly.

It’s 12:15 and I realize I better get cracking. What’s worse than being on a deadline, is trying to get a proposal sent off to your editor.  This requires 3 chapters and a synopsis. Only this time, it’s a trilogy that I’m working on.  That means a full proposal for the first book and two more synopses for the 2nd and 3rd books. Most writers would rather have a root canal than write a synopsis.   Putting your ideas down is easy, having them make sense isn’t!  So it requires hours of honing and editing. 

By 2 pm, I realize I haven’t eaten lunch. This isn’t good.imagessalad.jpg I’m trying to lose weight and skipping meals doesn’t help. You’ve got to eat your 3 healthy meals a day and snack lightly in between.  I learned this not from WW, but from the TV show, The Biggest Loser.   I hate to stop, but I need nourishment so I fix a salad, turn on my faithful show Days of our Lives that I’ve taped with the DVR aimagesdays.jpgnd try to get my story out of my head for half an hour.  I’m really enjoying the salad and the time away from the computer but as soon as the meal is finished, I head back to my work in progress. I NEED to finish this proposal – the bulk is there – but it still needs more honing and polishing.  A good writing day for me is 5 pages of polished work.  An excellent day is 8 pages of semi-ready work. I’ve barely written three pages today and the clock is ticking. Soon, I’ll have to stop to make dinner. 

Not that my hubby isn’t supportive – he often volunteers to cook when I’m busy. But he’s just worked an 8 hour day and honestly – I need time off the computer chair.  As I leave my seat to put together my dinner, I pass our “exercise” room and I look longingly at the treadmilimagestreadmill.jpgl.  I’m not being sarcastic – I really try to work out every morning, but today’s not going to be that day. The morning’s long gone and it’s time for my husband to come home from work.  I resign myself to working with weights and doing some late night pilates while I’m watching television with my hubby later on in the evening.  This is a “must do”.  

Dinner is great and I spend an hour or two with my hubby. If he happens to head to the garage to work on a  project – today he’s bent on fixing a drawer in our kitchen, then I head back to the computer. I check emails, do some editing and start working again.   Sometimes, I work until 8PM, sometimes 9PM and I’ve learned to always make time for my husband.  I’ll drop my work in a heartbeat if he needs my attention or simply wants to do something together. That is another “must do”.  

When I finally close down for the night, I make a mental list of what I need to do first thing the next day.  I still have to do the Mills and Boon interview. I need to send a book I promised for a charity benefit. I have to return a few phone calls I didn’t get to today. I owe my best friend a call too.  The AA deadline is looming. I can’t put that off – the book is scheduled for March.  I haven’t checked MySpace in days or Shelfari in weeks! Or entered the Rita Contest or sent my January book out for review.  And I NEED to finish my proposal! 

But tomorrow is another day.

Update: It’s been more than 2 weeks since I began this Blog.  I still haven’t finished the Mills and Boon thing.  BUT, the AA’s are done!  AND I sent off my proposal and SOLD it during that time. I’m employed again!  I  just realized I made two “obvious” typos in my November ENewsletter due to rushing – ugh!  And I’m making mental lists of all the things I still need to do. Did I mention I’m also planning my daughter’s wedding? 

So what’s your story?  Is your writing day similar to mine? And if you’re not a writer – what’s your average work day like? Do you have a job that’s a  neverending compilation of “to do’s? Any daily rituals you’d care to share?



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26 thoughts on “My Neighbors Never See Me … or A Day in a Writer’s Life”

  1. Hello Charlene!

    I got a copy of Bodine’s Bounty a couple of weekends ago but haven’t gotten to start reading it yet(or any of my other TBR books) since I’ve been doing NaNoWriMo and concentrating on it. When November’s over though, I’ll be throwing myself into reading them to give my brain a break from writing. I can’t wait! ;o)

    Love Days of Our Lives too. I’ve been watching off and on for about 26-27 years(I have memories of storylines that happened when I was probably 5 or 6 years old LOL)

    As for my day- It starts with getting my stepson up and ready for school and taking care of my 4 almost 5 year old daughter and checking emails. I make sure hubby is up and ready to leave for work (he sounds a lot like your hubby…not much of a talker in the mornings).

    Once hubby and stepson are off and gone, I make sure daughter has breakfast and I get back to checking email or reading blogs or posting my blogs and if I’m working on a novel- I pull it up and get going on it- if I’m not working on a new WIP, I have been doing edits and revisions of my other finished first drafts(or 2nd or 3rd…not sure I remember how many times I’ve gone over them!LOL)

    Then of course there are household things like dishes, laundry, fixing daughter lunch, taking out trash, etc throughout my day. After next August I can only imagine how different my days will be once my daughter starts school too.

    I just started taking my writing more serious in the past year or so, so I don’t have deadlines, unless I set them for myself and I’m just trying to get my ducks in a row to really start pursuing my dream of becoming a published writer.

    Have a great day!

  2. Hi Taryn – Good luck with your writing! I think self-imposed deadlines are great. I work better on a deadline – I’m a goal-setter. I didn’t even start writing until my children were in junior high school, so you’re way ahead of me on that!
    My favorite storyline on Days is EJ, Sami and Lucas. I can’t believe John is gone (he was fired) and I think I’d quit watching if Hope ever left the show. Some Days actors live nearby. I’ve seen John, Jennifer (Melissa Reeves) and Lucas at the local grocery stores. I’ve been watching as long as you have and think soaps are a great way to stimulate story ideas, aside from being fun!

    Thanks for sharing your writing day with us. Too bad those pesky things like laundry and vacuuming interfere with our writing! I like it too, when all my ducks align properly.

  3. Hi Charlene,
    Our days sound similar. I get up fix my dh breakfast and his lunch and send him out the door. Then I grab a cup of hot chocolate and start up the computer. I spend about two hours on e-mails and blogging. Then I grab a bowl of oatmeal, get dressed, go feed the hogs, and check on the cows. I come back and start working on either edits or my WIP. I have two more books in a series of five I’m writing that I’m researching and I have a proposal and synopsis I need to get written for a series. All morning I check with my e-mail for anything that needs my attention. Some time mid day depending on where I’m at, I stop for lunch and read either the newspaper of a book I’m reading for research, then I go check the cows again(we’re calving) After that I slip into editor mode and work on submissions. I do this until I need to go feed the hogs and check on cows again. Then I come back and fix dinner, feed my husband and if he finds something to do after dinner, I’ll get back on the computer for a couple more hours.

    Saturday and Sunday I don’t get as much computer time because my husband is home and we work building fence, working the cattle, and other things that need tending that he doesn’t have time for during the week. but I like Summer because he works 6 days a week and that gives me 6 days a week to be on the computer!

    I do the household things sometimes through out the day or I may take a half a day when things are flowing well and do housework, then go back to the computer.

    Interesting blog. And it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who can’t get away from this machine! LOL

  4. Ack–the Mills & Boon profile thingy! Thanks for the reminder, Charlene 😉

    OMG, reading your day sounds so nice and organized….I envy it–I so need to get a system, a routine, something to add some sense of balance to my write, kids, write, kids, write life *g* I always enjoy a glimpse into the daily routines of other writers 🙂

    Thanks for sharing, Charlene!

  5. Wow!! Charlene, I got exhausted reading your day list of things you do. I’m a stay at home mom for the last year and a half that’s when i took up reading and i was a photographer for 15 years and i can honestly say my day’s are busier since i’ve been home and the best part is i don’t get paid!! I’m so glad i caught your blog today i just love ya!! Lori

  6. Charlene I’ve been looking for “Bodine’s Bounty” and i haven’t had any luck finding it. I’m afraid to order off the internet since my last experience and all we have here is a walmart does walmart carry your books?

  7. Stacey – Hi! I didn’t think my day sounded organized at all! It’s a mish mash of gotta do, gotta do. There are days when I’m frazzled, but I do LOVE what I do, so I’m not complaining. Just reflecting!

    Lori – I think Bodine is at all Borders stores and Walmarts and Targets carry them in some areas. It’s frustrating when people can’t find them – ultimately it depends at how good their employees are about keeping the shelves stocked! Sorry you had trouble! Thanks for the post!

    Pati — Your day sounds much busier than mine. I don’t have fences to put up and livestock to feed! But it’s amazing how much time we really do spend at this newfangled machines! Computers are your best friends at times, or your worst enemies!

  8. LOL!! Maybe it looks organized ’cause it’s all down on paper 😉 I keep telling myself I need one of those dry-erase calanders that’s as big as a wall so I can chart out my months and deadlines 🙂 Wonder if I can find one that comes with a cleaning lady *g*

  9. My day? Wow. I work full time. I have a 1000 word per day writing goal. I spend time on blogs and interviews and answering email.
    My kids are grown and I’m an insomniac so writing late at night actually has kept me from losing my ever lovin’ mind all these years.

  10. Loved your blog, Charlene. I am trying to wean myself from constant email checking. It wreaks havoc with my writing schedule. And on-line sales…horrible! I can’t seem to resist shopping when I should be writing (I have my credit card number memorized and can just type it in–eek!). Anything is easier than the writing I love. Gotta get my act together.
    Thanks for the smile.

  11. Charlene, I can certainly relate to your hectic lifestyle. I’m so bad about putting off the most important thing (my writing) until after I clear out email and other junk that clutters my life. Somehow I think if I can just get that piddly stuff out of the way, I can write uninterrupted for hours. Never works. Looks like I’d learn. I try to limit my email to just one time a day but like you said, if I get 50 or more of them I can’t seem to find a stopping point. Or on the rare occasion I let email go, I find I’ve irked someone and they get their dander up thinking I’m ignoring them. If anyone has an easy solution, I wish they’d let me know! It’s tough to try to balance our writing with all the other pressing matters.

    Good luck on Bodine’s Bounty! I’ve ordered a copy but it hasn’t come in yet. I’m anxious to read that story. Also, good luck on getting your life organized. 🙂 I know there’s a way, some secret that we need to find.

    Oh, and now we have the holidays to contend with and that’s gonna mess up everything. Wonder if any restaurants will be open??? Ha!

  12. Hi Charlene! Great blog! Hubby and I aren’t talkers in the morning, either. I go into the computer room, turn on the computer and hit all my usual sites while I wake up, including email. He hits his recliner with coffee in hand and channel surfs.

    I used to have a regular writing routine but that went out the window when hubby started a small business. Now I accommodate his hours. If I’m writing, I leave my document on the screen, pop in and out for whatever time I can. Between writing pops, I’m doing household stuff. Plus I can never truly zone out in my writing because I need to be aware of what my daughter’s doing at all times. She crawls around the house and rambles, needs diaper changes and feedings, just like a baby. Bath time is exhausting. Try handling a grown woman who thinks she’s 11 months old. LOL!

    Lately, I’ve started writing during the wee hours, when everyone else is asleep. Course, if I do much of that, I’m a zombie for part of the day. But that’s the only time these days I can truly be alone and lose myself in a story. Good thing I don’t have any deadlines, but I am juggling three mss.

    I also shoot for 1,000 wds. a day. I have a notebook with all mss. listed. At the beginning of the day, I write the starting up word count for each. Before I shut down for the night, I check word count on each document and write it down. Then I do the math. Not much of a system and not really the most productive method, but I do manage to make some progress, which is always better than nothing at all. :o)

  13. Picked up a copy of Bodines Bounty last week and put it in my TBR pile.
    I am retired, so my time iis pretty much my own, when I’m not running after my husband or grandsons.

  14. Charlene, I loved this glimpse into your day! I’ve never had the courage to stay in my bathrobe until noon. If it’s 9:00 am and I’m still in my jammies, I feel guilty and off kilter the rest of the day.

    Exercise is a must. I can’t sit down and write until I do that, and the earlier the better.

    I, too, aim for five good pages. I remember reading Janet Dailey, when she was writing for HQ in her early days, always wrote 10 pages a day. I’ve never come close to that and always felt I wasn’t good enough if I wasn’t fast. But I’m hearing again and again 5 pages is indeed a good writing day.

    Wait ’til you really get into that wedding. It’s such a special time, but you’ll forget what a routine is!

  15. Oh, my gosh, this is MY life! LOL Except I get an 8-year-old off to school first, so I usually get dressed. In fact, I took a break from my WIP to read this, and as I went to reply to your post, the doorbell rang, and it was copies of books I need to mail for my RITA entries – I JUST entered online with little time to spare – and that M&B update? I’m so glad to hear you started, but haven’t finished, because I haven’t even begun yet! LOL Someone said to me the other day (in person no less) that they’d been waiting 2 weeks for a friend approval on My Space. Woops.

    Love you, Charlene.

  16. Hi Charlene, Whew, I’m exhausted reading about your typical day. And to think you actually take time to critique my scribblings! I am honored indeed, and soooooooo lucky to have you as my friend. Continued luck with sales and reviews. I too try to write every morning but now, I just need somebody to buy it LOL. Really looking forward to Bodine’s Bounty. I am in the closing stretches of Kay’s Red Hawk’s Woman and loving it…

  17. Hi Estella, Pam, Devon, Tanya, Cher (love ya too) Linda and Mary- I just returned from visiting my 82 year old neighbor in the hospital. Talk about romance- they have been married for 62 years and are such a sweet loving couple- but I digress.

    Misery must love company- because many of you have shared that your day is soooo much like mine. Does it help me to know that – YES! I figure we’re all in the same boat, so to speak. Aside from Petticoats my early New Year’s resolution is to say “no” as often as possible to things that will interfere what lets me do what I love best- digging into my stories.
    It’s worked the past two days. After reading emails, I set all else aside and wrote in the morning. Got 10 Good pages written with time to spare! I’m proud of myself for saying “no” to a wonderful opportunity to speak at the Huntington Library and another writer’s group. It was hard to do, but I’m learning that I CAN’T do everything! I simply want to sit back and enjoy my writing and planning the wedding next year.

    Linda – I think I try to get the piddly stuff out of the way too, but it has a snowballing effect, so I’m stumped too about emails, etc.

    Pam- I’m so looking forward to planning the wedding – and have been since the day the Dr. said, “It’s a girl!”

    Tanya – It’s my pleasure to help you, you know that, but thanks for saying so in public. You’re always thanking me in person!

    Hey, it’s just 12:30 PM and I’m going to have lunch. That’s a good sign – I remembered!

  18. Elizabeth – I hear you about checking your online sales! It’s a GOOD thing I haven’t memorized my credit card #. That could be very dangerous!! Thanks for stopping by today!

  19. Boy, this sounds just like my day!

    What a relief, too – I thought I was the ONLY that doesn’t dress until after noon! Boy, I wish the dh could read this – I’ll think I’ll show him. LOL

    Thanks for sharing, Charlene!

  20. Hi Charlene

    Whew! and I thought my days were tough! I certainly know what you mean about doing so many thing. I am a wife/mother/grandmother/full-time insurance sales producer/president & treasurer of a writers group…..oh the many hats we wear!

    Congrats on pulling it together enough to sell that proposal!

    Good luck and God’s blessings with your writing (all of you here!)

    Pamela S Thibodeaux
    “Inspirational with an Edge!”

  21. Hi Pam and Carol,

    Yes, I’m glad to hear you don’t dress until noon either. I’m much more comfortable in my jammies while I’m sitting in the “chair.”
    It’s great to hear from you!

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