It’s true. My neighbors 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 about 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 head 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. 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 her, 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. 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 and 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 treadmill. 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?