I recently visited a school to talk about being a writer. These were high school kids, who normally intimidate the snot out of me, but the two groups I spoke to were awesome and I had a terrific time. The students asked great questions, and I tried to give realistic answers. One student asked a typical question, only with a twist. I’m used to being asked “What do you do all day,” but this student asked, “How do you structure your day?”
Structure? Wow – my writing days have so very little structure that I was caught off-guard by the question. So I started paying attention to the days that are designated for writing. I found I do a lot of things, but a lot of it isn’t sitting at the keyboard and typing.
I usually start by driving my youngest daughter to school, unless I sleep in a little because I was up late the night before catching up on work, or writing, or laundry, or (recently) painting my dining room. If I sleep in, my wonderful husband drives her to school. I start my day by checking my emails, working on assignments for my ICL students, and visiting a few blogs that I enjoy. Dr. Bibey’s is a favorite, as is Alison McGhee’s. Sometimes I check a local author’s blog. This person doesn’t like me a lot, so I like to see if there are snarky comments about me that I can laugh at.
If my ICL work is caught up, I might dash upstairs for more coffee, throw in a load of laundry, put a few dishes in the sink, then head back to the computer. Typically the dog has moved under my desk to keep my feet warm for me. He’s good that way. He also barks at the UPS guy (or girl, on occasion) and keeps me safe from the dreaded brown truck.
I look through my files and see what I want to work on, unless I’m under a deadline of some sort. Deadlines mean the project picks me. I usually have three or four novels in progress at any given time, which keeps me from feeling forced to work on a story that isn’t progressing. I’m also easily distracted by shiny objects and good chocolate.
I give myself a break after a few hours, typically because I didn’t eat breakfast and now it’s lunch time. I switch the laundry loads, play with the kitties for a minute,
then head back to work. Now, if I’m making good progress and I don’t want to interrupt the flow, I might not take that break, and I might just keep going until 3:00, when I have to pick my daughter up from school.
Much like my post about the “rules” for writing, I don’t have many rules for my writing time. I don’t force myself to write every day – some days I just don’t have anything to say. I don’t force myself to sit and stare at a blank screen until something comes. Sometimes I have to get the drier fixed (like today), or I have to get the new blinds hung in my dining room (that’s tomorrow), or I really need to have lunch with a friend for the sake of both our sanities. Sometimes I spend all day avoiding writing and wind up sitting at my keyboard until ungodly hours of the morning.
I like to think of it more like clay that is still damp. Some days I mold it to look like a real writer should have his or her days look; sometimes the real world intrudes and my day is molded to meet the demands of being a wife, a mom, a teacher. One of the wonderful benefits of being writer – to me, at least – is that malleable quality to the “structure” of my time.