Friday, February 19, 2016

A Day in the Life

I was thinking through my daily routine yesterday, looking for ways to improve my time management, and I thought it might be interesting to share a day in the life of a writer -- well, this writer, anyway.

I don't have a particular wake-up time. That tends to vary by season. I'm not a morning person, but that doesn't mean I don't wake up early. I just don't get up and become functional early. That time between waking up and full consciousness is the best time for brainstorming, so I may lie in bed for an hour or so after I wake up, thinking. One of the nice things about not having a set schedule is the luxury to do this. When I get hungry or am out of thoughts, I get up and have breakfast. I make a whole pot of tea and put it in a thermos to have throughout the day. I'll linger over breakfast and a cup of tea while I read the newspaper (except for the comics). That's another luxury from not having to get up and go every morning, and I enjoy it. Afterward, I get dressed and head upstairs to my office.

I'm still sort of easing into the day, so I make the transition to work mode by checking e-mail and dealing with anything urgent, skimming through the Facebook and Twitter feeds, and checking in on sites about industry news. I'll get my second cup of tea and then allow myself a little "fun" reading online, then I write my blog post for the day and do a little social media stuff. The morning is also when I do business stuff like bookkeeping and when I try to do some publicity. If I have extra time before lunch, I may let myself do a little more "fun" online stuff, but this is where my personal weakness tends to kick in and I start doing what I call "doom looping," where I check e-mail, check my social media accounts, and check in on message boards. I may post something at various places. And then I go back around the same sites over and over to see if anything's changed. I'm trying to make a conscious effort to check once and then walk away. This is also the time when I try to run any errands, like going to the bank, library, or post office or running to the grocery store.

I eat lunch while watching the second half hour of the noon news and reading the newspaper comics. When I'm done eating, I'll work the New York Times crossword in the newspaper. After lunch, it's back to the office to check e-mail and social media before disconnecting from the Internet and going to write. This is another spot where doom looping can kick in, and I'm considering just taking the computer offline when I go to lunch. Starting to write is the hard part of the day. This is one reason why I don't have wi-fi, though I know I could probably get the same effect by turning off the router during this time. If things are going well, having Internet or not makes no difference. The trick is when I hit a hard spot where I don't know what happens next or I'm not sure how a scene should go. If I'm not online, I force myself to work through it. If I'm online, it's way too easy to decide to just check my e-mail, and it snowballs from there as I put off dealing with the difficult thing. So instead, I take the laptop somewhere else in the house. On nice days, I work on my patio. On cold days, there's a chaise in the loft over the living room. In the summer, I sit under the ceiling fan either on my sofa or on my bed.

I try to work in half-hour increments, getting up in between to do things like laundry, dishes, exercise, music practice, etc. If I meet my word count or time goal before it's time to make dinner, I'll plug back into the Internet to check in on things. I generally try to get my writing done in the afternoon, but if I don't and I don't have an evening activity, I may do another session in the evening. If I did get it all done, I'll either watch TV while knitting or I'll read. I'm really trying to stay offline at night, though the temptation is there to do some socializing. I guess the Internet is my water cooler, since I don't have co-workers in the normal way. I just need to be better about how and how much I use it.

I've told myself that if I finish this draft by the end of next week, the following week I may take a few days and go back to the mountains in Oklahoma. It's off-season, but should be warm enough for a little hiking. I need trees and hills. And then I can sit on the porch and brainstorm another book. That may be a good test of my plan to travel and try to write in the evenings in my hotel room. I got my new passport in the mail yesterday, so now I can go when an opportunity arises.

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