In the “reading about writing rather than actually writing” department, the Guardian has a series called “My Writing Day” where they interview English writers about their routines. I read this column every time it comes out, for two reasons: one is simply voyeurism and the other is that they feature writers I’ve not heard of, and that’s always nice.
Nonetheless, other people’s writing days look something like an ode to virtue and cosmopolitanism:
Rise at dawn
Exercise like the awesome, well-adjusted person they are
Eat a breakfast of diet air and coffee
Write brilliantly for many hours, stopping only for 4 1/2 unsalted raw almonds for elevensies
Go for a ramble across the moors in the afternoon
Settle in their book-lined study to revise
Dinner with friends prepared by dutiful spouse or at a posh restaurant
My writing day many days before a deadline
Wake up whenever a dog decides I’ve slept enough by barking or shoving a slobbery wet toy onto my head.
Tell myself I am not going to faff not the Internet, wind up trying to read the entire Internet. Come to my senses after I find myself on a website that says “Celebrities you didn’t know have embarrassing birthmarks!”
Leap upon the coffee like a bear going after a salmon
Tell myself I might exercise but put that off, saying that if I budget enough time for a walk to the train station that can count as some exercise
Write, finding endless problems with things I’ve written before that I really have to fix before going forward. I’ve never been able to just forge ahead. What’s there has to be right. It sucks, but it’s the only way it works for me.
Finally get into a groove, only to see the clock and find that I’m a good 20 minutes past where I should have hopped into the shower if I wanted to walk to the train station, thus have to decide whether I go to work unshowered or whether I groom and have spouse drop me at the train station.
Inevitably get dropped off at train station with my head in the writing yet, perhaps showered, perhaps not.
Go to class, teach, get distracted from writing by all the ideas we worked on in class. Find some food on campus.
Tell myself I should shut my office door in the afternoon and work, but then my mind lands on how much it saddens me to see all my colleagues’ doors shut on the third floor of RGL, of how, when I was a student, I loved to walk by the open office doors of the professors in the Classics department at the University of Iowa, when it was housed in the warm, wood-paneled halls of Schaeffer Hall. (It is now in the Jefferson Building, in which I took my American Studies classes.) I didn’t even stop in talk with any of them, except for kindly Professor Jackson; it was just nice that they were present. Departments should have a there there; so much of our department is hidden in suites. It is one of the contradictions of academic life that planning faculty will write about the need for incidental contact in cities but do just about everything possible to avoid it themselves.
So I try to work with the door open, and that suggests hospitality and openness, and that means interruption, which was the point of leaving it open in the first place, and it’s nice to visit with people even if it’s not productive in a way that my provost would count. I am fortunate in that my excellent neighbor, LaVonna Lewis, also tends to be there and leave her door open.
Some days I get a treat, and I get to see David Sloane.
I usually revise or read in my office; I’ve always needed privacy to compose, and I do get quite a bit done there in between interruptions. Today I am planning to finish a review for JPER, working with hard copy, pen, and paper.
About 4 o’clock I need coffee coffee again. If USC really loved me, it would send coffee to my office via a trolley like they have on the Hogwards Express, but no. More proof that institutions don’t love you.
Sometimes at 6 I ride the train home; most days, Andy and I are too anxious to see each other to wait for the train to take me, and so he drives to campus. Being married for 25 years doesn’t seem to matter; in this, we’re still like newlyweds. By the time I’m home, there’s something in the garden or the house that wants doing while Andy, bless him, cooks or we wait for the delivery to come.
And at night I read or listen to records or watch a movie with him, play with dogs, catch up on rescue stuff.
My writing day just a days before a deadline
Furious binge writing from my laptop in my bed, refusing to wear anything besides pajamas, getting wired on coffee, and passive aggressively asking for more time to revise because I am a bad, bad person.