the full-time writerly life: daily edition

So, time management.

With conventional office jobs and the like, your time is structured for you. Bosses expect you to show up at a certain time and stay until a certain time, or at least to do X hours per week. Some full-time writers, I know, treat their self-employment the same way — but as I said elsewhere re: “dressing for work,” I suspect that many of them used to be in office jobs. My employment has generally been irregular; classes provided scattered points of fixity in my schedule, but the rest of my work (reading, papers, grading) was built around deadlines, so I tended to do it whenever, so long as I got it done in time.

Which is my lead-in to saying: what will I do with myself all day?

I said in my last F-TWL post that one thing I won’t apologize for is my hours. I only got my alarm clock plugged in last night — I needed a power strip in the bedroom; it isn’t just that I couldn’t be bothered — and I may start using it again, so I can regularly wake up at 11. (Otherwise there’s the occasional day when apparently my body decides it needs to keep me unconscious until after noon. On the one hand, maybe it’s right to do so, but on the other . . . even I think that’s a little ridiculous.) I wake up swiftly, in terms of being able to get out of bed, but I’m not good for much right after that. Takes a while for my brain to warm up. So my routine after getting out of bed involves spending an hour or so checking e-mail, reading blogs, etc. Which isn’t as much of a time-waster as it sounds; true, the Internets are full of procrastination, but this is my best route to random information I wouldn’t think to go looking for. Last night yhlee sent me off into the wilds of Wikipedia, reading about ocular heterochromia. This is on the list of “not to be apologized for”: I’m feeding my brain.

So while I’m not going to pin things to precise blocks of time, the general pattern is wake up, spend an hour dinking around, have lunch. After that, it’s more fluid. I figure my afternoons will be for some combination of domestic duties and writing-related program activities. Sometimes I’m in a mood to knock off a bunch of business e-mails or update my website or read for research or send out short stories. Sometimes I’m in a mood to organize a closet or go to the grocery store or sew curtains. Whatever I’m motivated for, that’s what I’ll do, unless there’s something else on a pressing deadline. Because really, that’s the great virtue of a flexible schedule: you don’t necessarily have to make yourself do something you just have no will for today. (Eventually you may have to. But I’ve learned to trust myself that I will generally grow the motivation in time; ergo, I am better off not pushing it unless I have to.)

Around about 5 p.m., I start thinking about the end of kniedzw‘s work day. If I got up early to drive him to work, I consequently have to go pick him up again; otherwise, I’m waiting for him to show up. I’m treating this as a distinct block of time because one thing I would like to start doing is cook; I feel like I don’t have much excuse beyond lack of enthusiasm and practice for making meals that involve actual preparation. So I can be doing anything that’s compatible with cooking dinner. (Do I expect myself to make a real meal every day? No. Baby steps, here. If I’m making “turn the following raw components into food” meals twice a week to start with, that will be substantial progress.)

In the evening, it’s more kick-back-and-relax time. Reading and/or watching of things, probably, though I’m looking into starting up some martial arts class, that would presumably fall in here. But in general, activities that don’t involve me closing my office door and ignoring kniedzw. He objects if I do that too much.

And then there’s late at night, which is when I will get the writing done. (So yes, the basic “work” part of my workday comes at the end.) If I feel inspired to tackle it in the afternoon, then by all means, bring on the keyboard; but if I haven’t done it earlier, this is the one really scheduled thing in my day. Because if I’m not putting words down on a regular basis, then I ain’t really a writer, am I?

I have more to say on my writing expectations for a given day, but I think that will fit better into the macro edition of my schedule. I’m posting about these things mostly for my own benefit, really, to work through them in my own mind and have a record of my plan, but I figure at least a few of you might find it helpful.

0 Responses to “the full-time writerly life: daily edition”

  1. latvianchick

    Just wanted to say that I find these really interesting. I have not REALLY developed a schedule for my dissertation writing, not one I can really stick to, in any case. It somehow mostly gets done, but oh, the anguish.

    Ironically, I’d LOVE to be able to do it 9-5, but it doesn’t really work. So we struggle (schedule and I).

    • Marie Brennan

      Figuring out what schedule will work is the hardest part, I swear. My life got easier when I verified that yes, I really do work better at night, and succeeded in arranging matters so I could do that. But it takes a lot of trial-and-error to figure out what works, and then make it happen.

  2. xmurphyjacobsx

    I’m watching you go through this (and am most grateful for the view!) with great interest. I’ve been having a near impossible time getting myself writing, even though right now fate has handed me huge blocks of time in which to do it. I can’t get my BRAIN engaged. If I go to my office, I get nervous about what is happening in the rest of the house. If I’m downstairs, I can’t concentrate. Part of that is still “I haven’t lived here that long”, but that’s more of an excuse than a reason.

    So, yay you, and thanks for letting me a stalker on your life.

    • Marie Brennan

      Huge blocks of time in which to write have often been the least productive for me. I don’t think I’ve said it explicitly, but part of the reason I’m trying to build a schedule for myself here is that without one, I get nothing done. If it’s open season on my time, I wander aimlessly. But if I have a modicum of structure, I manage pretty well. That’s one thing I miss about classes, honestly; they were about the right amount of structure.

      Would closing your office door or putting on music help? It sounds like you need to make yourself temporarily forget the rest of the house is there.

      • xmurphyjacobsx

        Maybe that’s it. I’m just now trying to create some kind of simple structure for my days. I think you’re right — the huge blocks of time are too much, but having some manner of structure is the key.

        Closing my office door isn’t an option — because our house is so small, cat litterboxes occupy a spot in my office and it’s just not wise to put a closed door between a cat and a potty 🙂 Music used to be what helped, but right now is isn’t helping so much.

        Part of it is my own mental state – new area, new home, no job, no real reason to leave the house, highly transient area (lots of students), and I haven’t found any ways to connect to other people, so I really crave human voices (thus, the TV). Also, I’ve never lived in a two story house, and my office feels more isolated than I’m used to, plus the house itself, as part of a group of townhomes, feels much too exposed. In time I guess I’ll get used to it, but right now it’s crazy-making. I am much too involved in my environment.

  3. nojojojo

    Thanks for sharing this, and I await the macro edition! I’m still working out the kinks in my own FT writer life, though I’ve developed a bit of a routine: I get up and bike up to the gym, then bike back down to one of two coffee shops where I generally do my writing, then I come home and make dinner, etc. Tuesdays and Thursdays I substitute teaching a class with the gym; I decided to keep teaching one course to kind of keep my hand in it. In the evenings I generally hang out with friends or hit up some literary/social event somewhere.

    The problem is that writing has generally been my *escape* from a 9-to-5 routine, so now that it *is* the routine, I’m finding that it’s harder. I still do it — I’ve always been good about writing a little every day — but it doesn’t flow as easily as it did when I used to “pre-plan” it, so to speak, while sitting in boring meetings. 😉

    I’m learning to pre-plan in other ways, though. Subway rides are perfect. =)

    • Marie Brennan

      I may end up doing some kind of part-time work, which would give me a bit more structure. But I’m leaning away from teaching for the moment, because I’m so damn sick of grading. 🙂

      I know what you mean, though. I used to think about my stories during boring classes, or the lectures of whatever professor I was TA-ing for, and now I don’t have that. I’ll have to designate laundry and dishes and house maintenance time as writing-thought time, or something . . . .

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