Getting up in Time for the Bright Sunrise?

When people find out I’m a writer, they often ask me (with a weird kind of light in their eyes) for my “routine.” I think people have a romantic notion that I’m up all night with a bottle of Jack, ranting and raving into the computer … scratch that, into an old-fashioned Olivetti typewriter, like Jack Kerouac on a bender.

The truth is, I do have routines, but no matter how many years I’ve been professionally writing, I never stick with one. I evolve, life evolves, the work evolves, and therefore the routine changes. And I don’t mean the routine changes every few years, I mean it changes every week or so.

Once upon a time, back in the wintertime, I woke up and wrote 2000 words (8 pages) every morning. That’s a lot, and it usually took all day. Then, I discovered that if I wrote 1000 words per day, every single day including weekends, it was a lot easier and sometimes took just a couple hours. That also enabled me to get some exercise in each morning. Okay, that was a good routine! I thought I’d keep it forever!

But then, I realized it was hard to get work done at my house because there’s so much housework to do here, especially with all the renovations going on. So, I started working in cafés, which changed my routine. Then, I decided I’d get more done in a co-working space, so I rented one, and that changed my routine. Then, I tried a different type of co-working space, as an experiment. What happened next resulted in a lot of interpersonal drama that left me quite depressed, which is very dangerous because depression can totally destroy the self discipline I need to be self employed.

So, next, I got myself back to writing by doing it just one page at a time. Write a page, then mow the lawn. Write a page, then pull out some weeds. Write a page, then paint a wall, and so forth. So what I’m saying is that the main thing that changes my routine is my emotional state. When I’m really on it and everything is going well, I can pump out eight pages a day. When I’m in a slump, I have to make up a new technique to force myself to stay disciplined. So, in my opinion, the routine of a writer can only be steady if that writer is a kind of emotionless cog, and no writer worth her salt is one. Ergo, there is no such thing as a writer’s “routine,” not for long, anyway.

To me, suggesting that a writer can keep to a routine for more than a week is akin to suggesting a hockey player can refrain from fighting or an infant can refrain from crying. Writers’ daily activities are determined by whether or not we have a broken heart of a best friend or a bad conscience that week. End of rant!

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