When I was in college and wanted to be a writer, I read a book called Writers on Writing. It was a collection of interviews with famous writers—Isaac Asimov, Ellen Goodman, Ray Bradbury are three that I recall.
Many of those interviews contained writers' accounts of their daily routine. Which surprised me, because who cared how a writer arranged the day? Except, I cared, a lot. Because I still thought then that there was a writer-y way to be in the world, and it seemed like a good way to begin to be that way was to learn how a writer spent the day.
Like Kurt Vonnegut, whose writing routine was recently revealed in a letter to his wife, most writers did most of their writing in the morning. As they still do.
As I do.
I've been writing professionally for two decades. I even have a book out. I bet you want to hear all about my writing day.
I rise at about 6:30. (Note that because I'm a writer, I don't "get up." I "rise.")
I make the coffee and let the dog out and joke with my daughter while my wife urges her to brush her teeth and hair so they can get out the door. (Notice that all these mundane activities are suddenly charming to think of, because it is a writer doing them. He must be doing them in a droll and charming way.)
When the house is empty and quiet, the dog follows me upstairs to my study—(yes, my study)—and curls up on the floor, perhaps hoping, fruitfully today, that I will include him in a warm anecdote about the writer's life. His name is Charlie, and he's an English Springer Spaniel (a sufficiently writer-ish breed, wouldn't you agree?).
I procrastinate the way a writer procrastinates: by writing something other than what he's being paid to write. A nasty letter to someone who has it coming. A less soaring version of the national anthem, called The Rational Anthem. A blog post. Just to sharpen my knives for the real writing.
Then I write—(I do not, as far as you're concerned, go online to check my bank balance, do not call around for weekend tee times, do not call the motorcycle mechanic to check on my bike, do not check email every 10 minutes and Facebook every 15 and visits to this blog every hour, do not scour the Internet looking for a simpler Sloppy Joe recipe)—until about 11:30.
Then I go for a run outside or I hit the heavy bag in the basement, depending on which you think is a more literary thing to do. (And often more literary doesn't translate to more eccentric. It's cool for a writer to have some regular-guy hobbies. Hunter S. Thompson was a big pro football fan, and I hear Ernest Hemingway liked to fish.)
I eat in front of MSNBC. If Andrea Mitchell is on, I know nothing important can be happening in the world. Then spend 20 minutes answering the routine emails I did not answer (as far as you were concerned) in the morning, while I was WRITING.
Then I lie down. The dog lies down next to me. We sleep. Usually after about 20 minutes, I wake up with a shame-filled panic feeling that years of daily routine have not dulled: Jesus Christ, I am in the prime of my earning years, and sleeping during the workday on a Tuesday!
The dog does not share this feeling, but follows me downstairs as I make a new pot of coffee or to microwave what I didn't drink this morning.
The afternoon, unless I am under an unholy deadline, is an essential winding down, tying up loose ends, making phone calls, gaping at PDF page proofs, or coolly editing the morning's frantic work. There is preparation for tomorrow's main creative task, which looms on a list written in active verbs—"hammer Vital Speeches," "attack video script." And finally, there is listing the ingredients for that "weekday" Sloppy Joe. Molasses is nice-to-have, not need-to-have.
And then I motor off to pick up my daughter at school, and we practice her spelling on the way to the grocery store and she gets the produce and I get the rest and we argue about who's the grossest skinny model on the magazine covers at the checkout line. If I'm feeling especially writer-y, in the parking lot I honk my horn at some jagoff in and teach her what "marplot" means (and how only a jamoke would use marplot when jagoff would do) and I go home and make dinner while having just the right number of drinks to satisfy the expectations of the reading public. (Vonnegut drank to "numb my twanging intellect," he said. I'll go with that.)
Depending on what I have left, a book or TV with my wife.
The writer-y life? As Woody Guthrie would write: There's no such a thing.
Writing is no more and no less than what my novelist mother wrote once in a diary: "Am a writer. Get to call myself that because I write."
How about you?