A day in the life of a real writer
It’s one of those mornings. You have an assignment due or you’re one chapter away from finishing the draft of a novel you’re working on. Your goals for the day are set. You need to focus. You need to get to work. You need to hammer the words out on the forge of your creativity, polish them to a reflective luster, and send them into the world to be received with love and joy possibl some way to make money.
I’ve looked over the shoulders of hundreds, maybe even thousands of writers and from what I’ve observed (don’t ask me how because I will simply refer you to the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution). I watched the sweat fizzle on their brows, the blood tear in their eyes, and the words flow onto pages and screens. I’ve felt their joy as complicated yet beautiful language wove its way into existence from their amazing creative brains.
After exhausting analysis of people who classify themselves as writers, I am convinced that anyone can be. A. Writer. Do you want to be a writer? It’s pretty easy. Just say “I Am A Writer” out loud, and you’re on your way. All that’s left (based on the common set of behaviors of those of us who call ourselves writers) is to make a plan to write something, then sit down every once in a while with the intention to write and follow these simple daily steps and you’ll be as much of a writer as any of us.
Write anything other than your current project – If, when you sit down to write at your appointed time (be that 5 am or the 15-minute sliver of time while you wait at the gate for your flight to Madison, Wisconsin for a one hour meeting that will consume two days of travel time) you have energy, enthusiasm, and creativity available for the immediate Work In Progress (WIP), you’re missing the opportunity to get some unrelated writing done. Write in your journal instead. Write a blog post and send it onto the Internet for your reader to praise you over. Write an outline for a new project that is even more inspiring than the one you should be working on, so you can abandon the WIP rather than face the danger of it actually being finished and having to go out into the world for judgment day.
No self-ordained writer worth the bottled ink in their fountain pen writes if there are chores to do.
Clean something. Be sure your house is clean before you write. No self-ordained writer worth the bottled ink they use in their fountain pen writes if there are chores to do, especially chores they would not otherwise get to. Surely you can find a trash can that needs a new liner? Remember that shelf-liner you bought seventeen months ago, the one that’s sitting propped in the corner of the garage like a bow staff waiting to be called upon for battle against marauding invaders? As long as it sits there, you shouldn’t sit at your desk. As long as anything exists in your home that belongs at Goodwill, no writer would possibly do their work.
Study writing – One way that many writer’s use their writing time is to read books about writing. or watch videos about writing. Or get together in groups to give and receive praise or condemnation of other’s writing. This is important mental work and can’t be understated. Real writers harden themselves for the future they hope will come through the time-tested methodologies of comparison, overconsumption, and projection of your fears onto an unlikely prospective future.
Organize your writing space – No writer worth the price of their annual Grammarly subscription would ever sit down to work unless their writing space was the perfect and ideal version of itself. Having the perfect environment to write is a must for writers, and there are strict standards you must follow to be a real writer. You need either an elegant roll-top desk in a roomy home office under a southern-facing window, or an L-shaped desk crammed into a disorganized dark nook piled high with papers and books you plan on reading. The only other acceptable writing desk configuration for the real writer is the nomad setup; a plush lounge chair in a bustling and overpriced urban coffee shop, your Apple MacBook Pro open on your lap, a pair of Beats over-ear noise-canceling Headphones draped casually over your head, a Rhodia notebook and LAMY Studio fountain pen tucked into the Timbuk2 Spire Laptop nestled between your feet.
Check your phone – Every social-media account must be checked repeatedly. You might have missed something.
Watch Season Six of Project Runway – Substitute any show on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Vudu, CBS All-Access, or the six hundred seventy-nine other video subscription services you stream from for my specific recommendation (although season six of Project Runway is worth the binge). Based on the behavioral observations of writers at work, these shows provide numerous benefits to the creative process. For maximum benefit, they must be absorbed in their entirety, in as few sittings as possible (preferably one sitting). A real writer knows that in order for their work to remain current and relevant, it is impossible to stay relevant without consuming as much popular streaming television as possible.
Take a day trip – Life is short. Experiences are more valuable than things. Travel is the greatest teacher. Before you sit down to write and let life pass you by, there are certain things that you must get out of the way. Writers know not to lock themselves into the horror and drudgery or their work until they have shaken free of their mental lists of things they want to see and do “one day.” Didn’t someone once tell you that the tacos at that truck in that farming community forty miles up the highway were life changing? Writers know that commitment to the craft means a commitment to living. You can only write what you know. And if you don’t really know those tacos are transcendental, then action must be taken before real writing can be done.
Take a nap – From the National Sleep Foundation: “As a nation, the United States appears to be becoming more and more sleep deprived… While naps do not necessarily make up for inadequate or poor quality nighttime sleep, a short nap of 20-30 minutes can help to improve mood, alertness, and performance. Nappers are in good company: Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Napoleon, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison,
Stock up on supplies – The worst thing that can happen to a writer, based on my observations of their behavior, is to run out of supplies half way through a writing session. It takes a tremendous amount of energy to start the flow of words onto a screen or page. Bringing the process to a halt mid-session could cause a writer valuable lost production. It could be days, weeks, even months before they tap the vein of inspiration again. When the rare urge to write overwhelms these delicate artists, be sure, make absolutely sure, there is nothing that can them off Mother Creativity’s teat. I don’t just mean make sure there are empty pages ready to fill and ink for the pen, but be sure the charger for the laptop is plugged in, coffee beans await the grinder, the phone is fully charged, and enough snacks to satisfy Justin Bieber’s green-room contract rider are in arms reach. Oh, and while we’re at it, do you need to replace any worn socks? Are you out of shampoo? Did you remember to put candles under the sink in case there’s a power outage? Don’t think too much about it. When you get the urge to write, just go to the store, you’ll find something you need.
Real writers know that the best time to start new, life-changing health and wellness programs is right before you need to get cracking on a writing project.
Finally, start a work-out program – You know how you’re always saying you really want to adopt a regular exercise routine? Do you need to lose a few pounds? Do you want to tighten up for a class reunion, or flatten the belly for a wedding you may or may not be going to in a couple of months? Real writers know that the best time to start new, life-changing health and wellness programs is right before you need to get cracking on a writing project you’ve had floating around for a while.
Bonus, 11th suggestion – Do none of the first ten things – In all my observations of writers at work, there is the occasional anomaly; the writer who actually sits down and gets the work done every day. You can spot them easily. They are the writers who parade their finished work — their published books, their successful screenplays, their bylines in magazines and newspapers — gleefully, like the parents of a needy third grader displays their participation trophies in the living room like their kid won the Nobel peace prize. Honestly, you have nothing to learn from these people. They are boring. They routinely show up at their desks and write as if they are punching a clock at a book-making factory. They keep regular hours. They accomplish specific word-count goals. They complete projects on time. They don’t even wait for inspiration (some even claim that inspiration is something you turn on inside yourself by writing, not by waiting to smell it like the perfume left in a room after someone wearing it has left).
I hope you found this writing self-help post useful. If I missed any insight into how real writer’s work that those of us who aspire to write full time can learn from, please share it in the comments section below. And get back to work (if, of course, there’s not something else you’d rather do first).