It has been said that writing is actually an exercise in the art of procrastination and futility. Maybe so. Allow me to open the door and invite you in for a look at my day.
It begins at 7:30 in the morning, and I crawl out of bed. I don’t spring out of bed like morning people do. I crawl and stumble my way down the hallway with my eyes barely open.
My wife often works from home and is already at her desk toiling away. Her job is such that she has to be online when the company’s server is on, so the job of getting our first-grader off to school falls to me. I am strong and can do it.
I make our first-grader breakfast, get him dressed, make him lunch, make sure all of his school papers and books are in order, and then we are out the door promptly at 8:00. Which actually means closer to 8:15. Then off we go to school. I’m usually home by 8:40.
At this point, I would love to go back to blissful sleep. But I’m awake and once I’m awake I can’t get back to sleep. So it’s time for coffee and to fire up the old computer.
I figure I can write maybe a thousand words before the first cup of coffee is done. The real world measures the length of books in pages but we writers do it in the number of words. A thousand words is somewhere around three to five paperback pages, depending on how large the print is and how large the space is between lines and how big the borders are.
So, for an experienced uber writer such as I, a thousand words should be the old-fashioned proverbial piece of cake. But Facebook beckons. A writer has to check Facebook to see if there’s any writerly stuff that needs his immediate attention. Things like photos of a former co-worker’s cat. I haven’t seen the co-worker in ten years and never met the cat. And a political post about who hates Barack Obama or who still hates George Bush. Or who hates whomever for whatever reason. Ah, the state of modern politics.
By this point, the coffee is ready. I take a cup to my wife and then sit down at the computer and take my first sip. Time to start writing. Oh, wait. I forgot to check my email. Have to do that. After all, there could be all sorts of important stuff there awaiting my attention. So I log in and see all sorts of important spam that needs to be deleted.
Just a note, when I was as young as my first-grader, spam was a processed sort of meat spread that had no nutritional value. Today it is the email equivalent of junk mail. And it still has no nutritional value.
Finally, I click on the folder that has my McCabe stuff in it. I click on the folder of the current novel. I scroll down to where I left off. I type four words, and realize my coffee is gone. I really need a second cup and my wife says, “Me too!” But in my ultimate writerly wisdom I only made enough for one cup for each of us. So I have to go out and start a second one. And maybe a bowl of oatmeal, too.
I can’t write while I’m eating oatmeal because typing involves both hands. So I eat the oatmeal and read baseball news online.
Yes, I’m a baseball addict. It runs in my family. My father is one and so was his.
At this point I check the time and see it’s nearly 9:30. My sixth-grader is a home-schooler and still in bed, so I go to see if she wants to get up. She ignores me and keeps on sleeping. I am a little envious.
In my family, we are what my mother calls night owls. We seem to function better after the sun goes down. My daughter prefers to do all of her school work only after the crickets start chirping outside. I often do my best writing then, too.
So, it’s back to my desk to read baseball news and eat oatmeal. The Braves lost. Again. The reasons for their mounting number of losses seem so obvious to me. Why can’t the Braves management see it? They really need to start consulting me.
While I read about the Braves and rant a little and my wife laughs at me, I decide I just have to check the career stats of the great Chipper Jones, who will probably be a first-round inductee in the Hall of Fame once he’s eligible. After reading about Chipper, I just have to pull up the career stats of my one of my favorite all-time players, Hank Aaron. I grew up in Maine, which is Red Sox country, so I just have to pull up the career stats of my favorite Red Sox player, Carl Yastrzemski.
Okay, so now it’s after 10:00 and the oatmeal is long gone and my second cup of coffee is history. Time to get to work.
So I write maybe two paragraphs. Then the cat comes into my office and decides to go surfing on a stack of books. I pick those up and then decide my back is a little stiff so maybe a light workout is in order.
When I was a kid, I learned some Karate. I was never very good at it, but I keep up with some of what I learned for the sake of exercise. So I do some karate routines and then a few punches on the heavy bag. Now my back hurts worse.
Okay, back to the computer. There’s a new email. A group I’ve never heard of wants me to buy a product I’m not interested in. Yay. Delete. I have an email that says someone on Facebook commented on a post I commented on, so I just have to go back into Facebook and check that out. Now it’s 11:00. Back to work. Except, after the workout I could really use a shower.
So I take the shower, then I throw some laundry in the washer, and now it’s noon and I’m thinking lunch. My wife is at her desk and has been working all morning, so I grab us some food.
Then my daughter is finally awake. She’s a writer too and wants to tell me all about her latest story. I’m a very busy man, right? But never too busy to hear about her latest story.
Then she gets out her IPad and starts playing some games and I think about sitting down to get some work done. But the cat wants to go out, and then wants to come back in and then go out again. And then the dog decides the cat might be onto something and has to do the same. My wife is at her desk and laughing at me. I throw the laundry in the dryer and then notice there is a sink load of dishes calling my name.
It’s now 2:00, I have to leave to get into car line to pick up my first-grader. So I grab my laptop and the two paragraphs I have written, and it’s off to carline. Now I can get some work done.
Have you ever tried to type on a laptop while you’re sitting in a car? It can be done, but it ain’t easy. I manage to finally get that thousand words done. Remember the thousand words I planned to write while I was waiting for my first cup of coffee? Yeah, that thousand words.
Once we’re back from school, both kids want a snack. Then they have to play video games together and then they have to bicker and I have to referee. Then the cat wants to come in and then go out again. During this time I check Facebook again, and make some witty comments about other people’s comments about other people’s comments. Then it’s time for dinner.
My wife’s work is done, so we have dinner. Then it’s homework time for my first-grader. That always goes easy, right? Uh, no. Then he’s finally into bed and my daughter is starting her online homeschool work, and my wife and I have some time to sit in front of the TV. Daredevil. The Arrow. The Flash. Scandal. Drop Dead Diva. Yes, we are an eclectic lot.
Then my wife goes to bed. After all, morning comes early. Then I go back to my computer. It’s now nearly 10:00 and I sit and bang out another three thousand words. This is the time of day that the writing really sails along. I use that word “sails” intentionally, because it feels like I’m a ship and the wind has caught my sails and I’m just gliding along the ocean.
Then around 1:00 in the morning, I drag myself to bed to start it all again.
This is the life of a writer. Not the life for everyone, but I wouldn’t change it for a thing. Except it might be nice if the cat would stop surfing on my stacks of books.