Thursday, October 25, 2007

A typical day in the life

The alarm goes off at six. Ablutions, emails, breakfast - Special K with red berries and skimmed milk, multi-vitamins. Walk to the paper shop for the Guardian, and the local bakery for an iced finger roll. Walk back home, read paper, struggle with Sudoku while savouring roll with coffee. Upstairs to office, scan my bookmarked websites and blogs. Write my blog entry for the day - it's a good way to get typing, get the brain working, get my arse firmly planted in the chair.

I've a tendency to start real work for the day on the hour, actually it's more of a daft superstition. So if I've done everything else I need to do by eight [and deadlines are pressing], I'll start work at eight. If not, I'll plan my day, mooch round on the net and generally find ways to delay starting work until nine. Don't ask me why, it's not hugely productive. I like to keep office hours, if I can. When you're a freelancer working from home, it's all too easy to let your work bleed outwards. Keep office hours and it eliminates guilt when you give yourself time off.

Second coffee of the day at nine or ten in the morning, depending how things are going. Read the post, check emails, dive back into work. If I'm writing a novel, I aim to write 4000 words of first draft a day. When it's going great guns, I can get that finished by early afternoon, even before lunch some days. If I'm struggling with something about the story [usually a lack of research or patchy plotting], it'll take longer. Other jobs vary wildly. I can touch type, perhaps the best skill I ever acquired from being a journalist long, long ago.

Mid-morning snack lately is a handful of dried apricots and some hazelnuts. It's better for me than chocolate, cake or biscuits. Writing for a living doesn't tend to work many muscles, so it's easy to pile on the pounds. Lunch comes anywhere between 11.30am and 2pm, depending on how things are going. When my writing is flying, I'll not even notice I've forgotten to each lunch. But low blood sugar is not good when frustrations are high, so more Special K and skimmed milk are needed. Coffee number two or three gets made now.

After lunch can be my most productive period. I used to be mostly a morning writer, rattling stuff off so the afternoon was free for idle thoughts. Last year or two I've become an afternoon writer, wittering away the morning before cracking down to the job in hand after lunch. No easy explanations, that's just the way it's been. I like to go swimming on Tuesdays and Thursdays mid-afternoon, but the nearest pool is a 30 mile round trip that kills close to two hours from my schedule. So a late afternoon run or other exercise is required three times a week.

All such activity stops by six for cooking the evening meal, and a pause for breath. Most nights there's a rehearsal or a meeting or an event to attend. It's particularly hectic at the moment with the Biggar Little Festival in full swing. Doubt I'll get to spend a night in until Saturday, having been out every night this week, usually close to midnight. Get home, wind down and stumble into bed, knowing it'll be time to get up in five or six hours, and start the whole process again.

My dreams tend to be most vivid when I'm not in the midst of a writing project. When I'm pouring all my creative energies out on a script or novel, I sleep well. When I haven't got an active, conscious outlet, my subconscious takes over and my dreams turn weird. Well, even weirder.


Paul Scoones said...

Thanks for the insight into your daily writing routine, David. I'm writing my first professionally commissioned book at present and trying to find a regular pattern of work that fits in around the day job and other commitments is proving to be a challenge.

Lucy said...

Crikey. That's a routine and a half. I could never live with that, my writing is much more of a dissarray, like a mangled spider swatted on a wall. But I like it that way.