In the series of brief “Snapshots” interviews I’ve been running, one of the standard questions is “Tell us about your typical writing day”. As the answers show, a typical writing day can vary from writer to writer, and even for the same writer: one day I might only manage to grab half an hour to keep that first-draft momentum going; another day I might work ten hours solidly on writing, editing, social-mediaing and so forth. Who’s to say which of these is typical? For me, it’s the pattern that’s typical, not the individual days.
What, then, would be a perfect writing day?
I’ve had them. Quite a few of them.
Up about eight, and straight out for a run. I say “run”. By this I mean jog slowly, looking red in the face and as if I’m about to collapse, ending up exhausted but incredibly pleased that I’ve managed the five-mile circuit along the river and back through the university campus and made it all the way home before collapsing in a sweaty heap.
Bizarrely, this strange activity has benefits which last the rest of the day. It’s time spent just with my thoughts, time when my brain starts to work on where I left my story, and where it needs to head today. By the time I get home there will be a rush for a notebook so I can jot down all the story revelations that have come to me while I was out. And then a shower, definitely a shower.
Breakfast, catching up with Facebook, Twitter and other online networks, and then it’s down to some serious writing.
In a good three hour morning session, I’d hope for a minimum of 1500 words, and usually far more. Such a session breaks down into a series of fragments, punctuated by cups of tea, playing Scrabble online, checking email, more catching up on Facebook and Twitter, and so on. For some writers this digital buzz is a terrible distraction, and it can be for me on a bad day. But generally, I like it: it cuts through the isolation of the writing life, and prompts the brain.
Lunch with a newspaper is a luxury for me, and one that I indulge in less frequently now. Online content has largely replaced printed papers for me; it’s something I regret, but accept as one of the consequences of having a hectic life. But on this writing day, I’ll definitely have a newspaper to read while I have my lunch.
Another session in the afternoon should add at least a thousand words, but by now I’ll be happy to mix it up with other activities – editing, designing and producing ebooks, or all the activities that go into promoting them, for example. I like that mix. Sometimes it’s a bit much: if the writing hasn’t gone so well, then all the other jobs seem like chores eating away at my time; if the writing has flowed, though – and remember, this is a perfect writing day – I love to be working on a variety of things. At the end of a good day, I like to look back and realise that I’ve done this, and this and this, rather than “merely” a couple of thousand words.
And then, when I’ve finally finished, I’ll get that call from my agent to tell me we’ve had an offer for yet another movie deal. I did say it was a perfect day, didn’t I?