A PEEK BEHIND THE CURTAIN ... Ask the Writer!

Folks who aren’t writers (and even some who are) love to ask about the writing life—writers are so mysterious! Do we really sit in wee cabins in the woods with a one-eyed cat named Victor Hugo and sip coffee and whisky all day whilst writing the next Great Award-Winning Novel?

No. No, we don’t. Well, maybe some of us do. Not me. I wish. I have too many kids for that. And both of my cats have both of their eyes and said felines are VERY NEEDY CREATURES indeed.

Rosie Cotton (also known as Rosie Chicken because she loves chicken), 7 months, and Nuit the Naughty, 6.5 years.

Rosie Cotton (also known as Rosie Chicken because she loves chicken), 7 months, and Nuit the Naughty, 6.5 years.

One question I get asked quite a bit: What does your writing schedule look like? “Civilians” ask this question because they’re genuinely curious if writing is a real job or if it’s just an excuse to collect cozy pajama sets; other writers ask this question because they’re desperate to find a schedule that works better for them than the one they’re on now. (We writers are always looking for better methods and practices. It’s part of the madness.)

I often cringe at this question because, unlike Stephen King who writes every single day, seven days a week, at the same time, in the same place, so he can crank out his required 2000+ words, my writing schedule is all over the place. SURE, I’d love to have a set schedule. In fact, my ideal schedule would be like Dr. Diana Gabaldon’s (yup, she’s a doctor—PhD in behavioral ecology!). She writes from, like, 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. every night, toiling away while the rest of the world sleeps. I LOVE THIS. I so wish I could make this happen, because I’m way better at night than I am in the morning.

But until my kids are out of the house, I’m relegated to hours that will still enable me to get up with them in the morning. It’s AMAZING how teenagers cannot hear their alarms, even though everyone else in the neighborhood can.

So when you get the teenagers up, start writing then! Better yet, get up two hours before them, with the sun, and try morning writing, Jenn! It’s super effective.

I did. And it was. Sort of. And then I was just too tired and the words felt forced and hollow. Maybe it was my brain’s way of telling me I should still be asleep? Sleep is basically my favorite thing. Other than going to the movies. And brownies. And Superman.

I keep promising myself I will:

1. Get up.

2. Eat a nutritious breakfast.

3. Exercise.

4. Shower.

5. Write and be wonderful until I hit that Magical Word Count.

6. Dance with the neighborhood fauna in celebration of the day’s success.

This is the reality:

1. Get up, likely exhausted from sleeping weird because Nuit the Naughty Tuxedo Cat likes to sleep against my calves so my hips are jacked and my feet are asleep from lack of movement.

2. Get the kids up.

3. Put toast in the toaster.

4. Go back upstairs at least two more times because the teenagers won’t get UP and their alarms are screaming.

5. Deal with some on-fire email.

6. Peel Rosie Cotton (the baby tuxedo cat) off the curtains. Repeat as necessary.

7. Attempt to butter cold toast.

8. Chase teenage children out the door, even if they’re whining about the oppression of having to learn algebra.

9. Sneer at the wad of exercise clothes because it’s now almost 10 a.m. and nothing has been accomplished.

10. Answer a call from the school because someone is sick. Or someone’s got a doctor’s/dental appointment.

11. Realize I haven’t had coffee yet.

12. Discover I am out of coffee.

13. Curl into the fetal position on the kitchen floor until someone discovers me and/or buys more coffee.

14. Check Facebook to see everyone else’s VERY PRODUCTIVE DAY or WONDERFUL AMAZING NINE-FIGURE BOOK DEAL or GLORIOUS AWESOME VACATION. Feel like crap.

15. Stare at blinking cursor until a teenager arrives home, likely in need of deodorant, and asks what’s for dinner.

You think I’m kidding. Don’t you.

A special note to fellow writer parents: Yeah, if you can’t be one of those 1000+ words/day writers, it’s okay. If you’re working a job AND working at home to take care of a family, it’s okay. If your workday is ALL about taking care of your family and there’s not a lot of time to write, it’s okay. DO WHAT YOU CAN. Always try to move forward.

Stephen King and Dwayne Johnson get so bloody much done in a day because they have wives, nannies, housekeepers, personal assistants, accountants, drivers, and chefs. We have us. Which makes us Super Awesome because we’re doing the work of at least seven other people.

So to circle back and answer the original question? No. I don’t have a set writing schedule. I don’t even write every single day. I just pray to the Word Gods that I find a spare few hours when no one needs anything, when the freelance work is managed, when the cats have plenty of cardboard boxes and catnip to keep themselves occupied, and then I write like there’s a fire under my butt. Because usually there is.

What about you, fellow writers? What’s YOUR daily schedule like? Do you have family or fur babies that demand your undivided attention? When you get to your job, are there 1001 interruptions that make you want to shoot everyone with a paintball gun as soon as they cross the threshold of your workspace?

Remember to take care of yourself. I’m gonna go make some brownies.

xo