Saturday 26 June 2021

A Day in the Life

The Sunday Times magazine has a regular article with the same title. I read it avidly as I’m always interested in people’s routines. The most lucrative piece of wring I’ve ever done was for NAWE: I had to write about a typical day as a PhD student. The article had to be under 1,000 words and I was paid £100 for it,

So, I’m inviting a few writing friends to contribute a description of their routine. 

I’m kicking off with mine and describing a typical weekday.

The alarm goes off at 6.30 a.m. I listen to the news, the weather and the traffic report then make my way to the kitchen where I brew a cup of Earl Grey tea. This I take back to bed and read while I drink it.

I read between fifty and a hundred books a year and review them all. Before lockdown this included library books. Now its’s mostly book that are on my Kindle and a few hard copies I’ve bought. How do I choose them? Amazon itself recommends some, others I see on Twitter, Facebook or Linked in.  I usually buy books that my writing friends have written as long as they’re in one of the genres that I’d enjoy. I also follow up some recommendations in the various magazines I read. Occasionally there will be a recommendation for a book from a talk or pod cast.

Breakfast is muesli or wholemeal toast with Marmite, accompanied by orange juice and coffee.  I have a piece of fruit with every meal – expect at the weekend when there is sometime some indulgence in dessert and / or cake.

After breakfast I’ll have a quick look at Twitter, Facebook or Linked in, then it’s down to work. Generally I punctuate my day with a bit of social media – before I start work, after my coffee break, after lunch, after my afternoon tea break and after supper.

I work for two hours to start with. If I’ve finished reading a book I’ll start off with writing a review for it. I alternate between projects, spending about two thirds of my time on my fictional work in progress and one third on a non-fiction project. I also write articles for Talking About My  Generation. And there are blog posts like this.  I maintain several blogs. At the end of the month I write a couple of newsletters. If I’m in editing mode on my work in progress, after each edit I’ll write a short story, often inspired by something from one of the writing prompts books I’ve put together.

Now its’s time for another cup of Earl Grey tea. Whilst I drink it I usually read a magazine, often one to do with writing, but there are others as well including the Times Higher Education. About once a fortnight I’ll have a go a themed piece of writing, flagged up in my writing opportunities web site Fair Submissions.  I’m actually having more success in getting published and placed in competitions with these pieces.  I suppose this is a form of writing for the market. If I run out of reading material I have videos and pod casts saved up.

After the break, I’ll switch project.

The aim is to write for three hours a day or write 2000 words. If I’ve achieved neither by the end of the morning, I’ll carry on after lunch or even into the evening if need be. I don’t always manage it but I don’t beat myself up about it if I don’t.  

Lunch is normally about 12.30 and we try to eat our main meal at lunchtime. It’s better for the digestion. We take turns in cooking.

Straight after lunch and my dip into social media, I’ll find my CaféLit   story for the day. We’re now using Duosuma for submissions and it is making life easier. We don’t charge but we do have a tip jar. We have to pay a small amount for each submission that comes in. Not everyone pays every time but enough people give us a tip now and then that we more than cover our chares. Thank you to anyone reading this who has given us a tip. I read all the stories that have been submitted on the day or the day before.  I pick the best one and reject any that are unsuitable.  If a story is suitable but can’t be published that day it goes into the archive. If none have been submitted, I’ll use the oldest one in the archive. We keep about thirty in hand. If after I’ve made my selection we have more than thirty in the archive, I’ll reject  the oldest.

Next up is tackling the emails.  I get about 200 a day. I spend about half an hour indulging myself in the fun ones and responding to invites, then it’s hit the delete button and only attend to the important ones. This includes book orders, returned edits, queries from writers and publishers, acceptances and rejections, various domestic ones and bills than need paying.   On a good day I’ll be finished by 2.30. On a bad day I don’t finish and it hangs over for the next day.

Then it’s time for some physical activity: a potter in the garden,  some baking, a walk or a trip to the gym.  I’ve taken up Tai Chi which I very much enjoy. Or I might practise my singing. It’s often a mixture of all of these things.

Back at my desk I’ll look at my own submission list and make a new submission. I try to make one a day.

Then I’ll do anything that must be done for the next day: preparation for workshop, U3A meetings etc. I then deal with snailmail post or make online purchases. If it still isn’t 4 p.m., I’ll start on my publishing business. This includes selecting from submissions, editing, sending out contracts, marketing, book design and postproduction routines.   

At around 4 p.m. I take a tea break. Builder’s tea this time. Recently I’ve taken to watching episodes of  A Place in the Sun during my tea break. During lockdown I’ve missed the sun and the sea.  Always as I watch these programmes I ask myself if I owned one of the properties featured where would I do my writing and what would be my routine there?

Supper is generally about 6.30 p.m. My husband is half German so we have a German Abendessen: cold meats, cheeses, nice bread and some salad.  

I’ll carry on working in the evening until just after 9 p.m. Then we’ll watch TV for a couple of hours. It’s a bit of a busman’s holiday as I’m constantly watching how the plot works and all too often I know way before the end how it will all resolve. We may indulge as we watch in chocolate, beer or wine but sometimes it’s just fruit tea.  

I’m in bed at just after 11 p.m. I read for another twenty minutes or so.

Not every day follows exactly this pattern. It is often disrupted by attendance of U3A groups,   interesting visits and events and meetings or medical or hairdresser appointments. Sometimes I run meetings and workshops myself. So, on those days two things remain important: the three hours / 2000 words and the 200 emails.          

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay                

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