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My perfect day is what I do now. Being without a steady job frees up your time, though I argue it’s under the duress of capitalism. It is interesting to see how people spend their days, especially other writers.
Joan Didion (RIP) said this to the Paris Review in 1968:
I need an hour alone before dinner, with a drink, to go over what I’ve done that day. I can’t do it late in the afternoon because I’m too close to it. Also, the drink helps. It removes me from the pages. So I spend this hour taking things out and putting other things in. Then I start the next day by redoing all of what I did the day before, following these evening notes. When I’m really working I don’t like to go out or have anybody to dinner, because then I lose the hour. If I don’t have the hour, and start the next day with just some bad pages and nowhere to go, I’m in low spirits. Another thing I need to do, when I’m near the end of the book, is sleep in the same room with it. That’s one reason I go home to Sacramento to finish things. Somehow the book doesn’t leave you when you’re asleep right next to it. In Sacramento nobody cares if I appear or not. I can just get up and start typing.The Art of Fiction, no. 71
For some reason, the line about going home to Sacramento stuck out to me more than the process. I honestly think I did some of my best writing in California too.
Henry Miller’s daily schedule amused me greatly.
MORNINGS: If groggy, type notes and allocate, as stimulus. If in fine fettle, write. AFTERNOONS: Work of section in hand, following plan of section scrupulously. No intrusions, no diversions. Write to finish one section at a time, for good and all. EVENINGS: See friends. Read in cafés. Explore unfamiliar sections — on foot if wet, on bicycle if dry. Write, if in mood, but only on Minor program. Paint if empty or tired. Make Notes. Make Charts, Plans. Make corrections of MS. Note: Allow sufficient time during daylight to make an occasional visit to museums or an occasional sketch or an occasional bike ride. Sketch in cafés and trains and streets. Cut the movies! Library for references once a week.
Maya Angelou had some food for thought in 1990 about her writing process as she told the Paris Review then.
I write in the morning and then go home about midday and take a shower, because writing, as you know, is very hard work, so you have to do a double ablution. Then I go out and shop — I’m a serious cook — and pretend to be normal. I play sane — Good morning! Fine, thank you. And you? And I go home. I prepare dinner for myself and if I have houseguests, I do the candles and the pretty music and all that. Then after all the dishes are moved away I read what I wrote that morning. And more often than not if I’ve done nine pages I may be able to save two and a half or three. That’s the cruelest time you know, to really admit that it doesn’t work. And to blue pencil it. When I finish maybe fifty pages and read them — fifty acceptable pages — it’s not too bad.The Art of Fiction, no. 119
It amuses me that Ms. Maya edited in the evening. I’ve found that editing on the same day is the worst feeling. I like to let these things sit and percolate for a few days or weeks before I even think of scooting in an Oxford comma.
My perfect day is hard to put into words because I know it can’t stay this way for much longer, yet it’s perfect for me to be creative.
- Wake up around 6 am to walk my dog, Jack.
- Eat a light breakfast with an energy drink.
- Exercise via Ring Fit Adventure. Gamifying exercise was the game-changer (ha!) for me. Something about leveling up while technically being good for me – going as far back as Wii Fit – was the catalyst for me to make it a regular thing in my life.
- Examine my planner to see what I’m supposed to do today. Assess what I can logically do for the day, paying close attention to deadlines.
- Do the things I can do based on what’s in my planner or on my mental to-do list.
- Have lunch.
- Take a post-lunch nap.
- Drink loads of water after the nap.
- Jump back into the to-do list.
- Work until dinner.
- Walk Jack.
- Find a good place to stop for the day and wind down.
It’ll be fun to reread this in a year or ten and see how much I’ve changed.