A “Productive” Writing Day

The blessing of a whole day to dedicate to the process is a rare gift for most writers who have families / jobs / schedules. I’ve managed to make my autumn schedule work so that I have a couple of them every week, and wow, does that feel good. (Not quite as good as that month last year in Mexico, but still… See prior posts for all the sordid details.)

But on these days, there’s often self-applied pressure on every minute, to eke from each one the most creative potential possible. Inevitably, this is not the most productive mindset from which to begin. Even with the house clean, the laundry done, the dishes put away, there are those distractions which wear clever disguises. The ones that are writing-related. The ones that call attention to themselves as being important, and useful to the process.

For example, here’s a sample day of mine from about a year ago, when I added to the list of distractions by actually jotting my activities down. Whether this was wise or not is unclear. I guess it’s gotten me writing today…

avery typewriter

How to Spend a Day as a Writer

Make coffee. Burn it. Add extra sugar. Drink it anyway.

Check emails for rejections. None today. Smile.

No acceptances or requests for more work either. Sigh.

Eat toast in front of computer. See to various little things.

Read work from writer friends who write with you daily. Get the word of the day prompt.

Read advice from other writers.

Research another agent/publisher. Decide you’re not the right fit.

Answer quiz from writer writing an article on writers as friends.

Write for ten minutes on yesterday and today’s words. Feel how rusty you are after not writing for two days. Input it into computer. Email it to friends. Decide it’s okay, add it to story you’re working on. Change the names of birds you mention in it to more exotic names.

Save it and see an old poem you need to edit. Rework it. Read it aloud but not aloud, because your daughter is awake and it has to do with sex. Decide it’s okay.

Research poetry calls for submission.

Work on promotion for lit fest you’re helping to organize. Check FB to see how many people like your new page.

Send a pre-query letter to a publisher in town that you’ve met once or twice.

Eat more toast. Crunchy foods wake up the brain.

Read from the book Reality Hunger, decide it’s all a messed up game. One that you like.

Turn up the heat. Put on another sweater.

Look at the pile of novellas you’re supposed to weed through as fiction editor of lit magazine. Put lit mag on top of pile to make it look better.

Eat apple and cheese for lunch. Take Advil for sore neck and shoulder.

Make tea. Send story from desktop computer to laptop via email.

Go into actual writing office which has taken hours to heat up because your house has no insulation and you heat each room as necessary.

Open email. Answer emails.

Start work on story which you started writing at least five years ago. Try not to think about that. Come at it with a fresh eye. Confidence. Insight.

Try not to look at all the books on your beautiful shelves. Look at them anyway, smugly staring out. Make sure you look at your own beautiful book, the one that has been published. Remember that someone just asked you to sell her five copies, as gifts for her friends. Smile.

Get back to story.

Get phone call from friend who’s been diagnosed with melanoma. Hear about her last two crazy weeks, and how the surgeon thinks it’s okay, that she can wait until mid-March to get another bit removed from her forehead. Try not to make her worry more, but you’re worried for her. Make a plan to see her next week.

Back to story, after checking Facebook, email.

Get email from student in tonight’s writing class that she’s sick, again, and you feel bad that she’ll miss the last one. You put out an email to other students suggesting other dates. Wait, refresh email send and receive until you get a new date, which means you’ll have a night off.

Go to library, borrow “Of Human Bondage” and a Pushcart Prize anthology.

You have a night on your own, an empty house. Eat salad and tortilla chips and chocolate for dinner, reading award-winning stories.

Research more markets. Read “Advice for Writers” posts on your writing friends’ Facebook pages. Learn who won the latest literary prize. Ignore the envy.

Reread another new story. Make minor edits.

Print out poem from morning edit. Read it aloud now that the house is empty. Make minor changes. Think about who you can send it to for feedback. You don’t hate it.

Get back to story from this afternoon after checking emails.

Read example of epistolary form from your friend’s collection of stories because this story of yours is also a letter story. Finish edit. Worry that it’s too simple, too predictable.

Try to increase the drama.

Pretend to be overjoyed to see your family when they come home from the movies. When they ask how your day was, smile and say wonderful.

Don’t look at your word counts or internal satisfaction meter. You spent the day writing. Or at least some of it. Well, at least those ten minutes.


Whew. It’s kind of amazing that stories, poems and essays ever get finished, never mind whole books.

Oh. I better go now. A new word’s just been sent to me, and I’ve gotta get writing.

See you in ten minutes?

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