I have a treat for you today, silence from me while I hand over to you my blog for Chris to say a few words and they are very apt for the World’s current situation. Enjoy!
People often ask me how I structure my day when I’m writing at home. Do I just sit around watching YouTube videos? Do I procrastinate with useful but non-essential chores (like optimising the arrangement of my fridge contents)? How many naps do I take? Do I get lonely?
These are questions that many more of us will be forced to consider during the Coronavirus pandemic. But, for most authors, home working and social distancing are already part of the routine. Here’s my approach to it.
The first thing I make sure I do is set an alarm. That way, there’s a defined start point to the day – crucial when you don’t have children forcing you to get up or a boss expecting you to join a Skype meeting at 9am. Then I eat a good breakfast – usually porridge or granola, with coffee – to give me some energy to get going. I can’t function without food or caffeine, basically.
I try to make a start on work while I’m eating my breakfast, so I don’t distract myself with news or social media early on. I’ll have the laptop out at the table and will usually read the last chapter I wrote, editing lightly as I go. This helps me to get my head into the story and my brain into writing mode. When I’ve finished breakfast, I’ll take the laptop to the sofa and begin writing new material.
Usually, I’ll have an idea of what I’m going to write, because I’ve geekily produced a spreadsheet containing all the chapters and scenes in the plot (this takes a month or so before I begin to write the book). If things go well, I can sometimes have five hundred words done by 10am. At this point, I’ll take a break and jump in the shower or do a chore or two around the flat, maybe check emails and social media (with a time limit to stop me going down a Twitter rabbit hole…).
I often head out after this, taking my laptop to a café for a change of scene and a decent coffee. I’ll carry my noise-cancelling headphones with me and play some drum and bass while I write to help me focus. But being in a place like a café is also a great way to stop procrastinating – I deliberately keep off the Wi-Fi so all I can do is write. Normally I stay for an hour, or until the staff begin staring with open hostility, then head home. If I’m lucky, I’ll have a thousand words in the bag by this point. If I’m struggling just to get a hundred words down, I’ll at least try to plan what I want to write in more detail, setting out bullet points for a scene.
After lunch, I tend to take a longer break and do some sport or have a nap. I love climbing and regularly head to the local wall in south-east London for an hour or two of bouldering. My other escape is a run to the nearby park, where I’ve taken to throwing logs around in a kind of a woodsman workout, or skipping (in case you were wondering, yes, skipping is cool).
Then I’ll get back to work once I’m home with some more coffee on the go. Writing speed isn’t always predictable – I’ve had times where I’ve written a thousand words in an hour, and other occasions where I’ve needed an hour just to research one tiny point (like what the inside of a London mortuary looks like) so that the details are authentic. But, overall, my daily target is one thousand words and I feel pleased whenever I hit it. I’ve even recently started putting a weekly chart on the wall to add up the word count, which is a good visual way of seeing progress on a book and boosting my motivation.
When I’m writing at home all day, I try to plan something social for the evening, so that I get out of the house again and see friends. As I write in mid-March 2020, this is going to be more challenging with Coronavirus. But phone or video calls are a good substitute. Face to face contact is the best, of course, but being mindful of ‘social distancing’, a phone call – maybe while walking outside – will at least keep me in touch with other human beings.
I always try to build some wind-down time into the end of the day. Whether it’s reading, watching an episode of a series, or just messing around on YouTube, having something where I don’t need to use my brain quite so much is a treat.
Overall, a productive day for me has both structure and variety. I find that a bit of planning can help avoid those time-warping procrastination traps, which we’ll all face in the coming months. Before long, the Coronavirus pandemic will be over and life will gradually return to normal for most people. But self-isolating, social distancing and home working will continue to be part of my routine!
I love this! I did have a smile on face reading this, woodsman workout!
Thank you Chris for sharing with us your day!
Until next time xxx