I don’t have much of a routine. I go through periods where I work a great deal at all hours of the day whenever I am around a typewriter, and then I go through spells where I don’t do anything. I just sort of have lunch—all day. I never have been able to stick to a schedule. I work when there is something due or when I am really excited about a piece.” Nora Ephron
And yet, Ephron was so prolific, plays, movies, books, articles, essays and commentaries seemed to flow from her typewriter with little effort. Of course, the subject of her writing was largely other people and her humor depended on dialogue so maybe having lunch could be considered research. Also, I suspect she was being charming and self-deprecating. I am thinking about writing routines because it is becoming increasingly clear to me that mine has deteriorated as I sit in bed surrounded by dozing kitties, playing solitaire.
Once I worked fulltime as a high school English teacher and parented a young child sharing custody with his father. I commuted to the northern suburbs every day, spent an average of 9 hours at work and returned with a full folder of essays to read, grade, return and reread. I taught 5 classes, had a minimum of three preps and a wide variation of levels in each class. Yet, I wrote nearly every day, rising at 5am to work until it was time to leave for work at 6’45.
After three years of this schedule I produced a novel that was published and reviewed very favorably. I have no idea how I did such a thing.
I was younger, of course. I was also desperate to prove myself after marriage; motherhood and moving had reduced me to identifying myself as a housewife who once was a writer. But it has always been easier for me to write under pressure. My first novel was written at the end of a counter while I waited for a food order to be filled by a tyrannical cook. While I waited, I wrote in a journal I kept in my apron.
My second novel was written while attending an MFA Program, teaching nearly full-time and taking very long train rides to my classes in Brooklyn. I wrote most of that book on the F train trying to avoid making eye contact with the various psychos who were always sure you were writing about them.
Now? My son is in college, my husband is in Canada and I work for myself. I have a laptop and no excuses but I am having a difficult time turning off the videos of babies giggling and kittens hugging each other. One could blame Facebook or the Internet but I know better. I am disarmed by support, by situations that encourage my happiness and feed my creativity. My best scenarios include struggle and oppression, terrible jobs, cruel bosses, mean partners, loneliness and fear not purring felines and writing retreats with gourmet meals.
However, I am working on this and have no intention of returning to a routine marked by exhaustion, fighting for the time to finish a sentence. I will start by setting a minimum daily writing time, say two hours. I will also start my diet and stop watching reality television. Tomorrow.