My work environment.
Now that I’m not working in an office, people are curious about what I do all day. I told a friend of mine that I was taking a couple of weeks off to go down to Florida. “Take off from what?” he retorted smartly.
But the truth of the matter is that I am busy. I’m writing a mystery called Murder in Ocean Hall.
The other question I get is, “What tools are you using?” There’s almost a fetishization of writing tools out there, as if creativity was a matter of getting the right notebook or pen set. Or, if you’re a geek, getting the right piece of software, one that will magically draw out your work of genius and put it on the page.
While I’ve certainly been guilty of this in the past, I’ve been tending toward simpler and simpler tools. And, with my time, I’ve really discovered the value of something I once despised – routine. Routine is like a healthy habit, one you can’t put down.
Here’s the schedule and the tools I’ve found to be best for me. It’s my Monday to Friday schedule. It’s one writer’s day:
7:30 AM to 8:30 AM
Curiously, I wake up at the same time I did when I had a real job. I haven’t sunk into dissipation nor do I stay up all night watching movies. I get ready for the day and check my email to see if I have anything important I need to respond to.
8:30 AM to Noon
This is my core writing time. I like writing at Caribou Coffee and I’m fortunate to live within a couple blocks of two different Caribous. Why don’t I write at home? It’s easier when I’m surrounded by other industrious people with laptops and away from the distractions of home.
I try to write 1000-2000 words every day. I write in Pages, because it’s not cluttered or distracting like Word. And it will run on my almost six year old PowerBook, the little Apple laptop that refuses to die. I keep my outline in TextEdit, an even simpler tool. I use Safari for research.
computer: 12″ G4 PowerBook
tools: Pages, Safari
drink/food: coffee (dark roast), cranberry scone
noise: quiet chatter, endless loop of Caribou Xmas music
Noon – 1:30 PM
After making stuff up from whole cloth, I’m usually hungry and mentally spent. I have lunch, watch the news for a little bit and check my email. I watch CNBC without really paying attention to it – it’s just sort of on.
tools: Safari, Gmail
drink/food: orange seltzer water, sandwich
1:30 – 2:00 PM
Nap! I admit it, I take a nap. Not every day but one of the perks of working from home is being able to do things you’d never do in the office.
2:00 – 5:00 PM
I try to work a full day, as if I had a real job. I’ve got a lot of things I can work on, such as:
- research and write a blog post
- make comments on other blogs
- read and answer my email
- read interesting blogs and web sites
- look for markets for my short stories and screenplays
- edit photos and upload them to Flickr
- submit pics for photo contests
- conduct research for my novel
- edit my novel
- brainstorm ideas for my book and update my outline
- explore new Web 2.0 technologies
- update my Twitter feed
- check out blogs and sites related to Web 2.0 in government
- signup for events in DC on Web 2.0, photography and other subjects of interest
- look for interesting places to work at in the future
- set up lunch or coffee with friends and colleagues
- read a book
tools: Safari, Gmail, Twitter, WordPress, Adobe Lightroom, Pages, TextEdit, Stickies
drink/food: chai tea, snack of some kind
noise: Pandora, Radio Paradise or none
I’m done! At this point, I’ll go for a walk, break out the Wii Fit or go to the gym. Or maybe just have a drink.
I try to leave things where I can pick them up the next day. For example, I’ll have an idea of what I’ll write tomorrow and be turning things over in my mind. I’m thinking about what happens next in my story.
This type of routine seems to keep my sane and productive, perhaps because it mimics the schedule I had when I worked. I’m not averse to flipping my days around, however, and write in the afternoon instead of the morning. Or even taking a day off, especially if the weather is nice. Or working on a Sunday and taking off a Monday. Doing so keeps things from getting stale and feeling like a chore. After all, the routine is for me. It’s not something I’m enslaved to, it’s for my benefit.
But why keep a schedule like you’re working in an office? It may be pretentious, but I’m going to quote Flaubert on this one:
Be regular and orderly in your life like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work.