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I’m writing this from the Isle of Skye.
This is not where I normally write. Yet every now and again, I’m able to go on retreats, where writing becomes the main focus, along with eating and exploring. I usually write about 2-3x as many words as I do at home, when I’m managing more distractions: the part-time day job, chores, the lure of Netflix.
When I’m at home, I have my various tricks and rituals to prepare to write. Monday, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays are my main writing days, unless I have a school visit. On Thursdays and Fridays, I lecture part-time at Napier Uni, and I *try* to take Sundays off. For a time, I took Sundays off social media and the internet too, to recharge from the noise, and I’m going to start doing that again.
In a normal writing day, I always set my alarm ambitiously early, then press snooze every ten minutes an embarrassing number of times before I finally stumble out of bed and make myself some coffee. My cats mewl at me and demand to drink from the tap. I work best in the mornings, so I sit down at my desk at around nine or half nine (or, let’s be honest, ten if I really abused that snooze button). I’m trying to adhere to the Pomodoro technique, where I work for about 20 minutes very intently then take a 5-10 minute break, then keep going. One twenty minute session I might do a bit of admin, such as sending off invoices, writing blog posts like this, or, joy of joys, updating my tax spreadsheet. Most of the time, I try to write or edit. I aim for a certain number of words per day (1000 is ideal), with plenty of breaks to do chores, eat, do some exercise, or cuddle cats. When I’m endlessly surfing social media instead of doing anything book related, I tend to clock off and either surf guilt-free, or go read or start dinner. I can’t seem to work that well in the evenings anymore (she says, writing this at 7 pm with a Skype school visit at 10 pm), so I usually chill out watching TV and reading until bed time. Plenty of times, none of this goes to plan, but this is what I aim for.
My writing schedules were not always like this. For years, I went to Starbucks after my day job and wrote from 5 to 6.30 pm almost every day. Sometimes I wrote at home, sitting on my couch with a rickety TV tray (this is how I wrote all of Pantomime) before I got a desk and pressed it in front of the fireplace in my living room, since that was the only place for it in my one bedroom flat (I wrote False Hearts and Masquerade there). I’m also a frequent café worker for a change of pace or if I’m having trouble concentrating at home. I had my favourite haunts in Aberdeen, and now I’m discovering new coffee shops in my neighbourhood in Edinburgh.
I’ve had my own office for less than a month, and there is definitely something about having a room of one’s own. Working part-time means I’m also more productive on the other days of the week, and I finally feel like I have a nice work-life balance. After a slump when routine went out the window when I moved from Aberdeen to Edinburgh and started a new job, I am ready to write all the words and do all the things.
I’m always fascinated to hear other writers’ schedules, as no two writers work the same. If you write, what’s your routine? Come and tell me on Twitter.
False Hearts is out in paperback tomorrow.