When I was a teacher or a college administrator, no one ever really asked what my days were like but I’ve noticed lately that it’s a question I get a lot. It’s a question that I even discuss with other writers. The funny thing is that when I became a writer, I imagined that 40 hours a week would be so much time and that I could teach two days a week, write two days a week, and volunteer one day a week with no problem and no overlap. I figured out that wasn’t true in my very first week as a full-time writer. It’s an interesting job, filled with chase and quiet, creative spurts and languishing blocks, and, not surprisingly, lots of deadlines. Remember what it felt like to have a paper due in college and then play that out by 10 or 15 a month, and you get a little bit of the flavor. But here’s the thing, in college, your professors assign you those papers. As a professional writer, you find a lot of your work in the form of pitching ideas to editors– some of whom you have worked for before and some of whom will not even open an e-mail from you. Here’s a sampling of the work that I am doing this week:
* Writing articles. I have three articles due next week that I am hoping to get turned in by the end of day this Friday. I like to turn in my stuff early if possible; it allows me to avoid that college deadline looming feeling of terror. I’ve also been actively trying to write my pieces as soon as I wrap up the research and interviews on them because I’ve waited for months in the past on articles assigned really early and then I just want to beat my head against the wall over having to look up every single detail because I remember nothing. It is much easier on me if I write while it is all fresh on my mind. Two of the articles are ideas that I pitched and one is an assignment that an editor asked me to do.
* Book research and organization. I have a book proposal currently under consideration with a publisher so I am doing some research on it to keep abreast of the news surrounding the idea’s themes and doing some organizing with my notes to allow myself a smooth transition if the book is soon approved. You mean the book’s not already written? That’s right. For researched non-fiction where you will interview various people, you usually put together a book proposal that outlines the book and your vision for it chapter by chapter but you don’t have to go ahead and write it. I did, however, have to turn in sample chapters for this one so I have two chapters mostly written already which will be especially nice if the book does go to contract.
* Idea research. I have an idea for another non-fiction book that I am excited about– maybe a project for next year if the above book gets a contract this year, and so I have been doing a little dabbling into the research for it and just compiling notes in a file to tear into at a later date.
* Speaking Prep and Gigs. I am spending Wednesday afternoon helping to facilitate a Women of Color Leadership Forum in Charlotte. In addition, I am speaking at a breakfast at the Boys and Girls Club National Conference next week in San Francisco so I am drafting my remarks, making sure I have business cards printed, etc.
* Circle de Luz research and prep work. Circle de Luz, the scholarship giving network inspired by the Hijas experience, officially launches on Thursday and so there’s stuff to do with that, the IRS non-profit application, and preparation for our scholar selection next year.
* Story Pitches. I have a few article ideas on board to pitch tomorrow to some editors- likely new editors to me. I’ve written the queries. Now I just need to get them out to the “targeted markets.”
* San Francisco Planning. So I am in San Fran for a few days next week and hope to meet up with some women who were involved in the research for Hijas and I also want to check a little bit of the city out. Sometime this week, I am going to get that all organized so I don’t lose the precious few minutes I have on the ground there next week figuring it out.
* NYC event planning. I have a school and bookstore event at the end of May in the Bronx and so I’ll spend some time thinking through those events and working on the promotions for them.
* Odds and Ends. At some point each week, I balance my checkbook, track my business expenses and file my receipts, and record my business mileage along with other little keeping the business going tasks like that.
* Misbehave. And there is always something that derails me for at least a little bit each day or week. This week’s tempests are newspaper articles about the Panthers’ draft choices and web-surfing, including a long session on Nick Arrojo’s (from What Not to Wear) salon web-site. If I had the guts, I would totally book a haircut with him for while I am in NYC. I am working on getting up the guts. Look at me, I’m acting like I am asking him out on a date rather than to just do my hair. Too funny.
Other than that, I work out daily, keep the television completely off or I know I’ll get sucked in, fight with Lola the wonder dog about where she wants me to be in reference to her, endure Lola the wonder dog’s howling when the town’s fire sirens go off, look outside and wonder why I don’t just take my laptop outside to write, make a couple laps around the little cottage that could when I am feeling sleepy, answer BF and my sister’s 17 phone calls a day (only a slight exaggeration), remember to take something out of the fridge for dinner, get caught up on something surfing the internet and then wonder where the time went, think about doing yoga poses or stopping everything to read for thirty minutes, avoid doing my hair and putting on makeup and then realize that people are looking at me strangely out in the world because my curls have gone all cotton-ball headed on me without my noticing, and answer a lot of email.
I imagine that soon I really will add 30 minutes of reading outside to my daily work life and that I will run to the nearby Y a couple times a week for a Yoga or Pilates class. The one thing I know for sure about my work style is that I should not, under any circumstances, schedule anything to do in the morning except write and research. I am sharpest in the morning, and I hate when I give away that time. I want to become much more disciplined about saying no to morning things that could just as easily happen in the afternoon.
Got any questions or advice about the writing life or the working at home life? Holler. You’re the closest thing I have to water cooler talk!