My typical writing day truly is not typical. My work patterns change every day to meet my most pressing writing-related needs, my deadlines, my inspiration, my other daily life priorities, and my mood. Each day, I keep a to-do list, refer back to it constantly, and cross items off as I accomplish them. I love lists!
Here are some general timeframes for my work:
I walk my youngest daughter to school and then spend time in the morning writing with my decaf skim cappuccino nearby. I find that my mind is most open and focused early in the day:
-Mornings are generally when I start new drafts.
-I brainstorm ideas gathered while reading about an obscure fact, observing life on my New York City neighborhood walks, or just letting my mind wander.
-I research to confirm story details.
-I revise and polish manuscripts.
I usually pick up my daughter from school at 3, and the afternoon goes by quickly. I try to be efficient:
-I love my critique partners and spend lots of time reviewing their manuscripts.
- I often work on an upcoming blog post for my blog or for a guest post.
-I try to accomplish marketing tasks in the afternoons. I tend to break down large marketing projects into manageable bites and attempt to complete one task each day.
-I enjoy taking KidLit classes and participating in challenges and contests. I do the bulk of my work in these areas in the afternoons.
Evening time is usually reserved for my family, but I sometimes sneak in work time.
-I might take a quick look at a draft or maybe even read one to my family for feedback.
-I spend lots of time reading picture books and chapter books, looking for mentor texts to help me as I draft my stories, and staying current in my writing genres. Evenings can be a great time to wind down with a fabulous book.
-I also take time in the evenings to catch up on my social media and emails.
A WORD ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA:
I treat writing as my full-time job, along with volunteering in our community. I work at home, and I try not to allow too many outside distractions. I do tend to reply to email and social media throughout the day so it doesn’t become too overwhelming. I love being a member of many KidLit social media groups (including #Epic18!), and with membership comes the responsibility to participate. So I take writing breaks often to keep up. Connecting with the KidLit community is a true joy and I spend time doing just that!
Thanks for reading about my typical writing day and good luck with all your creative projects!
SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH
by Melissa Stoller, illustrated by Sandie Sonke
Clear Fork Publishing, August 2018
Available for pre-order soon!
"What do you do all day?"
A few years back, I quit my day job to become a "working writer." That means (to me, anyway) that I'm trying to make a living by writing. Some people, however, harbor certain misconceptions about my routine.
"What's your schedule? Do you just write an hour in the morning?"
No, no, no, I don't just sit in my frilly blouse overlooking the scenery and write deathless prose for just one hour in the morning. For most of my waking hours and some of my sleeping hours, I'm writing, thinking about writing, or doing work related to writing. It's my job! It's a job I love, but it's full-time work.
So, what's a typical day? There are three main types.
On these days, I often start on projects that are due in a few months. This is also time to catch up on the less pressured (but equally necessary) aspects of the writing business.
I'm still experimenting with the best order of action for these days: Start writing while still half-asleep? Do 15 minutes on social media before writing? How many breaks for exercise? Short breaks or long ones? But I never lack for things to do. Here's my list:
Typical? I guess my typical writing day is working all day at some aspect of writing. Although occasionally I meet another writer for a "work date" somewhere with good internet service, usually I work at home. It's lucky that I have a dog that needs walking, and a post office box that needs checking, because otherwise I might not feel a strong need to get dressed.
Which, may I add, is one of the perks of being a writer.
Christy Mihaly – HEY, HEY, HAY! (A Tale of Bales and the Machines that Make Them) by Christy Mihaly and illustrated by Joe Cepeda
Holiday House, August 14, 2018. Available for Pre-order now.
(Hint: Not like this.)
My typical writing day looks a lot like feeding dogs, feeding kids, walking dogs, driving for hours, sitting at a desk, driving for more hours, and scrolling through Facebook. And then feeding dogs and kids again.
But here's what I WANT my typical writing day to look like:
I want to wake up at 4:30 a.m. to find a pot a pot of freshly brewed coffee sitting on the counter and a blue mug beside it pre-sprinkled with cinnamon. I want the dogs to be potty trained. I want to carry my blue mug, smelling of cinnamon-laced coffee, to an office in an attic where a comfortable chair awaits, where my laptop opens directly to the document I last worked on, where one window looks out onto the ocean gleaming in the early morning sun.
Never mind that I live three hours inland. And don't have an attic.
My ideal writing day continues: I work without interruption (except for gazing thoughtfully out at the gulls, who are screaming, but not in a scary way) until I feel the faint stirrings of hunger, and then I retreat to the kitchen where a bowl of soup steams on the counter. (I like to eat soup for breakfast.) I eat standing up, doing some more thoughtful gazing, and no one says a word to me because although the coffee and soup are (magically?) prepared without any effort on my part, the house around me is empty.
After I eat, I pour more coffee and head back to my attic and complete a full 23 pages of stellar, nearly error-free writing that lots of people will want to read.
When my work day is done, I pour a well-deserved glass of wine and read a whole book. I drift off to sleep, secure in the knowledge that I am super good at what I do, that my life is exactly right, that it will continue as such until the day I die painlessly in my sleep.
I know, I know. If this really were my writing day, I'd be bored. I'd invest in a flat screen television. I'd get some parrots.
In reality, I do most of my writing in the car waiting to pick up kids and ferry them to their next station. I write while perched on a bench at the karate dojo while my youngest son learns how to beat the crap out of potential attackers. I write, yes, at 4:30 in the morning, but coffee doesn't magically appear and my quiet hours don't last long—there are children to greet and care for, animals that rely on me, a husband forever losing his phone.
And I write at my office. I work as an editor for a children's nonfiction book publisher, and I write a lot during the work day. I write press releases, e-newsletters, blog posts, sidebars, emails to authors and industry experts, and loads of other stuff. And while I love my job, this isn't exactly the kind of writing that feeds my soul.
That's the kind of writing I do in the cracks between the slabs that serve as the foundation of my days. The notes I jot down on receipts. The line I manage to hold in my head while driving home from school and listening to three kids tell me about their days. That character who has such an attitude, she won't back down even as I dump marketing initiatives and editorial calendars on her head. There is no typical day of this real writing, because it just happens whenever it can, wherever it can find the space.
Maybe someday, when the boys are grown, I will have an attic office and large blocks of uninterrupted time. And probably all that time and headspace will prove to be the antithesis to my writing, and I'll get a whole bunch more dogs to create a whole new set of the obstacles that seem to allow me to thrive.
Until then... I find those cracks.
Thanks for stopping by,
WAVES by Andi Diehn, illustrated by Shululu
Nomad Press, March 2018
Coming off the Olympics, the life of a writer probably won’t sound very exciting. But actually, it’s much like figure skating with its subjective judging, slalom with obstacle after obstacle, and the half-pipe with its ups and downs. A typical day, though, sounds more like curling.
After I exercise, eat breakfast, and attain an acceptable level of presentability, I fill a mug with coffee and head to the study. I’m a list person, so I’ll give it to you straight.
Such is the life of a children’s writer. But, in reality, I get a handful of responses to submitted manuscripts each month. And… [DING! Yay? Someone is interested? WooHoo!] and, if I’m lucky, that long-awaited, much-hoped-for “someone loves it!” happens a few times a year.
And so it goes…all because there’s something about the thought of a child
pulling that “idea that became a real book” from the shelf,
and the ultimate win - the elusive “read it again.”
AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET, BEN FRANKLIN & NOAH WEBSTER’S SPELLING REVOLUTION by Beth Anderson, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley
Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Sept. 25, 2018
Now available for preorder.
With four kids, the youngest just turned two, I squeeze in writing when I can. Typically, this is during my toddler's nap time. If I attempt to write while she's awake, my day looks something like this:
**Sit down. Turn on computer. Get a cheese stick. Write five words. "You want me to open the cheese stick?" Open cheese stick. Delete two words. Get a "baba" because cheese sticks make toddlers thirsty. Finish revising paragraph. Get toddler off of chair. Set chair on its side so toddler doesn't climb on chair again. Keep one eye on toddler, one eye on writing. Successfully write a new ending to chapter. Toddler cries. Turn on television for toddler. Toddler hates television now. (WHY?) Close my laptop. Remember these years are fleeting. Cuddle toddler. Find cheese stick smooshed to the bottom of my pants when I stand up.**
I do get some writing done at night. Ideally, this happens right after the kids go to bed…if I don't fall asleep while I'm putting them to bed.
"Mommy is just going to lay down next to you for a minute and rest her eyes. I'm not going to fall asleep. I just need a little rest." *Wakes up four hours later.*
When that happens, and if I'm really ambitious, I'll write for a couple hours at midnight. Did you know that this was how R.J. Palacio's WONDER was written? There must be something special about those midnight hours. However, they usually make a zombie out of me the next day.
My most productive writing happens on Saturday. With two kids in sports, it's not every Saturday, but sometimes I will go to the quiet room at the library and accomplish a week's worth of work.
So maybe there isn't a "typical" for me. I do have a dream day of writing that involves a made-over shed Chip and Joanna Gaines' style with a beautiful garden (also a dream because dead things thrive here). Inside this shed are billowy curtains and a desk with a laptop. There is also a bookshelf stuffed with favorites and a cozy chair. I think I'm going to throw in a personal chef because why not? Okay, I'd probably just end up taking naps in my garden shed and missing my toddler who by then will no longer a toddler but a sixteen-year-old with a sassy mouth.
In the meantime, I write when I can snatch an hour or two from my day. And that is enough.
THE REMEMBER BALLOONS, illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
August 28, 2018