A Day In The Life of Local Author Member Katherine Furman:
My "alarm" is my dog, who usually gets me up around 8. I try to play possum in the hope that she'll go back to sleep, but it never works. So I get up, feed her, make coffee, and hang out on the couch either reading, doing a crossword, or knitting when I'm feeling good. When I'm feeling bad, I scroll through junk on my phone, which predictably makes me feel worse.
I start work around 9 or 9:30 and keep fairly regular office hours. I'm an editor, project manager, and ghostwriter for illustrated, adult trade nonfiction—coffee table books, light reference, prescriptive self-help, that sort of thing. I have my own small company now, but I worked in-house at publishing companies for many years, and I treat my work days the same way now as I did then: I work pretty much straight through until 5 or 6, taking about an hour break to eat lunch with my husband and walk the dog.
When I'm writing for work, I usually start that part of my day around 2. I know some writers like to wake up early and get straight into it, but I am not that person. I take care of administrative and left-brain stuff for the first half of the day, then I dawdle for a while, avoiding getting down to it. I envy those compulsive writers who have no trouble digging in, but I'm not that person either. To loosely quote a professor I once knew who was writing an academic book on religion, "I hate writing, but I love having written." That sums it up pretty perfectly, I think. I usually open the manuscript I'm working on, scroll through it for a minute, feel utterly overwhelmed, and click away to do something else. Then I go back to the document a couple of times until I sort of suddenly just start typing before I think about it too much. I sort of have to sneak up on myself.
And that's for my commissioned writing! I am also working on my first novel (meaning the first novel I really intend to finish and have published, but probably the third or fourth novel I've started), and when it comes to that, I start even later and have to be even slyer. Once I finish work for the day, if I have any juice left at all—and, admittedly, sometimes I don't—I'll walk the dog to shake off the work day, then I'll open the manuscript, panic, and get a snack. I'll go back and reread the last thing I wrote, then my brain will feel like it's going to melt, so I'll fill an online shopping cart with things I decide not to buy (mostly), and then maybe I'll write a sentence before I jump up to sweep the kitchen and get a glass of water. After all my shenanigans, if I'm lucky, I'll go back to my desk and start writing. If I get rolling, I'll hold myself there for as long as I can, which is anywhere from one hour to several. I try to always get at least 500 words out, but I'll settle for 300 on a bad day and sometimes get more than 1,000 on a good one. (I know word counts don't really matter, but they do for my day job, so I can't help but think in terms of them.) After I'm done writing, sometimes I feel great! Triumphant, smart, accomplished, the person I want to be. Other times I feel drained and sick of my own head.
It's funny, because I love to think about what I'm writing, and when I am busy doing something else, I can't wait until I get back to my desk. But then when actually I sit down to hammer out the words, I have to beat back anxiety and self-loathing and the voice that keeps asking why I bother to do it at all. When my husband asks me how the novel is going, sometimes I get instantly angry and embarrassed and refuse to talk about it, and other times I can't stop talking about it, and I feel a rush of excitement about the whole thing. If he brings it up to other people, I fumble through a deranged version of what I'm working on in such a meandering way that even I can barely follow what I'm saying. I find it easiest to talk to my mom about my writing, because of the million reasons why she's wonderful and brilliant and infinitely easy to talk to, but even with her, I can only bring it up now and then.
All the bad aspects of my writing habits have massively intensified with COVID. Shocking, I know. I feel like I should be taking all the time I would have once used to see people and generally be out in the world doing things and use it to write. Nevermind the thrum of world turmoil, nevermind worrying for my at-risk family members, nevermind the stress of self-isolating for almost a year and only ever getting to see the people I love for short amounts of time, outside, at a distance, with most of our facial expressions literally masked and an undercurrent of panic that we might all end up hurting each other if we so much as hug. Nevermind all of it! Why am I not being more productive? Why am I not using this time as a gift? Why am I spending time browbeating myself when I should be WRITING!
I would tell anyone else in the world to cut themselves a little slack. Be honest with yourself but be easy with yourself as well. I try to implement that, but it feels false. My mean old guts say I should not be easy with myself. I need to bear down and do the hard work if I want to call myself a writer. And so it goes.