Please give a warm welcome to author, Susanna Kearsley!
A Writer’s Day
Sometimes when I read the memoirs of another writer, I can’t help but envy their routines. Here, for example, is Canadian historical novelist Thomas H. Raddall, in his memoir In My Time, recounting from his journal how he spent his days while writing one of my favourite of his novels—Pride’s Fancy—in the mid-1940s:
“This is the pattern of my life these winter days,” he writes. “I wake at 5 a.m. or more rarely 6, and lie in bed till 7 thinking of my novel and other matters. Then I get up, shake the coal furnace, light the oil stove in my den, and make my breakfast. I am at my desk by the time Edith and the kids get up.
I read over yesterday’s work, look up various bits of information, write a sentence or two, ponder a great deal, write a little more, ponder again, walk up and down, look at the snow outside for half an hour at a stretch… Towards 10 a.m. I emerge from my den, still in pyjamas and dressing gown, tend the furnace, wash and dress. At 11 a.m. I return to my desk and find that my mind now had gathered itself for a spurt. From then until noon I write perhaps 500 words, seldom more.
At noon the kids come home from school and Edith knocks sharply on my study door. I join them at dinner. Afterwards I listen to the news broadcast diffidently—none of the anxious wartime manner—and go upstairs and shave. If the day and the road are fit I put on my walking shoes, my old fur-collared blue pea-jacket, my old brown hat (a cap on windy days), gloves or mittens, and sally forth.”
Raddall fills his afternoons in wonderful ways, going for hikes, visiting friends, rambling around in the fresh air. He does this until between 4 and 5 p.m., when he returns home. Then:
“I read the newspapers and my mail, glance through magazines…which arrive at convenient intervals, I write my letters nearly always on the typewriter. Towards 6 Edith raps on my door and I emerge for supper. After supper I tend the furnace, dump ashes, etc. About 7.30 I am back at my desk. The process of the morning is repeated. A few words, a long wait, more words, more waiting, studying, smoking, fiddling with things about my desk, taking down my rifle from the rack and sighting it on something, walking up and down the shabby carpet. Then the gathered mind and the spurt, usually between 10.30 and 11.30 or midnight. I emerge, stoke the furnace for the night, sometimes eat a few crackers and a glass of milk, sometimes mix a nightcap if I have some rum or gin. Then to my bedroom, where I lie reading for an hour or so before turning off the light and opening the window.”t
Now THAT, I maintain, is a DAY. What a glorious daily routine for a writer (and hatsoff to Edith for keeping such good track of just when to rap on the door).
Let’s imagine what that description would be, shall we, if it were written by me?
“This is the pattern of my life these late spring days. I wake at 6 a.m. or more rarely 6.05, and hit the “sleep” button on my alarm clock to steal 10 more minutes. Then I get up, shake the kids awake, make them breakfast, pack lunches and snacks and their backpacks and find all the last-minute-things-they-are-missing, and drive them to school. I am at my desk by the time my husband leaves for work.
I read over my emails, answer the ones that need answering, sort out the order of work for the day, look up various bits of information, and write a sentence or two… Towards 10 a.m. I emerge from my writing room to refill my coffee cup. At 11 a.m. I find that my mind now has gathered itself for a writing spurt, which is Inconvenient, because I am nowhere near my desk—I am in the pick-up line at school, fetching my son to bring him home for lunch. From then until noon I am driving and hearing the news of his day, making lunch for us both, and returning him back to the schoolyard in time for the bell, seldom earlier.
At noon I take care of whatever the day’s errands happen to be (grocery shopping or shipping out parcels or doing the banking). Afterwards I retreat into my writing room, ignore the phone (unless it’s the school or my husband or parents or publishers), look up various bits of information, and write as much as I can until 2.30, when once again I sally forth to pick the children up from school.
I unpack lunch bags, fix snacks, read the latest on Twitter and my email, glance through the household bills…which arrive at convenient intervals, I pay them nearly always on the computer. Towards 6 my family poke their heads into my writing room (I have no door for them to rap on) and I emerge to make them supper. After supper I tend the leftovers, wash dishes, etc. About 7.30 I am back at my desk. The process of the morning is repeated. A few words, an interruption, more words, more interruptions, bedtime snacks, setting things out for the morning, trying to grab a few minutes watching the news with my husband, walking up and down the stairs getting the kids settled. Then the gathered mind, which is Inconvenient, because now I am half-asleep. If a writing spurt comes it is usually after everyone else has gone to bed. I sometimes make a cup of tea that goes cold in the cup while I’m at work. Then to my bedroom, where I lie playing Solitaire on my iPod for ten minutes or so before passing out cold.”
Not quite the same, really. Granted, I get lots of hugs through my day, which I love. And I do sometimes get to do much of this in my pyjamas, the same as Raddall does, but other than that—and the fact that we both seem to puddle about a great deal in between writing sentences—there’s not much overlap of our routines.
I suspect what I need is an Edith.
And maybe a door.
Sourcebooks is giving away one copy of The Firebird to one reader. (Open Internationally, please see terms & conditions at the bottom of the Rafflecopter. ) To enter, just leave a question or comment on this post from the author and then fill out the rafflecopter below. Good luck!