What does the daily routine of a full-time writer look like? I’m going to say the norm is probably somewhere in between crazy-busy and lots-of-staring-into-space. What should the daily routine of a full-time writer look like? No one can say. But I can tell you what mine looks like.
When I asked you what you’d like me to write about this year, I received a surprising number of requests for “a day in the life” post. James Richards wrote:
Give us a peek into your day and show us what a day of writing looks like for you. Your work habits, your goals per day & etc. Let us see how you format your workday.
I’ve been waiting to share this post until spring arrived, so I could also share some photos that actually have green in them. And since spring finally arrived (and the smoke from the Alberta fires finally left—sending love to all our friends up north right now), I decided now is the time!
So come along with me today as I show you what my routine looks like on an average day.
A Few Notes on High-Quality Habits
Daily routines are one of my favorite topics. In fact, I’m a bit of a routine nut. Mostly, this is because my INTJ brain goes little nuts (literally) without structure and stability and predictable patterns, but also because I truly believe in the power of high-quality habits. I have seen their rewards in my own life, not just in the short-term, but as years of good habits have paid off in all areas of my life.
Here’s a quote I picked up somewhere from Will Durant:
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.
Here’s another one from James Clear, author of Atomic Habits:
The more control you have over your attention, the more control you have over your future.
My goal is to make sure every moment in my day, everything I do, every to-do on the checklist is as absolutely high-quality as possible. I’m always tweaking to try to maximize my time and energy to allow me to pack in only the best stuff. If something is low-quality with poor returns, I figure out a way to eliminate it or replace it. I live my life like I imagine a pro athlete eats their meals—every calorie and nutrient optimally has a purpose. One good habit that takes even just five minutes, done every day, offers huge returns down the line.
That said, I also have to be careful. Once I get a habit started, I am super consistent, which means it had better be the right habit. For instance, if I’m consistently doing the wrong exercise every day (or doing it wrong), I’m going to be doing myself more harm than if I was only sporadically remembering to do the right exercise.
It’s valuable to consider your daily habits and rate how high quality you think each one is (e.g., how healthy is your regular breakfast?). Then you look for ways to leverage little moments in your day. After all, as the fly says in A Bug’s Life:
I only get twenty-four hours to live, and I’m not going to waste it here!
The Daily Routine of a Full-Time Writer
It goes without saying that I’m extremely privileged to be able to manage my days how I want. I work for myself from home, and I don’t have kids, dependents, or many outside demands on my time. This allows me a lot of flexibility in tweaking and adjusting my schedule. For instance, I used to write in the late afternoons, but as my thirties have ticked on, I find my brain is just too fried and exhausted to be sensible by then—so I’ve switched my fiction writing to the morning. What’s best for any one writer will always depend on their own energetic preferences, as well as outside demands upon them, including work and family.
I like to be out of bed by six and get my eyes on the sun as soon as possible. I putter around for a bit, oil pull for my teeth and gums, do skin care, and brush my teeth. Breakfast starts with a warm glass of lemon water, which I drink while standing in the sun. I follow that up with two baked eggs (farm fresh right now from the generous neighbors), since I wake up hangry and do not have the patience to stand over the stove. While I’m waiting for the eggs to cook, I’ll eat an apple. I end with some sort of carb; right now, I’m using a grain-free blueberry muffin mix from Bob Redmill.
Next up is what I have come to consider the most important part of my day. I take a full two hours at least five days a week to focus on prayer, various meditation/visualization/energy practices, yoga (or what I call yoga—it’s really just light stretching), and working out. I’ve struggled with chronic muscle pain in my neck and back for many years, but I’m managing it pretty well now, thanks in part to my diet (I cut out all sugar, grain, nightshades, and dairy for five months over the winter and saw huge changes in my pain levels) and in part to a workout routine that I feel is finally paying off. I alternate core, arm, and leg workouts by day.
This is probably my favorite part of the day. After working out, I take half an hour to sit on my infrared heating pad and read whatever non-fiction books are grabbing my fancy at the moment. I’m always hungry again by this point, so I eat a nut-butter protein bar. I really like these from Lairds right now, since they do a pretty good job balancing carbs and protein.
Actually, this is also my favorite part. I could walk for hours—but, alas, I usually only have time for about thirty minutes. I’m fortunate to be able to walk outside in nature. The trees and the grass are glorious right now, so green it almost makes my eyes hurt–which is a change from the usual drought (although apparently we’re still in a drought?). I use my walk as my time to talk to myself and clear my brain. I sort through ideas I may have encountered while reading, dig through anything that’s bugging me, and work through patterns and theories I’m playing with.
And now is the writing time of the writer’s daily routine. After showering and dressing after my walk, I settle in for an hour with my fiction work-in-progress. Right now, I’m in the process of outlining a new fantasy novel (tentatively called Wildblood, a Celtic-inspired tale about a dying princess and an immortal protector). I prefer to outline longhand in a notebook, away from my computer. Since I currently have an extra desk set up in my bedroom, I’m using it exclusively for my fiction writing. I like having the psychological cue that this is writing space and not check-your-email-and-do-business-stuff space.
I light a candle to set the container and play music I’ve downloaded onto my phone. I’m not much of a phone user, so I’m not usually too tempted by keeping it at my elbow. But I always put it on airplane mode, both because I always do that to mitigate EMF exposure where I can and to keep from being distracted by notifications.
Right now, as I’m outlining, my routine is pretty simple. I will glance over my notes from the day before and dive in. I’m pretty loosey-goosey in the outlining stage and don’t put much pressure on myself to be perfect or to always write on topic. I ramble a lot, veering away from the story sometimes to discuss thematic theories or even writing techniques with myself.
I have, of course, written about my outlining process extensively elsewhere. Basically, I look at outlining as brainstorming. My outlines are a conversation with myself on the page. I ask myself questions and follow my curiosity wherever it leads, using my sense of the story’s structure to always come back to what blanks might still need filling in.
At the end of the hour, I will glance over the day’s notes and highlight those I want to keep for later. Every few months, I will stop and transcribe the highlighted notes into my Scrivener outline for easy reference.
- Work: Blog Project/Social Media/Other Projects
After lunch, I’ll take another quick walk outside to check the mail, then head to my computer desk to get to work. I like to start out working on that week’s blog post and podcast episode. One day I will write the post, the next I will edit it, then record the podcast, then edit the podcast, etc. I will also use this time, before my brain fries out too bad, to work on social media posts. If I have time here, I may also work on whatever other projects need my attention. Sometimes this might be a new project underway, but more and more, it is maintenance or upkeep on existing material I’ve published whether on this (now gigantic) site or in my books.
- Coffee Break
By 3PM, my head usually feels like it’s ready to fall of, so I take a thirty minute coffee break. I’m obsessed with the British Baking Show (even though I don’t bake) and have been watching it and its spinoffs pretty much non-stop for over a year. Right now, I’m extra in love with the Junior Bake Off. I usually split the episodes in half, both to make them last longer and to make sure I’m back to finish work in a reasonable amount of time.
Let me just say that for someone of my personality (who tends toward workaholism),
letting making myself taking this break in the middle of the afternoon has been a game changer. It totally recharges my energy both physically and emotionally (because JBO is hilarious!), lets me rest my eyes for a bit, and gets me moving at least a little bit away from desk.
I return to my desk around 3:30 to tie up the day’s loose ends. Usually, I will sort and answer emails at this point, as well as look through my “daily” sites, such as those for the weather and personal banking. I keep several different email accounts, which allows me to sort my emails into categories—business stuff, social media stuff, and subscriptions/shopping stuff. I don’t let myself look at the subscriptions/shopping one until last, since it can see me opening a dozen tabs I want to look at and explore.
Sometimes I will use this last bit of the afternoon to work on projects, but I also let myself use this time for educational purposes. If there’s a YouTube video I want to watch, a course I’ve purchased, or just an article I want to study, this is in when I work on it.
- Supper and Household Chores
I quit the computer at 5:30, eat supper, then usually spend thirty to forty minutes catching up on other chores, like laundry and house cleaning.
- TV/Tiny Bit of Phone Time
Then it’s finally time to collapse on the couch (on my infrared mat again) for a hour and a half or so to watch TV (I admit it: kinda a Jeopardy! nerd), before starting my evening routine. I usually let myself have a tiny bit of phone time first, usually just browsing online shopping that I might not have had time to really do (or enjoy) earlier. My phone is off by 8:20PM. I put on my heavy-duty blue light glasses and don’t look at another screen for the rest of the night.
- Final Practices
I try to journal every night. I’ve journaled sporadically throughout my life, before completely falling off the wagon for a few years when I was going through a tough time. But then, toward the end of that rough patch, I started writing at least a page every day. I believe it is a practice I will continue throughout my life. Not only is it cathartic and brain-clearing in the moment, but I have found so much support and context for my own process by being able to look back through old journals and see where my head was at during certain challenges and decisions. I make it a daily point to read the journal entry from one year previous, and it is often so enlightening and comforting (and humbling) to see how I have changed (or not changed) in regard to particular struggles or goals.
During the summer months, I get to do one of my favorite things ever, and that is walk outside at night with no light but the moon and the stars, and no company except the trees talking to the night birds. (At the house I lived in previously, I got to walk in a centuries’ old graveyard. Oh yeah.) This year, I bought myself a pair of leather earthing shoes so I can get the added benefit of grounding out the day’s electricity while strolling.
By now, it’s nearing 9:30PM and I’m pretty zonked. I end my day reading fiction and try to be in bed by 10:30. (A little earlier would probably be better, but the books are just too good, you know?)
So there’s my day in the life. Obviously, this is my “ideal” routine, with no interruptions from outside sources or appointments or shopping trips, etc. It’s a good day. It’s a day I’m always happy to wake up to and always feel satisfied at the end of. I hope this little peek into my life right now was interesting and that perhaps you picked up one or two ideas that feel inspiring for your life as well!
Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! What does your daily routine look like? Tell me in the comments!
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Author: K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland