Monday, August 29, 2011

Tasting the Writing Life

(photo credit: Rebecca Nicole Montana under CC license)

This past week was a super-special week in my life. Magical, even.

My kids all went to school full time for their "trial week -" you know, the one where we send them to school and I wait at home to see which one will be the first to panic/attack another child/vomit on someone and be sent home early.

 Since I don't start back at work till September 1, it was just me, all by my lonesome, all day long, all five days. It. Was. Heaven.

I thought I'd use the free days to do some experimenting on what is the best work environment/conditions  for me, so I went to a different place each day. Indie coffee shop, commercial coffee shop, book store, home.  Some days I "dressed," and some days I stayed the schlub that is my natural state (sweatpants, sneaks, frizzed hair, etc.)

Here's what I learned:

Yoga pants and comfy tees win over real clothes. You will think it's a good idea to get dressed so you feel all professional and author-ish, but really it's just 20 minutes you spent getting ready (at least!) where you could have been writing that kissing scene. And now you lost all your ideas. Way to go, loser writer who thought it was important to look good when you are neither in NYC nor do you have a book deal.

You might think you like that hipster-infested coffee shop, what with its natural light, organic bananas, and good vibes, but by the end of your five-hour stay, you'll want to throw something at that barefoot dude who's been meditating in that cushy chair in front of the fireplace the whole time you've been working your butt off.

If you're going to sit on your butt writing all day, your only hope of staying awake and alert is to exercise a little and eat decent food. You can read while you're on the elliptical. Just do it. Also, Doritos and cinnamon soft pretzels are not - ARE NOT - brain food. Not that I would know that firsthand or anything.

For reasons we've already discussed, checking Twitter constantly is neither productive nor healthy. No, not for any reason. Same with email.

In that vein, "Free Wi-Fi" sounds really good, but it's not. It's not, it's not, it's NOT.

Writing in the presence of books is still inspirational, no matter what.

Have you ever had a chance to taste the Writing Life? What have you learned?


  1. Oh, I think it's really awesome that you tried out "the writing life" last week. I've never done it, but I do want to try soon!

  2. When I first started writing, I didn't have any children. I was teaching high school, and I only worked part time brainless jobs during the summer (Subway...) so I had lots of time to write in June and July.

    The funny thing is that I get more done now writing during nap time. I think ti is because I know if I don't crank it out, then I might not have the chance later in the day.

  3. @Emy - it was like mood swing central for me. My entire day was based around whether I'd hit my word count. (And I didn't. Only 19K last week.)

    @Heidi - I believe that, for sure. When we know we have less of something, it's a valuable commodity and we want to use it the best we can. :)

    @Isis - Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Hi, Leigh! Excellent advice!

    Thanks for visiting my blog. I gave you a Shout-Out today! :)

  5. Working from home def rocks, and I do it whenever I can! Glad that you got at least a little respite and found your muse for a while:)

  6. Hi Leigh! I totally agree with what you're saying. I work from home almost all the time, editing, writing, and researching. While I love the control I have over my schedule, I think I do miss the division between work life and real life. Exercise and diet are key. Also, it's strange how you end up having to be strict with yourself, otherwise you end up watching internet videos all day.

    Um, not that I did that all day today. Oh no. Really. I mean really really.

  7. Balancing family life and writing life is tough. So glad you had an opportunity to taste the writing life. I enjoyed the humor and this post and look forward to getting to know a fellow platform building campaigner.

  8. My kids are really great -- they let me write while they play together. Although, if my son (9 y.o.) is not around, my daughter (almost 6) wants all my attention :-)

    Our schools start after the Memorial Weekend and it is a bitter-sweet feeling for me. I know I will have more time to write, when the kids are at school, but I will miss them terribly. At least during that first week. After that everything should fall back in place :-)

  9. Sounds like some informative experimenting...I'm all for the yoga pants and staying home too.

  10. lol I think the most of "the writing life" I own is a scrubby robe that I like to wear around when I'm feeling vaguely artistic.

    But LEIGH ANN. I gave you an award! It's over at my blog. :D

  11. Oh my gosh. I loved every single bit of this post! And I might be just a little jealous. Okay, maybe a lot jealous. Congrats on being able to taste the life!

  12. I'm getting a small taste of the writing life this week, in fact. My wife is out of town and I told my clients my availability would be "limited."

    But I haven't found much change in my writing patterns. I live about 40 minutes from the nearest coffee shop, so I'd waste more time in travel than I'd get back in any form of productivity.

    I've discovered that I'm still the most productive during my normal writing hours: 5am to 7am. I don't even open my email program or a browser until after that time.

    The rest of the day is just loaded with distractions. I could probably ignore them, but that approach has its costs too, as I'm sure you know!

  13. In defense of Doritos as brain food, I must protest. :p They serve their purpose when necessary, just like Dr. Pepper. ;)

    Glad you got to have a quiet break while the kids were away. :)

  14. @Lauren - Oh, they served their purpose - OF DELICIOUSNESS - and then promptly sent me into a food/brain coma. ;0

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