A Day in the Life of a (Mostly) Sane Writer

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Last week, in “All Work and No Play Makes This Writer a Fairly Dull and Definitely Undateable Jane”, I shared the “That Was Then Edition” of a day in the life of a writer.

More than likely, it wasn’t quite what you expected. It certainly wasn’t what I fantasized about while trapped inside a cubicle way back when.

What happened to me is not uncommon. At this very moment in time, I guarantee that there are countless unshowered, glassy-eyed, carpal-tunneled writers and other solopreneurial types working 12+ hours from home in their pajamas.

Because they have the freedom to work whatever hours they want, they feel an insatiable need to hustle day and night. The hustle is fueled by the very real fear of running out of money and living in an old van down by the river.

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If they earn enough from their work/art/passion to own an old van.

I am no stranger to solopreneurial endeavors. For twelve years, I ran an arts program for children ages 3-10. I developed the curriculum, which explored monthly themes through music, drama, movement and visual arts. I literally sang for my supper. If I didn’t fill the classes — all of which I taught myself — I didn’t eat.

I taught approximately 300 kiddos a year. That requires a lot of energy. Believe it or not, I drank even more coffee then than I do now as a writer. Go figure.

But professional kid wrangling was a cake walk compared with trying to make a living as a writer. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s not for the faint of heart. Keep your day jobs, oh aspiring ones!

Last week, we left off with a potentially prophetic dream of me going blind and dying for my art.

That was then.

This week, I attempt to redeem myself with the much-anticipated “This Is Now Edition.”

The morning after my potentially prophetic dream, I knew that I needed to get the hell off that slippery slope of waayyyyy too much freedom and ground myself with much healthier daily rituals and routines. I vowed that as God was my witness, I would never go writer-crazy again! I voiced to my family and friends that I was committed to starting a new and improved work schedule pronto.

Yeah right. That never happened. Writers are the worst procrastinators in the work universe.

I know, I know. The “perfect” bloggers out there experience radical change overnight. Well, I think they’re about as full of crock-a-doodle-doo as your “perfect” friends on Facebook.

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In real life, people try and fail. Try and fail. Try and fail again and again and again until…

They hit rock bottom and have no other choice but to pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and start all over again IN A BIG WAY.

As for me, after ignoring my better judgment and continuing to work my body and mind into the ground, I crashed and burned. Big time.

At one point, I wondered if my nightmare had come true, and I really was dying. I barely possessed the energy to walk my dog. Even coffee didn’t do it for me anymore.

When I diagnosed myself via the Internet, I discovered that I had multiple sclerosis.

When an actual medical doctor diagnosed me, I learned that my Vitamin D3 levels were abysmally low.

That’s right. I live in The Valley of the Sun, yet I am deficient in The Sunshine Vitamin. The sunscreen advocates successfully had their way with me.

Did you know that low Vitamin D3 levels can mimic all sorts of serious health issues, lead to all kinds of scary diseases, and is officially considered a global health crisis by the world’s leading health professionals? Get your levels checked, boys and girls. This has been a PSA from The Late Bloomer Revolution.

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The beauty in rock bottom is that it’s only up, out, and onward from there. Amen and hallelujah.

And thus began my quest to regain my sanity, excel at my craft, and become dateable once again.

This Is Now

(Feel free to try any and/or all of this at home.)

First, I needed to address this whole “Freedom” of Working from Home fairy tale.

Obviously, in almost every life situation, too much freedom is not a good thing. We need rules and structure in order to keep us from going all Lord of the Flies on one another.

If your memory is hazy and you can’t recall the high school literature reference, or if you never cracked a book in high school, please allow me to present a widely-known pop culture example in order to illustrate how too much freedom most often results in a train wreck.

Take a look at poor Kaitlyn on this season of The Bachelorette, the show that my sister is forcing me to watch for the first time ever.

On the outside, Kaitlyn’s world looks idyllic. What woman wouldn’t want to live in a mansion where she doesn’t have to do a damn thing all day except flirt with 20 or so exceptionally buff men?

Although in my humble opinion, the contest is down to The Battle of the Bens.

Wow. Just wow.

Or perhaps I should say, “Meow. Just meow.”

But have you seen the sneak previews of what’s to come??? They should probably just go ahead now and rename the show Bachelorette on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.

Yes, ma’am. Despite the beauty of the cast, the show is about to get really ugly. Miss Kaitlyn would have been better off setting a few ground rules for herself as Amy Schumer so wisely advised her to do.

So… you know… we’ve all learned that establishing limits within our freedom is a smart idea.

One would think that I would have used my knowledge of the “freedom within limits” philosophy from my Montessori background to avoid my somewhat recent devolution into a hot mess. One would think.

But I didn’t. Because I’m human. And we all make mistakes. Just ask Kaitlyn. (The Bachelorette is television crack, I tell you!)

The good news is that when I was crawling around rock bottom, fearing death, blindness and artistic madness, I finally got the memo delivered over 20 years ago.

And just as I did with my Montessori students back in the day, I designed a Freedom Within Limits schedule for myself.

While designing this schedule, I knew that I needed to be realistic and infuse my days with slightly less hustle and much more fun.

The constant hustle wasn’t getting me anywhere. I was so burned out that I was continually spinning my wheels. I desperately needed some semblance of work-life balance, despite being brainwashed by Mark Cuban who says that writers can kiss work-life balance goodbye. 

But the last time I checked, Mark Cuban is not the boss of me! I’m the boss of me. I decided to listen to my intuition and heed my own advice.

Here is my new and greatly improved schedule, brought to you by my intuition. Along with a little help from my cyber-friends, Michael Hyatt and Marie Poulin.

The Freedom Within Limits Daily Schedule

6:30 a.m. – 7:30 a.m.  Good morning, Sunshine! Exercise does a mind and body good. Alternate cardio, strength training and yoga.

7:30 a.m. – 8:15 a.m.  Walk World’s Most Precious Pooch, eat, brew espresso and shower. Get ready (dress/make-up/hair/teeth) while listening to podcasts. My current addiction: Start Up. #podcastjunkie

8:15 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.  Sacred Alone Time: Inspirational reading and journaling either in my secret garden or on my bed whilst sipping a double shot almond milk latte with a splash of homemade brazil nut milk and a sprinkle of cinnamon. (Thank you, Susannah Conway, for the inspiration behind a beautiful start to the day.)

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9:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.  Sacred Writing Time. Write whilst unplugged from every electronic device imaginable. The world can and will wait.

SHORT BREAK AROUND 10:00 A.M.*

11:30 a.m. – Noon  Process email. Stop by and say hi around the social media world. Put the “social” back in social media.

Noon – 1:00 p.m.  Lunch. For the love of all things holy, don’t eat at the computer. Take an actual lunch.

1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.  Combo Platter (could include any or all of what’s listed depending on what’s in season): editing, writing, planning, e-course design, video production, sales and marketing stuff, admin tasks, and once in a very blue moon, a nap.

LONGER BREAK AROUND 3:00 P.M.*

5:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.  Process email. More social media socialness.

5:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.  Plan for tomorrow. (Failing to plan is planning to fail and all that jazz.)

6:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.  Walk World’s Most Precious Pooch with friends.

6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Dinner. (Solo, with friends, or… drum roll, please… with a date. Oo la la!)

7:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Evening Ritual: Tidy the house. Chillax.^

9:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.  Unplug. All screens OFF. Wash face, brush teeth, floss. Read.

10:00 p.m.  Sleep. (Like a wee babe dreaming of only pleasant things, such as the good life and keen eyesight.)

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Whew. I’m feeling so much better these days.

But wait! There’s more!

A Freedom Within Limits Schedule is just the first step in the vastly improved day in the life of this writer.

Until next week…

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Footnotes:

* COMING IN TWO WEEKS: The Fine Art of Morning and Mid-Afternoon Work Breaks and A SURPRISE REVELATION!

^ Chillaxing could include a variety of things: playing guitar, singing, restorative yoga poses, meditation, kissing (if out on a date), or even a little TV.

Back in the day, chillaxation for me meant no TV. I was so annoyingly cerebral in my 20s and 30s.

In my 40s, I decided to get over myself and started relaxing on the couch in the evenings whilst taking in an educational documentary or a cleverly written show. Occasionally, due to some sort of weird digital glitch, The Real Housewives of God-Knows-Where somehow hijacked my television.

At 45, my sister has completely taken over my viewing choices. It’s infinitely more fun this way. If you saw her running commentary via text during the shows, you’d agree. (She’s just as funny as Amy Schumer.)

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Please answer one or both of these questions in the comments below:

Do you infuse daily rituals or routines into your day? Which is your favorite?

And/or…

What is your guiltiest pleasure TV show?

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Photo credits: Van, Facebook, and Sun photos courtesy of the good people of The Creative Commons. Specifically, Omer Simkha, OnSecretHunt.com, and Gisela Giardino. All others courtesy of yours truly. Isn’t that the most precious dog photo you have ever seen???

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Comments:

19 comments... read them below or add one

  1. oh Michelle, I am sorry this has been happening, but brava on finding a way out, this is inspiring to me, really. I must try and take a leaf out of your book.

  2. Rituals/Routines:
    Wake up, a tiny bit of yoga and meditation (10 minutes). Three pages, hand-written (Morning pages, from The Artist’s Way). Before each, affirmations and an invocation of the Muse. Most likely a twelve-step meeting and/or school. Surfing online for three hours total, reading at least three hours, writing at least three hours (the writing part includes actual writing, getting ideas/notebook organized, Artist’s Way stuff (the latter for the summer), and moodling (look it up). Didn’t include the eating.
    Favorite: The three hand-written pages.
    What is your guiltiest pleasure TV show?
    (Watched the day after) The Daily Show, Real Time with Bill Maher, and This Week Tonight with John Oliver. This covers Monday through Saturday, Sunday off.

  3. As much as I try to get a schedule set, I find that I get all scrunched up around my diaphragm every time I try it – the opposite of freedom. I’ve recently learned the idea of making each day a theme (writing, connecting, clients, errands, etc.) Will see if this gives me more ease in that freedom part.

    My non-negotiables: 12 minutes of meditating and a nourishing breakfast in the morning, ensuring the kitchen’s clean before bed.

    Not-so-Guilty pleasure TV: Outlander

    1. Sounds wonderful! Yes, we all need to listen to our guts.

      I’ve tried the themes before, and I found myself always wanting to do something else other than the assigned theme. I do have a bit of a rebellious streak in me. ;-)

  4. Michelle,
    As a parent, I’ve found the necessity of ritual and regiment. They need it but we do too. When there were no children, I would work on my dilapidated house and watch HGTV DIY shows and feel guilty about my squandered time. Now, I have maybe one hour in the beginning and the end of the day for myself to journal or Instagram surf. And two days of childcare per week is all I’ve got to write up my three weekly blog posts. These, plus cooking most of our meals, are the regular creative activities I get. I miss TV as we killed our cable and my guilty pleasure before Fiona was watching the Walking Dead and Downton Abbey. One day I’ll read and write and moodle as Brenda Ueland suggested. And for now, I am resolved to my creative fulfillment in between moments of mothering.
    Love Ya’, You are one heck of a funny smart gal.
    Shalagh

  5. SuperMom!!!

    It’s so true. The more packed our schedules are, the more efficient we become. That’s been my experience, at least.

    Oh, how I wish I could cut my TV entirely. Maybe I’ll try it for a week. Or a month. See what happens. Maybe I’d cook more meals. ;-)

  6. Your daily routine now looks a lot like mine. I find it very important to do things like eat meals with my family, take time for myself, be connected with others (dedicating time to do this virtually and in person), and be connected to the world around me. It makes such a huge difference and really does keep the balance.

  7. i am currently reworking my daily schedule. i used to be “miss perfectionist,” with every single second scheduled until . . . i totally burned out! so then i leaped to the other extreme, detesting any kind of appointment with a set (gasp!) time. (except, of course, my lovely sessions with clients.) i am now learning to happily exist somewhere in the middle.

    favorite daily ritual: afternoon coffee and reading with my husband.
    guiltiest pleasure TV show: house hunters international.

  8. Hello Michelle
    I loved reading your schedule – as I read – I checked off mine and it is fairly similar. We are really all one – trying to make a difference in our world and the world.

    Thank you for sharing. All the best for your health. xx

  9. My favorite part of the day is getting up at 4:30am so I can have time to putter around doing chores & exercising before my teenager wakes up & blasts grumpiness all over the house! & my favorite show is Bones bc at least once each episode she says or does something so much like me that I wince & listen while her friends explain what she should have done. :-/

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