A Day In The Life

I am a full-time writer. I’ve mentioned that about a million times on this blog, along with noting that I run my own business as a freelancer. But today, I’d like to dive a little deeper into what that looks like on a daily basis.I’ll give you a hint.

I don’t actually spend my entire day writing.

Nor, strangely enough, do I spend my whole day in my pajamas, although I work from home and generally spend the majority of my time with my kitty and my newly acquired puppy. No boss checking that I’m meeting dress code here! Except for me, and I have my own policies about that. But, we’ll get into that. In short, this is what a typically day as a freelance scriptwriter looks like.

5:30 – 7 AM: My alarm goes off stupidly early. My husband sets it for me every night, usually because I’m already buried in my blankets and stick my head out to ask if he will. He’s a good sport. I like to get up before the sunrise to get a start on my day before the rest of the world is awake and jostling for my attention. It gives me some space. Now that we have a puppy in the house, I take her out on her leash to use the bathroom, then walk over to my parents’ house to jump on their rebound mini trampoline.

People always laugh at me for the jumping thing. They can’t seem to figure out why I do it, and it weirds them out. Simply put, this is my time. I stick my headphones in, and I work on my books. Stories don’t just show up, you know. You have to plan them. You have to make space for dreaming and talking with characters and imagination, and this is my space. If I don’t have this time, I don’t have books. Period. You might say this is one of the most important parts of my day as a writer.

7 – 8 AM: When I get home, I clean. Obsessively. I find it very hard to be creative if the dishes aren’t done or the floor isn’t swept, so before my day really gets started, I make sure that all the little chores are well and truly finished. This is also when I get dressed—no pajamas here. I’ve learned through a bit of trial and error that I feel 100% better if I’m dressed for work and have done my hair and makeup. It’s the little things.

8 – 9 AM: I study Spanish with Duolingo. This is one of my weirder habits—it has nothing to do with my career, probably won’t be relevant to my daily life anytime soon, and as much as I enjoy it, I probably will never become a fluent—or even competent—Spanish speaker. But it’s something new and different for my brain to do, and it keeps me sharp.

9 – 12 AM: This is my first big ‘chunk of work’ for the day. I generally have meetings during this time to discuss scripts, casting, story problems, or just provide updates for deadlines and revisions that need to happen. When I’m not in meetings, I’m writing. Depending on the day, I might be throwing together an outline for the team to approve for a script, or drafting a chapter for one of my two books in progress, or writing dialogue for a script. This is all usually accompanied by a cup of tea, trips outside with the puppy, and my kitty attempting to crawl into my lap to get the love and attention she deserves.

12 – 2 PM: Lunch, another trip outside with the puppy, and maybe if I have time, I’ll walk over to my parents house to see actual human people and jump. Another brainstorm session helps get me back in the game for an afternoon of writing.

2 – 4 PM: More writing. Afternoons are hard, y’all. This is when I start falling asleep. Music generally helps, and sprints with my writers’ group over text. When we’re all working, it always encourages me to get more words in. If I’m working on books that particular day, this is also where I will switch projects. 1000 words in the morning for one book, 1000 words in the afternoon for another. We don’t always hit that, but we try.

4 – 6 PM: I’m prepping dinner, listening to crime podcasts or an audio book, and taking the puppy out for a good romp before the husband gets home and we eat together.

6 – 9 PM: This is supposed to be free time. It really, really is. But if I’ve got a tight deadline on a script that I’m trying to meet, or if I happen to be feeling particularly inspired, I’ll curl up on my couch with my computer and get in a few hundred extra words. My cat usually sits on top of me, and my husband plays video games next to me, so it’s all very cozy. Or, if my writers’ group is up for it, we’ll toss out a few prompts through text and free write for a while—which is always good for creativity and opens up dozens of interesting doors.


There you have it! This is what a typical day as a freelance writer looks like—at least in my neck of the woods. This was an enormously long post, but if you’ve ever wondered what a writer actually does in a day, now you know!

Doubling Down

I took a couple of days off work this week.

So I could . . . work.

Extra.

Because I party hard, y’all.

See, my husband left on Monday to go hunting with some buddies and I had the house to myself. First time overnight separation since the wedding! Woohooo!

I didn’t like it.

But I did figure I should use the extra time to double down on a project I’ve been doing on the side. You know, when I’m not writing for the radio show or managing this blog or doing any of the other million things I’ve been juggling.

Yeah, I needed a couple of completely obligation free days to get some real, solid work done on it. Before it slipped into obscurity.

So I took Monday and Tuesday off. I haven’t done any serious, focused, non-radio-related writing in a while, to be honest. I’ve done five hundred words here and eight hundred there, but most of my days I get between three and four hundred done after I finish at my nine-to-five and before my husband comes home after his nine-to-five.

Thankfully, my nine-to-five is more of a seven-to-three. So I’ve got a gap. Long story.

But what I really needed was a full, uninterrupted day to get a solid chunk of work done. So at 8 AM, I sat down with a cup of tea, my trusty computer, and a few encouraging notes from my writing ladies, and . . . I wrote.

I was kinda shocked. You know how you usually carve out time to do something and then all your inspiration goes out the window and you could care less about whether you get the thing done or not?

That didn’t happen!

I was expecting it to. Just sitting down was nerve-wracking, because I could just feel the words trying to decide whether to show up or flee and leave me to drown my sorrows in tea. But I actually buckled down and—get this—very nearly doubled the size of my project.

Yeah.

I mean, I was pretty close to the beginning still, but four thousand words in one day is nothing to sneeze at. I was pretty excited. I felt like a word ninja. It was awesome.

Then the next day I tried again, and the empty page mocked me and I gave up and had to make dumplings instead, because apparently you can only have one really good writing day at a time. C’est la vie.

What are you working on at the moment? Any special projects? Tell me about them in the comments!

New Article!

Hey all!

Here’s an article I wrote on how to deal with criticism and feedback like a writing pro. Enjoy!

https://soyouwanttowrite.org/blogs/syww/10-tips-for-dealing-with-criticism-like-a-pro

5 AM Wake-up Call

I was listening to a podcast the other day about a writer. He was talking about his morning routine, and he said that the first thing he does in the morning, before he’s even opened his eyes, is grab a word processor next to his bed and write 100 words. Or 500. Or 1000.

When I heard that, I laughed.

I hope it works for him.

Because I will never do that.

Lately, what with COVID and working from home and stressful things happening in every corner of the world, my mornings have become increasingly important to me. I’ve discovered that I need time to recenter. To give my tired brain a break from constant stress and planning and working.

In other words, I need my morning routine.

Unfortunately, when you’ve got a full-time job, mornings feel scarce and hurried. So, my alarm goes off at 5 AM. Because at 5 AM, the world hasn’t started spinning uncontrollably fast yet. The sky is still dark, the stars are still out, and everything is still.

Except my cat, who has decided that if I am awake, it means I should be feeding her.

We compromise. I let her outside so she can slip about in the darkness and feel sneaky, and I get an hour of peace to spend in my bible and on my yoga mat. Yoga with Adrienne on Youtube has been my go-to lately. Her 25-30 minute videos are calming, challenging, and invigorating, which is basically everything I need in the morning. I might be a complex mixture of sleepy, anxious, grumpy, and scattered when I step on my mat in the morning, but by the time I step off again, I feel centered and ready for another day.

Which is good, because by that time, it’s light out, my husband is up and packing for work, and I have 30 minutes for a shower and a quick breath left before my me-time turns into work-time.

And once work-time starts, I have stories to tell. And plot holes to wrestle with and conquer.

And so, so much thinking to do. Sometimes, my brain hurts.

But before all those things start flying at me, needing attention and solutions and concentration, I have my mornings. Which, to me, will always be worth a 5 AM wake-up call.

What is your favorite morning routine? Tell me about them in the comments!

Finding Rhythm

Guys.

I think my life is settling into something that semi-resembles . . . normality.

How do I deal with this? What do I do? Nothing has been normal for the last . . . let me think . . . three months? Give or take?

Man, planning a wedding will take it out of you. My entire life isn’t composed of a huge to-do list that grows longer with every passing day.

I’m not sure how to handle it.

Actually, getting back into a routine again has been a huge blessing. I am finally finding my feet again after all the wedding/honeymoon craze, and instead of having a boyfriend who swings by a couple of nights a week, I have a husband who heads off to work in the morning and arrives home again at night.

Can I just say? Best. Feeling. Ever. I was so sick of him having to leave every night.

But now that something resembling normal has returned and life is continuing on, a few things have cropped up that were . . . a little neglected while I was wedding planning.

Such as my personal writing, my health and well-being, and the state of my home.

Little things like that tend to catch you out if you don’t pay attention to them regularly enough.

Suffice to say, I have been doing lots of decluttering. And rearranging. And rapid writing as I try to fit in 500 words between the time when I stop work at three and my husband arrives home at five.

Which was all great! Until my health and well-being came knocking to remind me that if I didn’t put some effort into that side of my life, I was going to regret it. Badly.

Basically, I hit Friday afternoon a few weeks back and had to take sick time to finish my 40 hours because my back decided it no longer appreciated lounging on the couch with my computer. And come to find out, it’s very hard to be a successful creative when you’re in pain. Yep, I’ve gotten lazy about how I sit. At the office, I have a standing desk. At home, I . . . slump over my counter or curl up like a cat on my couch.

Not so good for the spine.

So, since returning to the office on a regular basis is still iffy, my husband and I went shopping for an ergonomically correct desk chair for me to use at our kitchen table. So I don’t end up hunched over and crooked because I work all the time.

It took three stores to find one I liked.

That was a long day.

But! I have a home office! My laptop has a stand to keep it at eye level, I have a desk chair and a rock salt lamp, and I’ve finally started taking breaks while I write to stretch and walk and get outside for a few minutes.

Shockingly, that has made a huge difference with my productivity. Who knew?

Basically, I’m finding my rhythm again. I’m remembering to take walks and breathe deeply and drink tea and feed the chickadees on my porch. The deer have another salt block, and the bluejays and squirrels have their corn. My writing has been dragged out of the dust, and I’m actually reading books again.

Life is returning to normal.

What are a few key things in your life that keep you in rhythm? Tell me about them in the comments!

I’m Back!

This is Wyoming?!

I’m back!

I think.

The world is still spinning like crazy, so I’m not entirely sure. When the ground stops moving under me, and I get my feet again, I’ll let you know.

Until then, guess what?

I’m married!

These last three months have been some of the craziest I can remember, but somehow we made it through in one piece. Wedding planning took up every evening, weekend, and spare minute I’ve had since late June, and having some free time again is a little bit of a shock. My afternoons are no longer spent looking for napkins with silver designs.

So now I have to find a new life purpose.

After all the wedding craze, it was such a relief to spend a week in Wyoming at a B&B. We hiked, drove over the most gorgeous pass, sat beside the most beautiful lakes, and enjoyed all the fall foliage we missed in Colorado because of the smoke.

Colorado was burning during our wedding month, by the way. We had to cancel our honeymoon in Aspen and go a little further afield to find somewhere with breathable air. And clear skies.

Thankfully it’s getting better.

Wyoming isn’t quite the traditional ‘honeymoon destination’, but we had a fantastic time.

I took lots of pictures to prove it.

My sister was laughing at me for going to Wyoming to visit a prison on my honeymoon.

As if that was a weird thing to do. Who wouldn’t want to tour the prison where Butch Cassidy was held before he met the Sundance Kid and began his famous rampage through the Wild West? It was a cool landmark.

All in all, though, our favorite part was not the prison. We liked the hiking better. And the Indian food. I tried to convince my husband that we should move to Wyoming immediately for the Indian food, but he didn’t say yes.

He didn’t say no either, so it’s still on the table.

I’ll let you know.

But we’re home now, and settling into life in our tiny cabin. Jobs are continuing, chores are being figured out, and I am learning to live with the reality that my cat loves my husband more than me.

I’m not going to lie, that was a low blow.

Any newlywed advice to share? Drop it in the comments, along with any life updates from the last three months on your end! I’ve missed you all!

A List of Lists

I got engaged last week.

Is that crazy or what? I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. Sometimes it amazes me how quickly life can change. All the sudden, my weekends are booked with wedding planning, engagement photo sessions, and attempting to figure out all the things one is supposed to do to prepare for a wedding.

Apparently there are a lot of them.

I need to make a list.

Two lists. I need two lists.

Okay, I need to make a list of all the lists I need to make.

Thankfully, my fiancé’s brother and sister in-law rescued us from wedding planning on Sunday and took us up to a reservoir about an hour away. We took their boat out on the lake, and my fiancé and his brother tried wakeboarding.

They offered to let me try.

I declined.

I’m happy to watch people get sprayed and dunked and yanked along behind a speeding boat while attempting to stand upright. Not so happy to do it myself.

Thankfully, they didn’t insist.

I’ll try next time. When we have a tube instead of a wakeboard. Tubes need less balance. And strength. And skill.

And basically all the things that I have in short supply.

However, watching is great fun, and so was sitting on the back of the boat when we stopped for lunch and fed the geese.

I got toasted in the sun.

Okay, I got toasted on one side. My arms are unevenly burned now. Red on one side, white on the other. Hopefully that doesn’t last long. I don’t want to add ‘uneven tanning’ to one of my to-do lists.

Any wedding planning tips for me? Tell me about them in the comments!

Adapting

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I was scheduled to go to a writer’s retreat this last week. Three days in a cabin in Glen Eyre, packed with good food, good friends, and a wonderful mentor. Long walks, gorgeous red rocks, sunsets, and laughter.

Obviously, it didn’t happen.

There are a lot of things getting canceled just now—for everybody. Flights, concerts, vacations, work trips. Just about everything. I was expecting the cancelation, but it was a bit of a blow anyway. This particular writer’s retreat has been a yearly thing, somewhere to connect with my group, love on my friends, and get a bit of fresh perspective on my writing and life in general—something I could definitely use just about now.

Unfortunately, the retreat’s been suspended until October, so I’ve got to find my own fresh perspective.

This quarantine is all about adapting.

New ways to connect.

New ways to refresh and recharge.

New ways to love on my friends.

Lately, my writer’s group and I have been adapting. We all need the connection and refreshment of a retreat, but now is not the time to be renting cabins, meeting up, or planning sleepovers. Instead, we’ve found new ways of encouraging each other. Writing exercises and challenges over text, sharing bits and pieces while we write, and meeting up through Zoom and FaceTime.

It’s not quite the same as a weekend in the mountains, but it helps. It’s a way to encourage each other, keep ideas fresh and flowing, and connect in a time when connection feels impossible and friends feel far away.

Physical distancing is important just now. But we need our friendships and all the connection we can get just now, and that means adapting. Finding new ways to relax. New ways to refresh.

We’ve been practicing our new ways this week. Connecting, making up for our missed retreat. I’m still very much looking forward to seeing everyone in October, but we’re managing for now. Life doesn’t stop because of quarantine, and friends are still friends—even if we have to find a new way to get together for the time being.

We can always adapt.

What are some ways you’re adapting to quarantine—and loving on your friends in the process? Tell me about it in the comments! I’d love a few new ideas.

Devouring Stories

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Last week we started talking about things writers can do to move their careers forward when the next step seems impossibly far off.

Sometimes ‘making it as a writer’ seems like it’s full of huge, gigantic leaps forward: finishing a book, finding an agent, getting published, working full-time as a writer, earning this award, being asked to speak there—the milestones seem impossibly far apart and way too difficult to accomplish.

So, I think it’s time to start talking about the small steps.

The little things we can do every day to deepen our understanding of this craft.

Time to pay attention to the little things, my friends, because believe it or not, those milestones aren’t the building blocks of your career. Sure, they look fancy and they’re fun plaques to have up on the wall. But there is a whole lot of in-between steps before you can reach them.

We’re here to talk about the in-between. The practical.

And today’s practical?

Devouring story.

I’m not here to tell you to read War and Peace or 100 books in a year. But as writers, we need story. Not just our own stories, because we all know how we get caught up in the complexities and frustrations of our stories, and, unfortunately, we all have our blind spots.

Writers need story. I write for a radio drama. I spent all Sunday last week binge-watching The Mandalorian. I listen to audiobooks on a regular basis, I’ve watched movies specifically for work to better understand story structure, and I have started to be able to predict what comes next in the movie theater simply because I know where we are in the story.

Writers. Need. Story.

We need to analyze story, we need to pick apart our favorite books and movies and video games and graphic novels and see what makes them tick. We need to be that irritating person in the movie theater who leans over and whispers, “Yep. ‘All is Lost’ moment. Right on cue.”

I am not a fan of dictating exactly how anyone needs to ingest story. Books, movies, TV, video games, radio. It doesn’t matter. But as a writer, you need story. Not to listen to mindlessly, but to analyze, dissect, learn from.

So next time you want to take another step and or do the next right thing, watch a favorite movie. TV show. Pick a story, and grab your notebook. Find the ‘All is Lost’ moment. The quarter mark, where the upside-down world begins. The catalyst. Pick the story to pieces and see how it works, what theme the writer used. Write a pitch for it.

The more you devour story, the better you will understand it.

What are some of your favorite stories? Tell me about them in the comments!

What Next Step??

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I wrote a post recently about doing the next right thing.

Since that’s my version of a New Year’s Resolution, I’ve been thinking about it quite a lot.

I also went to go see Frozen 2 over the weekend with my younger sisters. In case you were wondering, it was fabulous. I loved it. But it was also about doing the next right thing. And it started me wondering.

What is the next right thing when you’re a professional writer?

Sometimes, that can be a pretty difficult question. Especially because it varies person to person and day to day. Sometimes the next right thing is to write a page, read a new book, or spend an hour or so journaling with your characters. Other times it can be completely different: spending some time away from your computer, going for a walk, or setting up a social media page to connect with other writers and potential readers.

Unfortunately, there is no formula. Everyone is on their own journey, and no one can simply snap their fingers and say, “This is what you need to do today to take a step forward in your journey.”

If only life were that simple.

However, sometimes it really is so, so hard to know what the next right thing is supposed to be—especially when you’re a writer. Getting a book published or finding a job in your industry can seem impossibly hard, and sometimes it feels as though, instead of a long road to walk, there’s a gaping chasm that you have to (somehow) jump over. It becomes a leap of all or nothing, right now, instead of a journey with definable steps.

Writer, I promise that isn’t true.

Since it can be so hard sometimes to know what the next right things are, I’m going to devote a series on this blog to look at some of the next right things that have gotten me where I am today.

Starting with Save The Cat.

Before I started working as a full-time scriptwriter, I hadn’t read very many books on structure or style or anything else. Let’s be honest, there are about a million different books out there, everyone has their opinion on how story works. Some are great and some are not so great.

I could never figure out which was which.

But when I started my job, my manager had some very defined tasks for me to develop my writing skills. One of those tasks was to read Save The Cat, by Blake Snyder.

I still have that book on my desk. As well as the two followup books.

And yes, I still pick them up when I’m stuck and need inspiration, instruction, and a direction for my scattered thoughts.

It is a detailed, understandable guide to structure and story, written by a screenwriter who worked in Hollywood for many years and made more money in this industry than I will ever manage. His writing is clear and concise, and his advice is solid good sense.

So when I’m stuck, and I don’t know what the next right thing could possibly be, I reach for Save The Cat, and give my understanding of structure a boost, because I know that will do nothing but move me forward.

What is one thing you do for your writing when you’re not sure how to move forward? Tell me about it in the comments!