Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"How Do You Do This Every Day?"

Last week, I visited with a lot of my family, on both my parents’ sides, and, as always happens when I visit family, I got a lot of questions about what I do every day (“Write!” I sneered, and stomped off to get more canapés. No I didn’t. That would be weird.).

So, I’m in a unique position from a lot of writers I know because writing is my one and only day job. Pretty much the only thing I have to accomplish every day is to write something. I’m serious about this. Most days I don’t even put on pants. And Sunday night for dinner I had Ben & Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup ice cream and a bowl of popcorn (made on the stove!)*. It’s a…charmed life?

Anyway, the number one question I get is: How do you do this every day? Meaning, how do I wake up and write, instead of just lounge around in PJs eating bon-bons and watching Project Runway?

The answer, which I’m sure a lot of you fellow-writers could have guessed, is that I really, really love what I do. Writing is pretty much the only thing I would like to do for the rest of my life, and I adore every second of it.

For years, I worked at a job that, while a good job, was not very fulfilling to me and intensely stressful. I don’t blame anyone for this--I had good coworkers, good managers, and the work was challenging and interesting--I just was really not the right person to be doing it. And I hated it. Like, wishing-I-was-hit-by-a-truck hated it. Like, praying-for-illness hated it.

I used to dream about what it would be like to have a job that I really loved, one where I’d go to sleep at night excited for the next morning, instead of dreading it. Finally, one day, I was talking with my then-fiancé and just said, screw it. Life is too short for me to hate 90% of my day. Within five minutes, I decided I would quit my job in New York, finally set the date for our wedding, move to Chicago, and write full-time.

And now? I am one of those horrible over-the-moon people who looooves to gush about her job. I am just really, really happy writing. It’s that simple. I can’t wait to get to my desk every morning, and I have to pull myself away every evening (it is not uncommon for me to arrange to meet the husband somewhere and arrive 40 minutes late because “Well, so, I was working on this thing and I just wanted to finish it before I left, and I thought it would only take a minute…”).

Of course, there are those days when I’m feeling uncreative or out-of-sorts or just plain bored. My regular trick is to look at the clock and think back to what I would have been doing in my old job right at that second. But when that doesn’t work, I don’t push myself. I read xkcd or The New York Times or go for a run until I’m back on track, but it’s rare for me to be constantly working every single second of the day.

Generally, though, I keep a pretty strict 9-to-5 schedule. Mondays are blogging/editing/researching days, Tuesday-Friday are writing days. I write on average 2,000 words a day on the writing days, most of which comes in big chunks in between forty-five minutes spent wasting time on Wikipedia or playing Ninja Ropes. Sometimes I’ll skip a day or wake up late, but that’s rare, and I usually make up the time I missed.

I have no idea how long I’ll be able to keep this up. I live pretty frugally and managed to accrue some savings, plus it’s just me and the husband (and his grad school feeds him regularly), but I’m worried for the day when I might have to go back into an office. Until then, though, I’m working hard, blogging and writing and editing and researching.

And I’m happy. I love my job. I love my little hand-built desk. I love drinking my cup of tea in the morning and watching the leaves outside change color. I love when the husband comes home and I tell him in minute detail every little thing I wrote. I am deeply grateful to be able to spend so much of my time doing something that gives me so much joy.

*Sorry, Mom and Dad. I just…sorry.


  1. Awesome post, Kendall! I feel the same way about writing. I prefer it over watching TV, and pretty much anything else. I wish I could do it all day long too, but those pesky kids...well, I know I'm lucky to have it both ways, and in a few years, they'll all be in school so I'll be able to write 9-3. Thank you for articulating it so well. And you are so disciplined, it is wonderfully impressive. You will reach your goal for sure.

  2. Thanks! It definitely is a big help, having no kids. I can't imagine how crazy life would be if I had to type and watch little ones at the same time. Hopefully by the time any babies pop into the picture, I'll be a little more settled!

  3. We are stove popcorn makers too...

  4. It's clearly the best method. I can't even eat movie popcorn anymore. Plus it makes me think "even though popcorn is a snack and not actually really food, I can pretend it's real food by cooking it in a pot."