I get up at 4:30 a.m. You already hate me, I know. It's just that I discovered while in college that I am terrible at pulling an all-nighter and cramming for exams, whereas I am very good at falling asleep at a strangely early hour, getting up alert and cheery at 4:30 a.m., and cramming then.
A lot of authors seem to need that unbroken quiet time when their families are asleep and leave them alone. They romantically stay up late with their candles and their wine, burning the midnight oil to unlock their most creative selves. I am like that too, except with coffee instead of wine, and at 4:30 a.m. This is when the magic happens, people.
The creative process comes to a screeching halt when my son wakes up at 6:30. For about an hour we cook and eat breakfast, make fun of the cat, and write rap songs about bacon and butter.
After I drop off the kid at school, I go for a run. If I am training for a marathon, like last year, this may take a few hours and it's very intense. If I am slacking off, like now, I intend to run six miles but convince myself once I get to the track that four is plenty. But no matter how far I go, I'm listening to something related to writing on my iPod: lots of BAFTA speeches, writers' podcasts, or the soundtrack I've made for my work in progress.
I go home and take a shower. In an ideal world I also get fully dressed and put on makeup. If I'm on deadline, I might change back into sweats and skip the makeup, reasoning that nobody cares what I look like, probably. I went through a period of about a week finishing my last novel when I'm pretty sure I didn't dry my hair.
And then I'm back to writing. Sometimes I'm sitting at the kitchen table. If I actually make it into clothes that day, I'll likely go to a coffee shop. I have four or five coffee shops I frequent so that I don't become a regular at one. I have a fear of becoming a recognizable regular because there is always something strange about regulars, isn't there? They smell strange, or they go barefoot in winter to show off their toe rings? And I'm really not picky where I spend my time writing, as long as I have coffee and something to write on.
At 3 I pick up my son from school. There is often some strange request associated with this, such as, "I need a costume immediately because tomorrow for English class I have to dress up as Tom Clancy. Also, we need to bake cupcakes." Until I go to bed at 9:30, the end of my day will be a mix of putting out fires like this, taking him to after-school activities, phoning my critique partner and whining to her, magically producing supper somehow, reading, sneaking in a little more writing (I'm currently composing this blog while sitting in the car at soccer practice), and watching TV. No, I don't keep up with Downton Abbey. I watch shows my mechanically inclined son likes to watch, including the British productions Top Gear and Wheeler Dealers. I know way more than I ever really wanted to know about how to change out the automatic window mechanism in a car.
None of this sounds very interesting, does it? The only person who would covet this lifestyle is another writer. If you love to write, all you really want is more time to do it. I loved the freelance copyediting job I held until 2011 while composing novels on the side, but I love writing more, and I'm grateful every day for this career. Even at 4:30 a.m.