For Love and Doughnuts
I’m always interested in how writers take care of themselves and their work habits. Each person is different and has their own routine for tackling the work. As I’ve written in these entries in the past, it’s a matter of balance—delicate balance. Over the last few days, I’ve been drawing a few insights from novelist Janet Evanovich and her book, How I Write, Secrets of a Bestselling Author. Her humor shows throughout this book but here’s what she says about her workday:
“I drag myself out of bed around 5:00 A.M. and shove myself into the clothes lying on the floor. I eat a boring breakfast of coffee and yogurt. Then I shuffle into the office I share with a really rude parrot. I stare at the computer screen for about four hours, sometimes actually typing some sentences. I chew gum and drink diet soda to keep myself from falling out of my chair in a catatonic stupor. At noon I’m suddenly filled with energy and rush to the refrigerator, hoping a pineapple upside-down cake with lots of whipped cream has mysteriously appeared. Finding none, I make a tuna or peanut butter and olive sandwich. I go back to my office and visualize myself getting exercise. I play an amazing game of mental tennis. In my mind’s eye, I look great in a little tennis dress. Very athletic. When I’m done playing tennis, I stare at the computer screen some more. When nothing appears on the screen, I drive down to the local store and buy a bag of Cheez Doodles. I eat the Cheez Doodles and manage to actually write several pages. When I’m done with the Doodles and the pages, I wander out of my office looking for someone to whine at because I made myself fat. I alternate typing and whining for the rest of the afternoon until about 5:00 when I emerge from my office, once again hoping for pineapple cake.” (p. 194–195)
I believe the part about Cheez Doodles since this food is repeatedly mentioned throughout How I Write. Next Evanovich answers what her workday is really like: “Okay. When I’m in a book. I like to keep the momentum going, so I usually work an eight-hour day, five days a week. I like to be at my computer by about 5:00 or 5:30 A.M. I stop writing around 2:00 and become a businessperson, answering phone calls, doing mail, and having discussions with my publicist and whatever. I take an hour or two out in the middle of the day for exercise. Five days a week, I work evenings answering mail and having phone meetings with my webmaster daughter, Alex. On weekends I work in the morning, but I use the afternoons and evenings for fun. That’s generally how it goes unless I’m behind schedule. When I’m up against a deadline, I go continually day and night. And I really need to be left alone to get the job done. Just slide the Snickers bars under the door, thank you.”
Notice that “hour or two” for exercise? She clarifies this statement saying in a later section, “I have a treadmill in my office next to my desk and I run or walk for five-minute intervals to break the monotony of sitting in a chair. I also have an elliptical trainer and I spent forty-five minutes a day on that. It’s in front of a TV because I can’t keep myself going unless I’m watching a movie or listening to music!”
Admittedly writers sit at their desks for hours. I do but one of the keys for my own personal care (and it sounds like the same is working for Janet Evanovich) is to get some exercise. For a long time, I was trying to do five days a week. I’ve found when I take a day off from exercise, it’s easy to take another day, then another day and before long I’m not exercising—which isn’t good for my stress level nor my physical appearance. I love doughnuts—I rarely eat them but I love them. I’ve always been someone who tracks the world and local news so I combine exercise and news—otherwise I would be sitting and watching the news. In the last few months, I’ve been going over three miles a day on my treadmill averaging 50 minutes. I’ve missed three days over the last month.
Writing anything involved discipline. No little elves come out at night and write more pages on your book proposal or book manuscript. You have to sit at the keyboard and work at the words. Physical exercise is one more discipline worth the effort and something to fit regularly into your day—at least I fit it into my day. And the doughnuts? I continue to think about them but they aren’t around our house.