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A day in the life of a freelance writer: 02/12/10

In response to last Saturday’s poll, “Do you work on weekends?” [Current totals on that poll, by the way are : 14 “Yes,” 2 “No,” and 7 “It depends.”], Amiee Maxwell wrote, “Curious what your typical day looks like and how you manage all that you do.”

The following is what one recent day looked like. Whether it’s typical is hard to say.

**

Friday, February 12, 2010

8:30-ish AM: Mariel wakes up smiling, as usual. I feed her and stay in bed until Francisco brings coffee. The deliciousness of the coffee is generally a barometer of how the day is going to be. Don’t ask me how or why, but it’s true. Fortunately, today’s coffee is strong, with a generous capa of foam, dusted with cinnamon and nutmeg.

9:00 AM: I realize, dammit, that the dog hasn’t been out for a walk since yesterday afternoon. Bad. I pull on a pair of jeans and rain boots, grab my keys, and kick through the sludge and generally feel bad about how shitty our dog has had it since the baby was born. I also pick up our newspaper and feel victorious. For the past three Fridays running, someone has stolen it before I’ve rolled out of bed and made it downstairs. Victory is mine. Like the coffee, this is good.

9:15 AM: I crawl back into bed with Mariel, who’s entertaining herself by grabbing both feet at the same time. Each time she does this, it’s as if she’s doing it for the first time. She giggles, throws her legs down, and starts all over again.

9:40 AM: Francisco gives me half of a bagel and I work on making my to-do list. A fellow writer recently told me she thinks most people have electronic to-do lists these days. Not me. Mine has to be on paper.

9:45-10:15 AM: I blast through email. 42 messages later…

10:20 AM: We call Francisco’s mom in Havana. She tells us the DVD he made of Mariel’s birth has now been passed around from house to house in Centro Habana. “I’m praying God gives me the strength to live until you bring her,” she says. A conversation ensues about whether and when I should take Mariel.

10:45-11:15 AM: I format and publish Dona Francis’s article about the environmental threat of toilet paper and contact a photographer about featuring his work on Matador.

11:15 AM-1:00 PM: More email; editing; finish the “Writers’ teeth” article; occasional breaks to play with Mariel when she wakes up from her power naps. Promote Matador articles published today. Read other writers’ blogs.

1:00 PM: I have a Skype call with Andris Bjornson. We talk about photography, Nepal, telecommunications, and Haiti. I come out of the call with lots of ideas about how to write an article about the work he did setting up telecom in Haiti after the quake and start researching publications’ submission guidelines on MediaBistro.

1:30-3:00 PM: Mariel’s up from a nap, so I spent time with her.

3:00 PM: Francisco comes home. We talk about his morning, and I look at his photographs. I download the photographs, do some quick editing of them, and then upload them to Flickr. I make stir-fry vegetables, and he starts prepping dinner. I play sous chef, a role I love but haven’t held for a long time.

3:45 PM: I craft a pitch on the Haiti tech story and send it out via email.

5:00 PM: I finally start working on an essay I’ve been putting off for weeks. It’s not for lack of interest or a lack of feeling for this piece. On the contrary, I woke up at 3 AM a few nights ago, grabbed my journal and a pen and stumbled off to the bathroom to write out–longhand– the beginning of the essay. It’s just that it’s about Mexico, which is so important to me that I need the urgency of the deadline–February 15–to really make this piece hum. This is my relationship with deadlines: the tighter, the better.

And I’m pleased with the way this essay is going. I’m writing what I want to convey and it feels (mostly) effortless. The writing is interrupted, though, by Mariel waking up from a nap. I set it aside for the moment and join Francisco and Mariel.

5:00-9:00 PM: Trying to be present to domestic life, but I really hate leaving a piece of writing midstream, especially when it’s going well. I make occasional notes as we watch choreographer Bill T. Jones on Bill Moyers’ Journal; I’ve long admired Jones and the interview stimulates all sorts of new ideas. I also think Moyers is one of the finest journalists alive and I try to catch his program when I can; I always learn from his engaged, wholly present interview style.

9:00 PM-2:00 AM: Mariel falls asleep. Francisco is editing video, trying to finish a short documentary for this year’s Havana Film Festival in New York. I’m working on the Mexico essay, which I finish; then, I do some reading. We stop once in a while to talk about our projects and ask each other for input, and go to bed around 2:30.

*

What’s your day like? Is any day “typical”? Share some snippets of your life in the comments.

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16 responses »

  1. Our day is defined by where we get our coffee. We have a handful of local cafes, or we make it ourselves. Muffins also feature prominently.

    Reply
    • Coffee definitely plays an important role in my day! And muffins, when they can be had, are welcome to a prominent place. 🙂

      Reply
  2. And who might be that fellow writer who said she assumed most people have digital To Do lists these days.

    That said… there is no such thing as a typical day for me. Unless typical means something weird comes up to change everything.

    Today, we found out that the birds nesting in the heating vent had actually fallen in and three baby birds had been trapped. We freed them. Then there as a horse that wandered into our yard giving bad attitude and scaring our Couchsurfers (ok, me too).

    Aside from all that, I took care of our tadpoles, hung out with Lila. Took Christy (one of our Couchsurfers) and Lila to the municipal market. Then had to remove about 20 pins from a prickly pear from Lila’s hand. This necessitated finding a tweezer, luckily we were in the market.

    But yes, the coffee was good this morning. Made with a Costa Rican coffee net that Christy brought with her from home.

    Reply
    • 🙂 Since I didn’t ask permission, I figured I wouldn’t say.
      I think you’re probably right, too, but I just can’t bring myself to a digital list!
      Love the description of your day. How’s Lila’s hand?

      Reply
      • It was the horse that threw me over the top. At one point, it literally blocked the driveway of the house so we couldn’t get in. And just wouldn’t move.

        Lila’s hand is fine. Those pins are so tiny, the second you take them out, you feel fine. But they hurt a lot when in.

        A secret (sort of): I do hand written lists when I’m overwhelmed with stuff to do. For whatever reason, it calms me down and helps me focus.

  3. Love it! So glad you shared 🙂

    Reply
  4. At least you can get up late! I have to get up at 6am 😦

    Reply
    • Ah, don’t feel too envious. My “schedule” varies wildly due to a 4.5 month old baby. Sometimes I’m up until 6 AM! 🙂

      Reply
  5. Thanks for sharing a glimpse into your life! What a wonderful family you have. 🙂 Happy Thursday!

    Reply
  6. So it DOES get easier to function on only a few hours of sleep a night?

    Reply
    • I don’t know if it gets easier, Candice, or you just get so delirious that you become accustomed to little sleep. 😉

      Reply
  7. Julie, you somehow make your incredibly full life sound manageable. It seems like you’ve got a quick, motivated intelligence — the fact that you wrote that Mexico essay in one busy day is impressive.

    I never would’ve guessed that I’d hear myself say this (or see myself type it), but man, what I wouldn’t give for a typical day.

    After college, I was a technical writer for Bloomberg’s media company, and my life was full of unbearably typical days. Then I quit to travel and write, and things got a little messy.

    Today I rolled out of bed 9, ate a piece of chocolate for breakfast, caught up on emails, and brewed some coffee. Then I did a good deal of research for an article I’m working on for a weekly paper, laid out some interview questions, and flew out the door around 12:30 to a factory where a local, internationally-known guitar company (PRS) hand-crafts guitars. An incredible 3 hour tour/interview/photography session ensued. Then I came home, cleaned house a bit, and, now, while my boyfriend lays reading in bed, I relax for the first time in ages — read blogs, watch some Jon Stewart, play guitar, scour writing opportunities (is it a sickness that I categorize that as relaxation?)

    But that’s a “break” day, a fun day, a day I look forward to. Yesterday I got up, cleaned house, and then worked a 12 hour waitressing shift. A couple days before that it was a 15 hour one (VDay Weekend — Ugh.) Before that it was a day of editing-writing-errands-night shift of waitressing. Before that maybe a day shift of waitressing, then an evening of writing. And the schedule, depending on both writing and restaurant work, changes constantly. It’s nutty, and I have no idea what the heck a weekend is.

    Reply
    • Simone-

      I’m glad it all appears put together from the outside! I spent much of my day feeling torn between work and family and feeling I’ve short-shrifted both at the end of the day.

      I remember those long restaurant shifts! But at least you’re getting some physical movement in your days. I’m way too sedentary.

      Reply
  8. Thanks for sharing this, Julie. I love reading about people’s day to day lives. And yours is fascinating and lovely. It seems full of love, family, action, and writing.

    Reply

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