A Writer’s Routine

A Writer’s Routine

Create October 15, 2015 / By Ryan Holiday
A Writer’s Routine

Here we have a refreshingly honest look into the daily routine of a professional wordsmith. It's a play-by-play that provides insight into some of the best practices, habits and subjective experiences of best-selling author Ryan Holiday.

7:30am: Get up. House is quiet. Take a shower.

7:40am: Dress in the same old clothes as always, go downstairs.

7:41am: Heat up and drink cup of bone broth, sit down at desk to write briefly in my journal. Mostly some reflections on the day behind, some hopes and thoughts for the day ahead.

7:50am: Call an Uber. Pack up research materials, laptop and books required for today’s work. To do list is folded and put in front shirt pocket. Let the chickens of the coop on the way out.

7:55am: Scan email in the car on the way to the library. The driver assumes you’re a student, which is fine, you basically are.

8:05am: Arrive, go straight to the 6th floor to the same corner, with the same view of the capital.

8:15am: Notecards and books are spread out and within reach. Scanned over yesterday’s work and started to dig into what needs to be done. Music is on, the same song from yesterday repeating over and over again. The surroundings are starting to slink away into the background.

8:16am: First word written.

8:17am: First sentence.

8:18am: First paragraph is coming nicely. This is the best job in the world right?

8:20am: By teeing yourself up for this the day before, the low hanging fruit is there and you’re grabbing it. In this case, you’re writing a story about a historical figure and the details are coming easily. The notecards provide most of what you need. Only occasionally do you need to consult the book you’ve brought.

9:00am: The story is done. Almost 1,000 words in. It’s not amazing, but it’s obvious that the core is there and the material is strong.

9:04am: Listened to the same song at least 15 times in a row now.

9:05am: Progress is slowing down and starting to getting a little too far over the skis. Lean back. You start to think. You try something and it doesn’t work. Delete it. You flip back through the notecards. Your mind wanders. You click over to check email. Then you check Twitter. It’s still early so there isn’t much. You get back to work. What should I do with this idea, you think? Maybe I’ll try this. It seems like its going somewhere. You keep going.

9:39am: It’s starting to come much more slow now. Not the frustration–that comes nice and easy. The mind starts to wander. Check email again. There were a couple simple things on the To Do list, so those get crossed off.

9:45am: The page is just sitting there. You stare back. Looking at what you’ve written, there is clearly some stuff that needs to be fixed. One pass cleans it up, and you get a little momentum out of it. It gets going again. By the time you’re done, it’s 15% longer but much, much stronger.

10:06am: You’re starting to think that maybe you don’t know this as well as you thought you did. Did you not prepare enough? Is the idea not good enough? Is this ever going to be anything? What the fuck, what the fuck?

10:09am: At least the anger is slightly motivating.

10:10am: Sentences are really coming only by spitting one word at a time. Whether they are any good you cannot say. Stay at it, you know you have to.

10:32am: You start to look at the clock every few minutes. You’re nearing the end of the time you scheduled…and you know you won’t be ending on a high note.

10:45am: Wrapping up, you’re not in a good mood. Not at all. You have way more questions than answers. Less confidence than when you started.

11:00am: Three hours of writing is plenty. Diminishing returns have already set in.

11:06am: Walking home is nice. The music is ok. But the doubt is walking there alongside you. You question everything you’ve written today. All that work and no noticeable progress–the end is not remotely in sight. Maybe you should just quit.

11:15am: Something occurred to you and you quickly jotted the thoughts down on your phone and emailed them to yourself. That’s good I guess.

11:30am: You’re home. Eat lunch. Read while you eat. Regular work time. It is not fun. Because you’re in a shit mood. In fact, you’re in this shit mood most of the rest of the day. It feels stunted. Antsy. You feel like something got interrupted. Within a few hours, the mind starts to feel like a laptop that didn’t shut off properly, warm to the touch and racing.

1:00pm: You are not pleasant to be around.

2:21pm: Still not pleasant to be around, even though you stopped writing over three hours ago. This is the worst job in the world.

3pm: Go for a walk while taking a long conference call.

3:50pm: It ends early. Your mind has cleared and some ideas are starting to come. When you get home, you write them down on a notecard. A couple others get put in as comments on Google Docs.

4:45pm: Leave the house for a six-mile run. The run is going fine, you’re thinking about nothing and then ideas start flowing again. The hole you couldn’t figure out how to plug–starts to make sense. The problem you were stuck with turns out not to be a problem at all–actually, it’s a chance to explain something to the reader. You make a mental note of both of these things. Then a phrase pops into your head. Now you have three things you definitely want to write or use. Try to remember them when you get home and frantically write them down.

6pm: Dinner.

7:15pm: Email and some last minute projects.

7:30pm: Hanging out the rest of the day. Now you’re organizing the stuff for tomorrow and you’re excited. It’s clear what comes next.

10pm: Read before bed. The bad mood has lifted. All is not lost. In fact, you can’t wait for tomorrow. Best job in the world right?


Article originally appeard at Thought Catalog

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