Sometimes I wonder where the hours go, so I decided to document a single day from last week. I didn’t call this ‘an average day in the life of a writer’ as it’s hard to say what an average day is. One of the things that continues to make it so addictive is each day brings something different.
08:30 – 09.00
This is ‘run-around’ time while absorbing news from BBC R4 Today programme. First task is a check of emails, immediately answering the important ones; automatically deleting those promising to elevate our websites on Google; cutting and pasting ‘no thanks’ replies to emails offering guest/sponsored posts for our websites; and pinning emails about SEO strategy and writing advice from specialist sites we subscribe to. It’s a constantly evolving world, so it’s essential to keep up to date with developments.
Then, it’s a scan of social media platforms – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn – replying to comments and looking for anything interesting in travel, hiking, gastronomy, as well as news items that inspire or annoy.
09:00 – 09:30
Normally, I’d start writing at 09:00. But we had to come up with the name for a new train journey holiday which involved researching what areas it covered and what theme linked each of the places along the way. Fifteen years ago, coming up with titles involved conjuring something that was descriptive, evocative, and maybe involved alliteration. Search engines have squashed all that. Titles have to please Google bots, so it has become a case of say what you see. It makes it both more simplistic and difficult; saying what you see in an engaging manner not being an easy task. Andy suggested a couple of good ones and despatched them promptly.
09:30 – 13:00
I turned the Manchester bee over. The bee is a new thing, introduced by Andy to avoid exaggerated sighs and harrumphs whenever my ‘creative process’ was interrupted. People have different preferred writing times. Mine is morning. Anything that interrupts that first hour pretty much screws up my day as far as creative writing is concerned because, this probably sounds pretentious if you’re not a writer, I have to get into the ‘zone.’ When it’s travel articles, it’s not so bad. There’s still a zone involved, but it’s a different type.
The Manchester bee facing upwards on the table is a sign that serious writing is taking place, so we both know not to chunter away in a distracting manner.
Currently, I’m finishing a novel based in the Canary Islands while Andy’s writing destination content for a holiday brochure. The deadline for the latter is tight and involves batting work back and forth between various people, which severely reduces the time to actually write the content. Hers is the most demanding workload, but I’m on standby if she needs assistance. We’ve learnt from past experiences not to put all those eggs into the same basket, so I’m maintaining the part of the business we control ourselves.
At 13.00 we stop for lunch. For the last couple of weeks, we’ve enjoyed lunch outside in hot sunshine, making it feel as though we were back in Portugal or Tenerife. Today, the rain has come, so it’s sardine and mackerel montaditos indoors while catching up with news on R4.
13.30 – 17:30
I get back to my novel while Andy continues with the brochure copy, moulding it to satisfy relevant parties – in doing so, learning vital pieces of information she wasn’t aware of, or tracking down individuals to sign work off as the clock ticks down to the deadline.
Early afternoon, we were distracted by our neighbour’s new horse, a black beauty, galloping around the field directly beyond the window. He is magnificent.
At 14.30, my creative faculties run out. I switched to the more technical side of my work, prepping photos for articles, formatting posts on our websites, website management etc. Managing our own websites is like being car mechanics, there are always adjustments required to keep them fine-tuned. Recently, there was a change in how Google ‘read’ websites which made something called the schema data on ours obsolete. To avoid going into too much technical jargon, it screwed up Google rankings and, after resolving the issue itself, involves having to go into every single post on three different websites to make adjustments so Google can read them again.
During the afternoon, there were ad hoc breaks. We shepherded the neighbours’ goat, Poppet, back into her own garden after I spotted her munching the leaves of our cherry tomato plant. Our neighbours handed a bunch of green beans and a bowl of juicy plums being through the window. Being handed goodies through the window is a regular occurrence.
After some website maintenance, I turned my attention to our PDF travel guides. We created these in 2006 using Adobe Creative Suite software. But, after Adobe pulled the plug on that and moved to a hefty monthly subscription fee, we jumped ship a couple of years ago and shifted allegiance to Affinity. Unfortunately, our Adobe package was so old, the guides weren’t compatible. Now, I’m working my way through each one, converting it, updating it, and correcting the numerous glitches the process creates.
Finally, at 17:00, I threw a couple of photos on social media, and scheduled posts for publication.
Just as we were due to finish for the day, Andy had a phone call that resulted in some urgent adjustments before close of business.
I stopped at around 17.15 while Andy continued till 17:40.
Then it was an hour of reading. Reading is leisure time. But we both subscribe to the view if you don’t read, you can’t write. Subsequently, reading also involves being aware of how authors use grammatical trends, dialogue, character development, plotting, and so on.
A full stop was put on the end of the afternoon with a beer while listening to R6 and working out the logistics of cooking Yotam Ottolenghi’s sabih recipe from his Jerusalem cookbook (delicious incidentally).
It’s hardly exciting, but writing involves routine, deadlines, research, communication, and tedious jobs, as well as experiences that inspire.