So what is it like being a writer? I would love to tell you that I spend my days living out the lyrics of Taylor Swift’s The Lakes. You know, that place where all the poets go to die and wisteria grows over your bare feet. The place where you can wear an Elizabeth Bennet style gown and write on a desk overlooking the towering mountains and waterfalls. I wish I could tell you it’s like that. Writing is not that exciting on the surface level, but that does not mean it’s any less magical. I may not be able to go to The Lakes to write but I can definitely bring The Lakes to me through my writing. So let me take you through a day in the life of a writer who has a job to do and bills to pay. It may not be as exciting as Taylor Swift’s song, but I promise you there are moments of magic at the right time.
- Hit snooze 10 times and get creative on the commute to work.
My morning routine is chaotic at best, but once I have a quick breakfast and I’m out the door, I use the morning commute to listen to some of my favourite songs on spotify and either write a few of my thoughts down in the notes app on my phone or read a book. I tend to lean towards writing because some of my best thoughts come to me while I’m on the move or in the early morning. I select my playlist and begin writing random scenes. I can get lost in this exercise. Typing away on my phone gives me the space to be messy and make errors. I find this is a great way to push aside that need to be perfect and just write. My favourite songs to listen to on the metro while being creative:
2. Arrive to work at the hospital and take care of the kids.
While being a pediatric nurse has been very challenging over the years, especially during the pandemic, I’m trying to focus on what it has done for my creativity. There is no denying that during the very first year of the pandemic my writing took a backseat. It was pure survival mode as we tried to make sense of this new way of working and living. There was little time to produce the work but creativity is something that can be building in the background. Creativity works overtime in ways you cannot imagine.
It took me a long time to realize that our work environment can be such a great source of inspiration. Working as a nurse means having a tidal wave of emotions crash over you each day. There is something so special about working with kids. I always believed that throughout my career it was the kids who taught me the most. So much of my growth as a nurse, a writer and as a person came from the children who walked into my life in the hospital. The ones who stayed for a long time attached to multiple tubes, the ones who got better and left and the ones who did not make it. The hope of watching them pull through and the heartbreak of watching them pass away leaves you with so many different emotions to process. All of which do come out in my writing, even though all my characters and the world I write are fictional. The things I experience in my daily life help me build characters with feelings, fears and dreams. I have begun to consider nursing as not just a day job that pulls me away from my writing, but a source from which I can dig up the emotions needed to make my characters more human but also a place where I can process those very emotions I kept hidden away.
3. Lunch time with a read
My lunch break is a time I try to disconnect from work, and one way to do that is to read. If I’m feeling inspired, I will pull out the notes app on my phone again and write a bit, but normally I find a quiet corner and read. This is another important process for the writer. In order to flex those writing skills, you have to read. Finding the time to do so is hard, that’s why I really cherish these small pockets of reading time I get throughout the day. The time at work is truly the best kind because it gives me some distance from both work and writing. To read like a writer has been something I’ve been actively trying to do. Making notes on how the book I’m reading describes a world or how the author has developed a character is very good study material. There are days when my lunch break is cut short or I decide to have lunch with a friend. Finding a way to disconnect leaves me feeling refreshed for when I have to return to work.
4. Leave work and have two hours of fun.
Living is what makes a writer. Life experience, interactions, visiting places and food outings all makes a writer. How can you immerse your character into a world filled with people, places and things if you’re not experiencing some of it yourself? You need to take some time for yourself to fill the creative well every so often and this can be done in so many ways. Inspiration does not only come from big life experiences. It’s really the small things that add up.
Watching a documentary series (I personally love true crime shows).
Taking a stroll in a park (I like doing this while listening to a podcast).
Sitting in a cafe with a hot drink and pastry (a great time to take out a notebook and write).
Catching up with a friend over food (deep conversations are like food for creativity and the actual food is pretty great too).
The two hours after work look different for me on many days. There are days when I meet up with friends to have dinner. Other days involve me sitting in my pajamas watching serial killer documentaries with a snacky snack and tea. Sometimes I sit in a cafe and take out my journal to write ideas while having tea and cheesecake. When the weather is nice, I go for a long walk in my park or sit under a tree and read. Some days I like strolling in the bookstore. Then there are the days when I just need time with my family. All of it helps with my writing, because it allows me the rest and space to be ready to write again. It’s also that daily life experience that helps me find inspiration.
5. Writing session for one hour
There is this time during the evening when I have a little burst in energy and it’s the perfect time to do a mini writing sprint. I make my way to my desk where I have all kinds of pictures and quotes to help motivate me. My body tells me when I’m done with writing for the day. Sometimes I find myself scrolling through my phone and other times I’m just staring at the blank page but thinking about my grocery list or random scenes from books I’ve read. Other times I’m hit with a wave of exhaustion or begin getting restless. I learned a while ago that it’s best not to force things. I know when I’m done and pushing forward will only lead to frustration. This is when I put my writing aside for the day, even if the sprint was not as successful as I would have hoped.
6. Reading right before sleep
My favourite time of the day is when I get to dim the lights, get under a warm blanket and read my book with a cup of tea. I need a special little snack around this time as well (and sometimes I just need a big piece of cheesecake depending on the day). I use this time to read something I really want to enjoy and not read while I’m on the go. I sit there with my tabs ready to annotate and allow myself to completely enjoy this time alone with my book. I think this is one of the most important things writers can do.
There are times when I think about my story (along with the 100 other things on my mind) before I fall asleep. I like doing this because sometimes when I wake up, and in-between all the snoozing, I get an idea of what scene I want to work on. It may be frustrating not to have many hours in the day to write, but thinking about writing and reading are such important parts of the process. That concludes the not so exciting life of a writer, but hey I love it. The days off from work are especially fun when I get to do some writing sprints with writer friends and explore new cafes. It’s all about the journey with writing and I’m learning to enjoy all the small moments.