My Writer’s Week…And Yours?

Boys' Life, July 1917
This is one of the magazines I write for...Image via Wikipedia

Here’s a week in the life of a full-time mid-life, mid-career writer in suburban New York…Well, mine anyway!

Saturday: I drive into Manhattan — paying $4 in tolls each way — to attend an eight-hour class in outdoor survival skills I’ll be writing about for a major publication.  When I asked what they pay (mistakenly, based on past work for them), I assumed it would be twice as much. Ouch. Oh, well.

I’m eager to learn these skills anyway, everything from how to make fire without matches or a lighter to building a rabbit trap. I feel pretty certain I’ll be able to spin off some other stories from this initial investment of time.

I arrive much earlier than necessary, like 45 minutes early, but snag a parking spot, free, on the street. Yay! The day proves to be a lot of fun, despite the final hour spent in pouring rain. I tuck my notebook beneath my rain poncho so it doesn’t get wet and hope I can remember all the details I can’t write down. I normally avoid working on weekends, so I have time with Jose and to simply relax. But I also have the flexibility to take a day off mid-week to compensate.

That night I come home to a meal Jose made in my absence, fried chicken and a very good bottle of red wine.

Sunday: We attend church at our local, small Episcopal (Anglican) church, a stone building from 1853, designed by the same architect who created St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a tourist’s must in Manhattan. We are given a public blessing on our recent marriage in Toronto, with a lovely prayer taken from the New Zealand BCP. I visit a friend’s apartment in my building to discuss my new book, “Malled” with her book group, eight women in their 50s and 60s.

Monday: Real life starts again. I pitch story ideas to Marie-Claire, Boys’ Life and Arthritis Today, all publications I’ve written for this year. I email my agent to remind her to write a reference letter for me for a writer-in-residence program I’m applying for, ask about the status of a reality television show I’m hoping to work on and request her edits on the proposal for my third book. She has serious questions and wants to talk by phone. At 8:30 we talk for 90 minutes; it needs a major re-do.

Tuesday: I ride out to Long Island with my neighbor, a professor who teaches there. I’ll be speaking to students there about “Malled” which was assigned to them as their summer read — every freshman had to read it. Nice sales for me! At last week’s lecture, one female student pronounced it “OK”, before grudgingly admitting she found it informative. About 25 students come to the lecture and have good questions. I love meeting readers face to face. I sit in the cafeteria and do a call-in commentary for a Winnipeg talk radio show about what to do when a retail associate answers the phone in front of you.

Wednesday: Normal life. Trying to wade though the piles of unread magazines, both for pleasure and for story ideas. Pitching more story ideas. Mulling over all the changes to my book proposal my agent has requested. Applying for a teaching position for 2013 in Virginia. Applying as a menber of a class-action Canadian copyright lawsuit for whatever damages I might be owed.

Local errands. Mailing back two edited manuscripts to clients in California and New York, both of whom found me on the Internet. One found me through this Harvard Business Review blog post for which (natch!) I was not paid.

Fighting a cold (after eight hours outdoors in the rain), I skip a bike ride (sigh) but sit for 20 minutes on a bench beside our town’s lovely reservoir. Saw swans, geese, cormorants and ducks gleaming in the late afternoon sunshine.

Thursday: Chill day. Took my pool aerobics class and lunch out with them. Discovered that one of my classmates, now 73, worked in Rhodesia at 21 teaching phys ed. How cool! Checked in with a few editors but no feedback yet on my ideas.

Friday: Still feel crappy, so mostly lying low. Heard from the Hollywood writer who is working on turning “Malled” into (we hope) a CBS sitcom. It’s highly instructive to see how very, very slowly those wheels turn; I now watch television with a very different sense of how that material even got chosen or made it to air. Gorgeous fall sunshine, into the 70s. Wish I had more energy to get out into it.

Things were crazy at our home yesterday as Jose, who works in the business section of The New York Times, was scrambling to gather as many photos as possible to illustrate global reactions to the death of Steve Jobs. By the time he staggered home, there was little left of him.
I’m posting this on a Saturday evening after a golden fall day, having had lunch with my dearly beloved members of Softball Lite, my co-ed team (here’s my New York Times love letter to them!),  with whom I am forbidden to play until my damaged hip is replaced. It was our first lunch with them as a married couple, and it was lovely to be feted and congratulated.

One of them is a literary agent and I asked his advice for a friend living in Europe who is shopping a book proposal right now, her first; she and I spent two hours on the phone today helping her prepare for all the questions she has about this scary and exciting process.

How was your week?


7 thoughts on “My Writer’s Week…And Yours?

  1. My Saturday:

    Wake up early and head to my Starbucks. It’s a lucky day because the big table in the corner with an outlet is unoccupied. Yes! Grab my coffee, open my Mac, and pull out my notebook. Attempt to write story #1 that I just thought of this morning. 3 hours later realize the idea is too complex for a short and consider doing NaNoWriMo because I know that’s the only way I would ever finish the book it needs to be. Go to the bathroom and get a refill before starting on story idea #2. 2 hours later realize that I am “just not feeling it”. It must be the table. Stupid table! Then re-write a story I wrote years ago because A) I got nothing else. And B) It’s been a week and I have to post another story. Finish the re-write. (Hate it) Go home and grab an early dinner before going to play tennis to get my mind off my writing failure. Play for 15 minutes before it starts to rain. (ARRRRRRRG!) Come home and see if there is anything interesting on WordPress. Find your blog. Dream of the day when I can be married, playing softball, and getting paid to write. Realize it is all possible with time. Feel a little better.

    1. Sweet.

      Nothing you write is a “failure.” When you play tennis and lose a game (or several), are you a failure? Is that a failure? Nope. It’s practice. Every time you play, you are getting better, even incrementally. Same with writing.You have to do a LOT of it — and for TOUGH and demanding editors and agents — to improve. If you play tennis with someone lousy, your game will never improve. Same with writing.

  2. Monday: go for a run at 6 am. I am training to do a 10km fun run at the end of November, and I decided to very late, so the running thing’s gotta be fairly intense. Increase daily distance at the rate of 1 km a week. Shower, run after the bus to the office. Come home, make dinner, sleep.

    Tuesday: carbon copy of Monday

    Wedesday: 6 am, run. 7 am duck into the shower, throw myself into the car and head to physio so he can kick my butt for pilates for an hour (pilates is the reason I can actually run, after sustaining a permanent knee injury a year and a half ago). Get into work late. Leave work late as result. Come home, consider going for a walk, figure I’m too tired, dinner, break, go to bed.

    Thursday: get up at 6, go for a run, only to pull up after 100m because of knee pain. (@&*($&#&$#$&#*($ walk the rest of my 4 kms. This takes a looooong time. Another run after the bus for work.

    Friday: 6 am, nope, still can’t run. More walking. Take my time as don’t work on Fridays (YAY, YAY, YAY). Mad errand running, chore doing for a few hours. Discover one of my friends here has spent a few days on a tug in the north of the state and has posted some photos on his blog. Lose track of time in want-to-be-on-tug-so-bad-but-can’t-as-can’t-get-security-clearance angst for a while. Realise i’m late. Throw self in the car in mid afternoon to meet a photographer who wants my help putting an exhibition and a subsequent book together. Spend pleasant hour soaking in the sun (hello late spring!), drinking tea and talking photography. Come back and spend a leisurely evening with husband.

    Saturday: drag self out of bed at unholy hour (i don’t wake up before 9 am on Saturdays. Weekends are for sleeping in), have wedding shoot in the country so me and the lead photographer and i have a few hours drive either way. Brilliant drive down – great company, winning scenery. Have an all-in-all magnificent day shooting. Rural WA is gorgeous at this time of the year. Get home past midnight, exhausted and fulfilled.

    Somehow time passes, it’s 2.30 pm and I’m sitting here reading your blog and telling you about my boring-ass week 🙂

    1. High energy little thing! Friday sounded like utter bliss…

      Do you shoot weddings? If so, can you share a link to your images? My new hubby is doing this as well and eager for any marketing tips. WA…is Western Australia? Here it stands for Washington state.

      Tell us more about the tug-obsession…for a a FT job? Why is the security hurdle so hard to clear?

      1. I am a permanent second shooter for several wedding photographers in the area, so I assist (fetch, carry etc) as well as toting a second camera around. Weddings will never be my main business, but second shooting keeps me sharp, offers me a chance to network as well as help other photographers out, so it works perfectly for me. My wedding images are here: I haven’t posted any I’ve done recently, but Saturday’s one is definitely going on the blog when I get the nod.

        Tugs: I first got aboard a tug when I was selected for the first Magnum Photos Workshop to be held in Australia in 2010 – we were asked to select a story to concentrate on during the week and I’ve always wanted to get on a tug, so I talked myself onto one. The Magnum name carries lots of weight! The Magnum thing was a huge thrill, but stepping on that tug felt like falling in love. Given how long it’s lasted, it’s more than a crush!

        Security access – well I don’t work for the ports. I’m an office monkey during the week, and photography and everything related to it is something I do on the side. And for a secure area, “taking pictures of tug boats for a personal project” isn’t quite enough to justify a go ahead on the form unfortunately. I’ve been begging quarter with everyone and anyone related. Just have to keep my fingers crossed that something works out for me someday.

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