When I first transitioned to being a full-time freelance writer, I had this ideal routine in my mind. It went a little something like this:
- Wake up around 5:30, feeling refreshed and well-rested from a peaceful night of uninterrupted sleep.
- Get in a quick hour of some form of exercise that makes me feel invigorated and not at all exhausted.
- Shower and put on the kind of outfit that won't make the UPS man think I'm home sick from a "real" job when he inevitably comes to the door needing a signature.
- Fill a mug of coffee and enjoy a few minutes journaling or reading a book while I eat a healthy and balanced breakfast.
- Spend the first few hours of my work day on my creative writing pursuits. (In the daydream of this ideal routine, I'm definitely not still revising my novel nearly four years after finishing it, so I assume I'm working on a draft of my second or third book, while simultaneously responding to acceptance letters from all the literary journals that want to publish my stories.)
- Break for lunch and a long, leisurely walk with my dog. Again, this exercise is invigorating and not exhausting, while my lunch is healthy, balanced, and leaves me fully satisfied.
- Spend the second half of my work day completing my client work for the day. Since I am never distracted by social media or online shopping, I meet my deadlines well ahead of schedule.
- I finish up work with plenty of energy and motivation to cook an elaborate dinner and spend quality time with my husband.
Of course, this is not quite how my days usually go. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've never had a day like that.
More often than not, I go un-showered until late into the afternoon and am almost always wearing something that would embarrass me in front of the UPS man. I routinely get too distracted by the state of my house or the happenings of the Internet during the day and end up working well into the evening. My balance of creative work and work-work isn't nearly as motivated or well-established as it needs to be. (Because yes, I am still revising that novel four years after finishing the first draft.)
And yet. I know how important a writing routine is to the success of my business, to my credibility as a freelancer, and to pursuing all of the writing goals - both big and small, both professional and creative - that I have for myself. I know I'm a happier person when I keep normal adult hours, instead of working from 9pm to 3am like a college kid who just discovered Red Bull for the first time. I know that having a good routine is about more than just getting my work done on time (and don't get it twisted: I live and die by my deadlines) - it's about getting my work done in a way that allows me to also have the life I want to have.
Perhaps it's because I'm living in a new house, in a new town, but I feel more inspired than ever to build a livable, sustainable routine that transcends deadlines and leaves me feeling accomplished and fulfilled by the end of the day. Of course, I'm not looking to completely reinvent the wheel. I love my flexibility. I don't think I will ever be someone who enjoys doing the same thing, in the same order, day in and day out. And I don't think I'll ever live up to that ideal routine I thought I would just magically fall into once I started freelancing full-time. However, i do think I can hold myself to a more consistent standard as a creator, as a professional...and as someone who only has to answer to herself.
So, we'll see. I'm going to experiment with different routines to see what makes me the most productive. To see what makes me the happiest. But for now? Well, for now, it's Friday. It's after 10am and I'm still wearing my pajamas. Time to meet some deadlines.