Monday, October 31, 2011

Perfect Writing Day

I’m sitting in the park under a shady tree. Or maybe at a corner table in a cozy café. It’s seventy degrees and sunny. I’ve got accessories: a stack of research books, my computer, an arsenal of pens and pencils, and a sketchbook. I’ve got snacks: something salty and something sweet (preferably of the dark chocolate variety). And coffee. Lots of it.
But most importantly, I’ve got time. I’ve set aside the whole day to write with no distractions, external or self-imposed. No siren songs of day job duties, homework help, or unrelenting laundry. I’ve claimed my time by claiming a place, somewhere away from everything else that vies for my attention. Somewhere I can go on a date with my characters – however eccentric – and not have to worry about what other people think.
Maybe I’ve joined forces with one or two like-minded comrades, engaging in that parallel play that is so rare outside the academic setting. We sit hunched over our laptops, not speaking, but united in a common purpose, buoyed by a cumulative energy and motivated by the happy clicking of keys and the promise of an after-work brainstorming and gab session.
I spend some time revising first, to get reacquainted with my characters and transition from the real world to the world inside my head. Then I move on to new material. The next thing I know, I’m totally lost in my story and look up to find the day is half gone. The work doesn’t have to be easy. While it’s nice to feel like I’m cutting through the pages with no drag, it’s equally satisfying to struggle, if I earn some small victory. Treading water with a fifty-pound plot on my shoulder makes my writing legs stronger.
I seldom have the perfect writing day. More often, I work around the demands of my daily schedule. Usually this means writing in the evening after the kids are in bed and other work is done. But when I can swing it, it’s especially sweet, and I try not to waste a single minute.
Here’s what some friends had to say about the perfect writing day:
Kate Dopirak: “I love when I'm writing and something clicks or fits or flows and surprises me. That thrill usually happens when I'm revising and it gives me that same 'I-did-it' high that I experience from Zumba. Of course getting that 'We love your manuscript' phone call is pretty perfect, too!”

Courtney Stevens Potter: “Not only do I write quickly, but I write with assurance that the characters are in control instead of me. At the same time, I try not to measure success by word count, but instead by the overall direction of the novel and the scenes in my head coming to life on the page.”

Kristin Tubb: "For me, a perfect writing day is a tiny brass key that unlocks an heirloom jewelry box. It opens with a click! to all sorts of lovely gems."

Tammi Sauer: "My perfect writing day takes place once the first draft is down and it's time for me to fix that thing up. It also involves frozen Milky Ways. And, should Tim Gunn want to stop by and tell me to "Make it work," well, that'd be a bonus."

Janee Trasler: "My perfect writing day is the day when the solution to a problem I’ve been struggling with just suddenly pops into my head. This generally happens when I’m doing something as far removed from writing as possible, and usually, when I can’t stop to write it down."

Jessica Young is represented by Kelly Sonnack at Andrea Brown Literary Agency. While she is currently a word gatherer, child-herder, and art teacher, she has also been a: tree planter, art therapist, museum outreach coordinator, lifeguard, homeless shelter art and music group leader, flower factory bouquet arranger, wilderness program canoe trip guide, and (absolutely terrible) waitress.
She can be found on her website and Twitter and hanging out at outdoor cafés. Her picture book, MY BLUE IS HAPPY, will be published in the spring of 2013 by Candlewick Press.


  1. My perfect writing days always starts with a big cup of coffee, some good music and my dog at my feet. My writing day almost always involved pajamas for a few hours and a clear mind that lets me write and write.

  2. My perfect writing day starts with a chai latte. Why do we always need a warm drink to begin?

  3. My writing day also starts with a large mug of coffee. I can't even wake up properly, let alone write, unless I've had one… or three!

  4. My perfect writing day depends on my mood. Sometimes I can't write without coffee, some days it's tea. Sometimes I can't stand to be in my office and I need to go to a coffeeshop. Most days I need music but sometimes I need silence. I guess I'm schizophrenic! Like many writers. :-)

  5. I loved this line: "While it's nice to feel like I'm cutting through the pages with no drag, it's equally satisfying to struggle, if I earn some small victory."

    So true! To have that moment of triumph every once in a while can fuel me for days. Great post.

  6. I rarely use the word 'perfect' in the same sentence with the word 'writing' anymore, but here's how I would describe a writing day when things work according to plan: up at 5:30 to exercise, at the desk by 8am to write and able to continue writing until 2pm because there are no compelling interruptions regarding broken commodes, sick children (who actually are young adults and therefore should be immune to sickness), or pending cosmic disasters. Well, now that I think about it, any day that does not feature a pending cosmic disaster is a perfect day for writing.

  7. Jessica, I didn't know about this blog until today. Congratulations on your 2013 debut! I can't wait to read My Blue is Happy! Love the title. As for the perfect writing day...let's see, Patsi is right about those pesky cosmic disasters. Also, for my perfect day, I would not get a sore butt from sitting too long at the computer. I might get one of those snazzy treadmill desks.

  8. Thanks to all – love reading all of your thoughts!

    Tara, yes, warm drinks are good! I might even forego my coffee for a chai latte.

    And no cosmic disasters, Patsi, unless they're in the WIP!

    Thanks, Wanda! I actually write in bed (shhh – don't tell anyone!), so I don't have to worry about a sore bottom (although my posture is horrid!).