A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A WRITER – At a Book Club at the Southville Centre recently, readers quizzed author, Emylia Hall, on how a writer spends her day.
It is, of course, a job like any other: you love it, you hate it, there’s admin, poor grammar, you need to put in the graft and sometimes you get paid. On the other hand, there are few jobs where you spend hours on your own, are expected to dial up creativity on cue yet you can have a snooze, a run, or a pina colada during working hours if you should so wish.
I find I work best in my office. I’m really lucky to have one – it doubles up as the laundry room. A white, minimal space stops me feeling distracted, although every so often I’ll go to a cafe to work, meet other writers or just eat cake.
I have always been very disciplined. When I had a day job in TV I would get up early and fit in a couple of hours writing before work (luckily media jobs start late) or else I’d work and save for six months, then write for the rest of the year. I travelled to research each of my four novels – to the American deep south for Sugar Island and Outer Mongolia for The Naked Name of Love. When I was writing the first drafts I removed myself entirely – The Naked Name of Love was penned in a converted potato shed in Ireland.
A shelf of my books next to my desk sometimes keeps the anxiety at bay!
Now I am extraordinarily privileged to be a novelist as my day job with the odd day doing some TV presenting – but I also look after my three-year-old daughter. I’m still disciplined – I work set hours and set myself word counts – but clearly my time is more limited. The research trips and retreats have gone. The novel I’m writing is set not only in the city but the neighbourhood where I live.
Three days a week I drop my toddler off with her childminder and then work from 9.30am – 3pm with half an hour for lunch. I schedule blocks of time for research, plotting, writing, editing, rewriting and publicity. When I’m in the writing phase I aim for 1,000 words on day 1, and 2,000 on days 2 and 3 of the week. Some of this useful time is eaten up with random web searches that involve shoes and frequent trips to the cupboard containing chocolate and coffee.
I aim to spend three evenings a week on my blog, social media, publicity and admin. In practice, as anyone who looks after small people knows, I usually end up lying in a dark room with a pint of wine.