Every so often, I document a day in my not-so-average life. Last time, I told you about a getaway in Bosnia and Herzegovina. And this time, I’ve expanded to document an entire week. Here in NYC, I’ve been on a pretty set schedule, working Monday – Wednesday, devoting Thursdays to my novel, and taking a digital detox day on Fridays. So any one day isn’t very representative of the others. Thus, I’ve documented a whole week. And honestly, it’s a pretty average, non-travely one.
7:20 / As usual, I wake with the light. No alarms. No rigid morning schedules. Just me waking naturally when the sleep cycle is done. Somewhere between 7 and 8 is pretty typical this time of year. In the summer, when the sun rises earlier, it’ll be earlier. In the winter, I’ll sometimes sleep longer.
Luna is at her snuggliest in the mornings, so after taking her for a quick potty break, I climb back into bed and we have a snuggle fest. First, she bounces all over Chad, thrilled that it’s morning and thrilled that he’s there, and then, when she realizes he’s just going to roll over and go back to sleep, she lets me snuggle her and give her a rub down.
7:35 / Now, I’m actually up. The morning is full of the usual morning things we all have to tackle: tooth brushing and breakfasts and makeup and hydration. I put on my earphones and listen to an episode of Sawbones while I get ready for the day.
8:40 / I settle in on the loveseat in our cozy New York living room to start my workday. I currently have an ongoing project that involves editing text and photos and formatting code for three articles per week, so I usually start my Monday by checking those off the list before I dive into anything else.
10:38 / I wrap up my edits and take a look at the rest of my to-do list for the day. I try to keep my must-do lists short (to keep stress in check), so today the edits were my big must-do and everything else on the list is smaller and less urgent.
Ultimately, since this is a good point for a break, I decide to make lunch (leftover homemade chicken tortilla soup), take the dog out, and run a couple nearby errands (grocery store + library).
11:58 / Next up on my work to-do list are some final touches on a client website and a third round of edits on a super fun tech project.
1 / Once I’m done with those bigger, billable projects, I turn my attention to the unbillable side of my to-do list: checking emails, planning a writer meet-up for late April, and planning my accommodations for a conference in Minneapolis in May.
2 / By 2, I’ve wrapped up all the tasks on my to-do list, which I consider a big win. Usually Mondays are my longest workdays, but everything went pretty quickly today and this week is a relatively light one, so now it’s just a question of whether I want to knock some of the rest of the week’s to-do items off the list or if I feel like reading awhile. I decide to tackle a blog post or two.
3:55 / I wrap up the blog posts and call it a day on computer screens and work-related stuff. Time to feed the dog, grab a snack, and then get ready to head downtown.
4:47 / I pack my bag and head to the train. Tonight I’m attending a writing panel at one of the downtown libraries. It takes about an hour to get there, so I spend my subway ride jotting down notes about what happens next in my novel (I’ve been stuck on a couple chapters and frequently have breakthroughs while in transit) and then reading a bit of The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, which is an absolutely wonderful book so far.
6 / The event is an interesting one and I chit-chat with a few other writers.
8:07 / I head home from the library, arriving around nine and stealing a few moments with Chad since I haven’t spent any real time with him all day. He starts to fall asleep, so I retreat to the living room (so as not to disturb him) and read a bit to wind down (as my writing event has left me way more jazzed and awake than usual this time of day) and then put on a podcast to try and fall asleep.
7:30 / I’m up and about. Time for breakfast and clothes, dog pee-breaks and hair curling.
8:10 / I settle in on the couch for the day with my to-do list balanced on the couch arm and a tall glass of milky tea (a toffee blend from the fabulous Physical Graffitea). The first task on my to-do list is reviewing the strategic questionnaire I send to new clients and starting on the new client’s strategy and sitemap. I log into email to pull up the questionnaire and get started…and the client has emailed to ask for a little more time.
Which means onto the next task: skimming through email for anything urgent and then writing and scheduling blog posts for the next few weeks.
11:55 / Time for a late lunch of some leftover chicken tortilla soup.
12:45 / Back at the computer, I wrap up the blog posts (I’m pretty much set for the next three weeks now) and turn my attention to a private novelist mentorship project I’ve volunteered to make and manage the website for. The website is already set up, but we’ve got a bit more content to get up in it before we can launch the program.
3:54 / I wrap up my volunteer project for the afternoon, hydrate, and watch an episode of Law & Order SVU to let my brain chill out and focus on something non-worky.
4:46 / I grab my things and head out for some sushi and then a marketing professionals networking event. The sushi place, despite its rave reviews, is wildly disappointing (sadly, that’s happened a lot this time around: I’m having terrible New York food luck).
Post-sushi, I walk around downtown a bit with an episode of Science Vs. playing on my iPod. Then I make my way to the event, which is great. I give out gobs of cards, meet some super nice people, and slip out around 8:30 once I’ve hit my introvert wall.
9:30 / The bad news about evening networking events is getting home so late. Normally, I’d be asleep or nearly asleep by now, but instead I’m wide awake and know that winding down will take awhile. The good news? I’m in love with The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. So at least if I am awake late into the night, I have something good to read.
Wednesday is the epitome of a normal, non-travely day. It snows all day and my evening event is cancelled and I already tackled all my work tasks for the week, so I spend the day grocery shopping, making bone broth, drinking amazing cinnamon tea, catching up on my blog reading, re-writing my query letter for my current novel-in-progress, reading for my writing group (a group where we all send in a few pages of our novels each week and the rest of the group critiques and asks questions and helps us see what still needs work), and nearly finishing The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice & Virtue.
7:30 / I speed through my usual morning routine because Thursday is the one day each week I devote to my novel and I’m excited to get into it for the day.
8 / By 8, I’m bundled up and out the door, making my way through slushy streets to a nearby coffee shop that advertises non-GMO, homemade pastries. The place is cozy and relatively quiet, which makes it a decent choice for a writing morning.
I order cinnamon maple pull-apart bread and homemade Chai and settle in to write.
11:40 / With about 3,000 new words added to the manuscript, I head home for a lunch of chicken and veggie soup. I spent the morning writing a really intense scene, so I’m a bit jittery and emotionally drained when I get home. I don’t know if other writers feel the same, but when I put my characters through terrible ordeals, it quite literally makes me shaky.
Still, I do it.
12:49 / Done with lunch, I do a bit of research reading and then get ready to head downtown. My writing group meets in TriBecA at 3 p.m. and I wouldn’t mind heading down early to tuck myself away for a little more writing time and to grab a smoothie before group.
3 / It’s writing group time! This is probably my favorite thing about being in one place for awhile and, particularly, about being in New York. There are so many writers here that it was easy to put together a little weekly writing group.
It keeps me accountable to work on my novel each week and has already helped me figure out where to fill in some gaps in my first chapters (I tend to be an underwriter, which means my first drafts come through lean and I lean heavily on my first readers to tell me where they need more context, information, or description).
5:30 / We wrap up writing group and I head home. Unfortunately, the trains are having issues and it takes ages to catch an express, so I arrive home hangry and dive into a giant bowl of cereal for dinner because I don’t have the energy or patience to make myself real food.
7 / I spend the evening doing laundry and reading the incredible writing book Wired for Story, and trying to wind down and relax after a day that was a little overstimulating (being out in the city so much of the day often leaves me exhausted – I definitely need more introvert time).
6 / I wake feeling a bit headachey and disoriented, so I drink a large glass of water (in case I didn’t hydrate properly yesterday) and have a bowl of cereal (in case it’s a blood sugar issue). I take Luna out. Then I climb back into bed and attempt to fall back asleep.
9 / I fade in and out of sleep for a few hours, waking much later than normal, but feeling much better. Luckily, it’s Digital Detox Friday – the day each week when I try to stay offline entirely – which means it’s also my day off and sleeping in doesn’t make me feel anxious or put me behind on my morning’s workload.
10 / The big exception I’ve been making on Digital Detox Fridays is that I let myself log on in order to send my writing group next week’s submission (a chapter or two of my novel). The pages are already written, but I spend a little time on Friday mornings deciding how much to send and peeking through it again for any obvious typos or issues. This week I decide my next chapters aren’t really ready for the group to read, so I send them my query letter instead.
12 / After lunch, I dive back into my storytelling book (which is, by far, the best writing craft book I’ve ever read) and very quickly have an epiphany about a point in my novel that’s felt a bit wrong. It leaves me feeling energized and excited to dive back into the project.
1:15 / I grab my things and head out. The writing conference I’ve been attending has a lengthy afternoon session at the gorgeous Bryant Park library starting at noon.
1:45 / Outside Whole Foods (where I’m popping in to grab snacks since I’ve been having some afternoon blood sugar drops lately that leave me tired and hangry), there’s a homeless woman sitting behind a cardboard sign. It says she needs $75 for a warm, safe place to sleep that night.
And there’s something about her that guts me.
She’s my age, maybe, and her head is down and her eyes are closed and she could be me. She could be a friend of mine. She could be anyone.
I squat down beside her and ask her if she’s tried the shelters. I don’t know much about them and wish deeply in that moment that I did. Are there women-only shelters? I can imagine it wouldn’t feel safe in a mixed-gender one.
She says she’s tried the shelters and they’re really scary. She’s on a waiting list for housing, but it hasn’t come through yet.
I’m relieved that her situation is temporary, but also angry that our system isn’t faster and better. Angry that my tax dollars go toward maintaining a ridiculously large military and funding golf weekends instead of housing this woman.
She tells me she never imagined it could happen to her.
And I think: isn’t that how we humans are? It’s hard to imagine it could happen to us. It’s hard to imagine that sometimes life is outside our control.
But in that moment I can imagine.
And I don’t know what to do, but I’m gutted.
I give her what I can. I tell her I’m sorry this happened to her. And, not knowing what else to do, I go.
2 / I settle into a chair at the writing panel, still thinking about the woman on the street, then listening and laughing and nearly crying at the heartfelt answers of the panelists on the queer YA panel. The moderator asks them why they wrote their stories. So many of the answers are gut-wrenching. These are the stories they needed as kids. Too many times, the stories they didn’t have.
One author describes how a young teen approached him during a school visit and reading, after he’d read a portion of his book where his queer teen protagonist asks his parents if he can go on a date for the first time. The young teen asked the author, “so, what are their dates like? I want to know more about their dates!”
The author burst into tears.
The librarian burst into tears.
Because now you can ask that question. Because the teen felt safe asking the question. Because the author hadn’t come out of the closet in his own teen years.
5 / The last panel of the day is on writing romance – something I’m not particularly interested in, myself, so I slip out the back and head home.
6:30 / Nothing in the kitchen excites me, so I make my way a few blocks down to a Japanese place that gets good reviews. In keeping with my bad NY food luck, it’s nothing special. After dinner, I tuck myself into bed with a movie.
7 / Luna wakes me this morning for an emergency pee break, and I stay up once I’m up. I spend the morning doing a grocery run, entering my receipts into my financial spreadsheets, catching up on emails, and updating this post.
11 / Before I know it, it’s time to make us some lunch, feed the dog, and get my things together. My writer’s event starts at 1 today, so I need to leave around 12.
1 / I settle into a chair in one of the main public library’s grand downstairs rooms to listen to panels of writers talk about everything from debuts to their writerly journeys.
4:15 / The event is supposed to go until 5 (and then start up again in another location at 7), but I’ve hit a major introvert wall, so I sneak out early, shove earplugs in my ears, and flee to a nearby Chipotle where I settle in at a table to munch a burrito and read for next Thursday’s writer meet-up.
5:15 / After an hour of ear-plugged, quiet alone time, I’m feeling much more relaxed. So when I see a woman I recognize from the event walking past my table, I ask if she’d like to join me. She turns out to be a YouTube book reviewer and just a kind, bookish, lovely person. We chat about YA fantasy reads, our nerdy partners, and my book projects as we both finish our dinners and then head down to the next author event.
7 / The last panel of the week is in the basement of a bookstore in lower Manhattan. I’m tired, but force myself to go talk to a few authors and ask about their books. I also network with the shop dog. It’s decidedly less stressful than approaching humans.
8 / The panel concludes, I say bye to a couple people, and then I board a train heading home.
8:45 / I spend the rest of the evening researching book events that my new friend told me about, adding books to my to-read list, and then eventually curling up with an episode of Sawbones to lull me to sleep.
7 / Up early as usual, I rush through my basic get-ready routine so that I can sit down and spend some time on my book. I’ve had several breakthroughs this week and I’m itching to get another thousand words on the page.
Of course, things don’t always go as planned. I do a little work on the book and then let myself get distracted by emails and a website fix I’ve been meaning to do for awhile.
10 / Things turn around when I head to the laundromat. I write one scene and leave inspired, heading home, grabbing a quick lunch of leftovers, and then diving back into the book.
I plow through something like three chapters and 2,500 words before I have to call it quits for the afternoon.
3 / We head out for an afternoon food tour here in Harlem. Our guide – Adrienne – is incredibly knowledgeable about the NY food scene and since she lives in Harlem, she has a particular passion for the neighborhood joints.
The best stop is the last one: my favorite Harlem tea shop, Serengeti Teas & Spices.
7:30 / I make it home, take Luna out, feed her, shower, brush my teeth, and climb into bed. I’ll spend the rest of my evening winding down with a movie, a few online book event searches, and some reading.
What are your typical weeks like these days?