Daily Writing Routines (and what works for Nathaniel Philbrick)
If you’re a full-time freelance writer like I am, discipline can be a daily struggle. “It’s a sunny day. I’ll just go run some errands,” you might rationalize. Or maybe it’s, “My fridge is so disgusting. I can’t write with it looking that way!” Even if you’re not a freelancer, maybe you’re at your office and think, “I can’t write another word until I see if someone’s retweeted by post.” Oh, the writing hours we waste.
To be a successful writer, it’s important to stick to a daily routine so that we can meet our deadlines and be efficient. (I tell myself this every day!) Yesterday I interviewed Nathaniel Philbrick, the acclaimed author of several bestsellers including “Bunker Hill,” “In the Heart of the Sea” and “Mayflower,” a finalist for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in History. I’m always curious about the daily writing routines of other writers, so I asked Philbrick about his. Philbrick, who began his professional writing career at “Sailing World” magazine where he worked for four years, generously gave me the rundown of a typical writing day in the basement of his Nantucket home.
“My daily routine is, I get my coffee in the morning and I’m at my desk by 9 a.m. I work until about 2 in the afternoon. Get lunch…our house is in town and it’s a short walk to Main Street. I’ll get lunch at the counter at the local pharmacy,” Philbrick said. “Then work for another couple of hours until I walk my dog Stella…she’s a golden retriever. That walk takes about 45 minutes. Then I go back to work until my wife gets home which is usually about 6 or 7 p.m. And that’s pretty much my day.”
“Wow, I love it. That sounds very disciplined,” I said.
“Actually, I’m disciplined because so much of what I do is without discipline, if you know what I mean. Without structure, at least,” he said. “I have to have some kind of routine or I don’t know if anything would happen.”
A daily writing routine can be as simple and unfussy as Philbrick’s. He works at least eight hours a day and manages to exercise, too. I love that his day is balanced and seemingly stress free. (He sounds like such an easy-going guy on the phone!) And it works. Philbrick has numerous bestsellers to show for it.
Jennifer Nicole Sullivan is a freelance writer who covers fashion, entertainment and the arts in New York City. She’s the Vintage Clothing Guide (writer/editor) at About.com and a contributing writer at Newport Mercury. Previously, she was a copywriter at Real Simple Magazine and a features reporter at Corpus Christi Caller-Times. And she’s still a Dallas girl! Contact her on Twitter @trendyjenny or learn more at jennifernicolesullivan.com.
Tags: 2013, About.com, advice, author, Bunker Hill, freelancer, Freelancing, generation j, genj, In the Heart of the Sea, Jennifer Nicole Sullivan, journalism, Mayflower, Nathaniel Philbrick, Newport Mercury, Society of Professional Journalists, spj, writing, Writing Discipline, Writing Routines
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