Daily Writing Routines (and what works for Nathaniel Philbrick)

nathaniel-philbric-Bunker-Hill-Cover-198x300If 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.

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