My writing day isn’t so much a day as various small pockets of time I carve out for myself. I have a full-time job and I live with my partner and his son (my stepson), so it is often hard to find solid blocks of time to devote to writing. It’s not all that bad, though. In fact, I think it really works for me. If I had too much free time, I’m not sure that I’d be as committed during my writing time.
A typical day for me starts around 7:00 am when I wake up. I give myself 20-30 minutes of alone time in the morning to eat breakfast while doing some quick reading. Sometimes this just means reading my Twitter feed, but other times this means reading over poems that I have in the works and making some quick revisions. I read my poems over a lot to try and get a sense of them, trying to find if something doesn’t feel right or flow right.
Just before 8:00 am, I’ll wake my stepson up and get him eating breakfast before I depart for the bus to go to work.
I deliberately take a transit route to work that’s a little longer and has fewer transfers. Sometimes, I’ll write on the bus (on my phone) but a lot of the time I just use this space to think about what I’d like to write. A lot of my poems start from a single line or phrase that I think is interesting, and the topic of the poem will emerge from there. I don’t always like writing on the bus. It’s hard for me to re-enter poems I’ve half started (unless I’m completely revising them) so I try to avoid starting a new poem when I’ll have to transfer soon and interrupt the flow. Often, I’ll just hold onto a phrase or an idea to enter back in on later.
When I get off work, I pick up my stepson and spend much of my evening doing various things around the house and preparing dinner (my partner works most evenings). If I have a poem or an idea from earlier in the day, I’ll usually wait until my stepson is in bed before devoting time to drafting it out.
I rarely write on my computer. I write with a pencil in a notebook or on my phone. Because my day job is spent at a computer, I feel like I need a mental break from that space when writing. My favourite spot to write in my house is the corner of my L shaped sofa, maybe with a mug of tea, maybe with a glass wine. I love writing in absolute comfort, where I’m writing because I want to and not because I’ve implemented some kind of schedule or deadline on myself.
That being said, I do occasionally plan days off to write. This usually happens on a Sunday when my partner and I agree to have a “writing day.” This may mean sitting together on opposite ends of the couch, or in the little patio space outside of our basement suite, or sometimes we’ll go to a local coffee shop (or even the brewery!). It helps to have someone to write with. I’m not very productive when I’m alone.
When we spend the day writing together, my partner writes episodes for his history podcast or works on a history article. He is incredibly productive in producing ready content, while I accumulate a lot of drafts. In one month, I might write one poem that I’ll keep and pile up a bunch of others that I don’t think are working, though maybe I’ll come back to them later.
On the rare occasion that I’m home alone, I don’t often find that I’m able to write. I need people around me, and some small amount of background noise. When I’ve decided that it’s a day to write, I’ll bring a pile of books with me to wherever I’m settling in. I can’t force myself to write when I don’t feel like it, so I like to have a lot of options: books by other poets, a poetic forms book, a literary magazine, a short story I’m working on, or old poems that I’d like to revisit. I believe that reading helps you be a better writer, so even if I don’t get any words down, getting some reading in on one of these days is a step in the right direction.
For me, a successful writing day means I’ve developed a strong first draft. It’s easier to fit in edits and revision through the pockets of time on a busy day, but for me, a promising first draft is the hardest. When I feel like a poem is almost “ready” (are they ever ready?) I’ll ask my partner to read it. He’s not a poet and doesn’t always have much feedback, but it’s also an opportunity to prod him with questions I’ve been thinking of while revising (i.e. “does this make sense to you?”, “what did you think this meant when you read it?”). In exchange, I’ll offer my outsider perspective of his history writing. This non-excerpt advise makes our writing a collective experience, and it helps make me more confident as I work towards the hardest part of the writing day: sending a poem or a story out into the world.
Angela Caravan lives in Vancouver, BC, and writes poetry, fiction, and essays. She is the author of the micro-chapbook Landing (post ghost press) and was 2nd runner-up in Pulp Literature’s 2018 Magpie Poetry Contest. Her work has also appeared in Longleaf Review, Reel Honey Mag, and Screen Queens. You can find her on Twitter at @a_caravan.