WARMUP: 12 minutes. On-demand story request from elder toddler. Composition must feature both siblings alongside various IP characters—all from different universes, frequently incompatible, in different combinations, permutations. Cannot be prepared in advance due to ever-changing cast. Must be delivered extemporaneously during drive to daycare regardless of weather, traffic, or hours of sleep acquired during preceding night. Must be stored in accessible memory in the event that reprise is requested on the way home.
PRACTICE, PEAK: 3.5 hours. Salaried writing. Does not belong to me. Pleasant to do, often stimulating/challenging, feeds family, but gets us no closer to the mountain.
BREAK: One hour. On in-office days, scarf lunch quickly in order to walk/think or read/study. On work-at-home days, research. Specifically, one episode of General Hospital for analysis of consistent characterization (as when new actors take over existing roles), slow-burn plot development (conflicts rising to crescendo over weeks, months, years), and re-orienting audience with crucial details to keep story moving (as when character returns from dead, encounters evil twin, has memories implanted/erased, etc.). Intensely underrated writing and structure. Observe.
PRACTICE, PEAK: 3.5 hours. Still salaried. Non-fiction. Good for practice on hooks, storytelling, suspense. Draining, but can’t complain.
BLACKOUT: 2.5 hours. Transit, family dinner, bedtime routines (not mine). Would trade these hours for nothing, not one thing, except perhaps longer versions of said hours.
PRACTICE, OFF-PEAK: One hour, with exceptions, when all the magic has to happen or not at all. Sometimes Writing In Silence for an Hour with a friend at a coffee shop, more frequently tapping at pre-wifi desktop or wrapped in a quilt on the couch with laptop humming, pair of baby monitors whispering at elbows. Chisel away at novella hiding inside old novel draft, tinker with story met by latest thanks-but-no-thanks. Off-peak hours also critical for running expensive household appliances—laundry, dishes—general homesteading, maintaining key relationships, social life, supplemental paid work. Find ways to incorporate all.
REFUEL: Never enough hours. Reading and bed, or DuckTales and bed, if day’s news is particularly upsetting. Gratitude for time carved out to write, study, think, any chance to go to the story and live there for a while. Imagine each hour spent thusly acquiring mass, becoming physical part of story as it grows, takes shape, escapes containment. Keep making room.
A. L. Bishop is a writer from Niagara Falls, Canada whose short fiction has appeared in The Writing Disorder, The Forge, Exile: the Literary Quarterly and Book Six of the Carter V. Cooper Short Fiction Anthology Series. Learn more at albishopiswriting.com.