There is an old Wobbly slogan, “4 hours work for 8 hours pay puts more workers on the job every day.” I haven’t gotten it down to a 4-hour workday yet, but I do believe that a productive day consists of a lot more than typing.
I am not ritualistic or particularly theatrical. There are no candles or prop-typewriters in my office. My wife and I both work from home so we share a converted spare bedroom. The day is broken by time, not word counts. I schedule out the hours by looking at the work in front of me. Likely the product of many stints as a minimum wage worker, I navigate my day in shifts.
The alarm clock goes off at 6:00am. About a year ago I put a Motorhead CD in the player and haven’t changed it since. By the first chorus of Ace of Spades I’m up and on my way to the kitchen to put on the coffee, fix my daughter’s breakfast and make her lunch for school. I wake my daughter up at 6:30am and give her breakfast. While she eats, I pack her lunch and my wife gets my son up and rolling.
The drive to school is one of my favorite creative times of the day. My daughter and I leave by 7:15am and my son comes along for the ride. At five years old, my daughter is brilliantly skilled in the Socratic method and her line of reasoning is pure and poetic. My son quietly listens, absorbing our endless pontification. If I have a deadline, or if I’m coming up with a new pitch, that process is well underway.
I’m back home by 8:00am. I hand my son off to my wife, who just finished working out and I take my turn exercising. It can be anything from walking, running, yoga or some combination there within. After a back injury last year, I learned that exercise was essential to maintaining my ability to write.
The workday begins between 9:30am-10:00am. On days where I have to collaborate with my business partner at Hero & Outlaw, I’ll usually head to their house. Our days include research, meetings, philosophy and dissecting the finer points of narrative strategy. Writing is the result of hours of overthinking.
I don’t find it productive to work through lunch. If I’m working with my business partner, we take our break by noon. When I’m working at home, I join my wife and son for lunch a little bit earlier. Getting to eat all three meals with family always encourages my creative process so I make it a point to take that time together as often as I can.
A half hour later, I’m back at it. The afternoon is typically where I get the bulk of my writing done. The morning has a way of getting swallowed up by emails, pitches, looking for new opportunities and doing research. During these afternoon hours, I settle into the rhythm of writing. Paid work first, then pitching work, then essays and finally poetry. Working in multiple genres with a variety of outcomes keeps things moving. So whether it’s a brand project, a think piece, an interview or a poem, I do what I can to avoid multitasking and just tackle the next project in front of me.
My workday ends at 4:30pm and the night time is devoted to family-time. Being a staff copywriter taught me about regulating the pace of my work. As a self-employed writer where I am my own boss, this is more important than ever. A good day ends with every deadline met and an intriguing project waiting to be unpacked in the morning.
The work of writing is more than writing and it takes a while to work out that balance. The in between moments, conversations, family time and exploration is every bit as important to my productivity as typing. Some days I get more writing done on a walk than I do in my chair. I’ve found that the process driven approach creates the space and balance needed to embrace the more contemplative side of my work and concentrate my productivity.
Noah C Lekas is a poet, music journalist and the author of Saturday Night Sage (Blind Owl '19), a collection of narrative poetry about mysticism and menial labor. Lekas continues to write for a variety of publications, guest lecturer and create narrative strategy as a partner at Hero & Outlaw.