Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Joe Bongiorno: My Writing Day

My writing day begins at around 7 am. I’m hunched over in front of the espresso machine, watching the coffee trickle down into my cup. After frying up some eggs, scarfing them down and doom-scrolling through the news, I retreat to my office desk.

I kick off projects on my typewriter. I like the feel of the keys and the sound of the machine’s metal innards spitting out words letter by letter. But the typewriter is more than an aesthetic choice. It isn’t hooked up to blackhole of infinite distractions that is the internet. Most important of all, I can’t erase the words. Once chosen, they can’t be taken back.

Sometimes I have an outline scrawled out on a page in my notebook. Other times I’m jolted by a line I wrote on a mustard-stained napkin or one of the dozen Post-It notes stuck to the wall. Whichever way the process starts, once I get going, I write without stopping to edit until it feels like the story fragments make some kind of intuitive sense, enough to proceed to the next stage. It has taken me years to accept writing without immediately interrupting the process to judge the work.

I eat a quick lunch at around 12 and slurp down another caffeine hit. Once wired, I read through the typewritten papers riddled with punctuation errors, misspellings and random capitalizations. The mistakes don’t matter at this point. In fact, I am strangely proud of them. I scribble notes about the story structure and direction in the margins. I use a fountain pen. Again, I like the way it feels, the firm pen barrel against my fingers. The calluses on my writing hand are earned after a day’s work.

In the midafternoon, I switch to my laptop to flesh out the bones. Rewrite, edit and shape. If it works out, the scribblings will transform into a legible story. If it doesn’t, it will end up in the digital scrap heap.

Sometimes I listen to music to get into the groove. I like to think that each story I write has a color, a visceral texture, but more often than not, music disrupts rather than inspire. Unlike my typewriter, my laptop is connected to the web, and I don’t have the monk-like resolve to disconnect myself from Skynet. I fight against the urge to scour YouTube for the Top 10 best quiche recipes.

My office is made up of four walls. No windows and only limited space for light to trickle into. Restlessness sets in. My retinas are sizzled from the screen glare. From this moment to the end of the day’s shift, I will be on the move within my apartment, and each move is punctuated by a shot of espresso.

I used to write at the neighbourhood café, but now that this is no longer an option, I’ve been writing more at the kitchen table. It’s sturdy and comfortable, but the wood eventually makes my butt go numb. The living room couch works well enough for about an hour before I sink into the space between the cushions. Sometimes I write in bed, but my eyelids tend to grow heavier there. Wherever I am, I write and rewrite until it feels right.

By the time the sun goes down, I’m all out juice. The world outside of the writing bubble comes a-knockin.’ Work emails, an empty fridge, a ringing phone. As I make supper, I try not to think about writing. I try not to sabotage the story sapling before it’s had a chance to come together and convince me it’s worth cultivating.

Tomorrow, I do it all over again.



Joe Bongiorno is a Montreal-based author and journalist. His writing has appeared in or is forthcoming in literary journals including Geist, Canadian Notes & Queries, Event, Freefall, Broken Pencil, and The Antigonish Review. His journalistic work has appeared in media outlets like The National Observer, CBC, and The Montreal Gazette. He was shortlisted for both the Freefall 2018 and 2019 Prose & Poetry Contest. He won Event’s 2019 Speculative Writing Contest. Joe is currently working on a novel and a short story collection.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Nathan Anderson : Writing Day.

My day begins around 7am. I will wake, rise (yawning reveille) and proceed to read the news as I eat my breakfast (almost always tea and toast). Once beyond morning ablutions I will generally continue to read for an hour or so if I don’t have more pressing matters to attend to. The act of reading, while relaxing and pleasurable, is an important step in my writing day. This early stimulus can often be the difference between enjoying a good day’s work and not. However, I am sure to vary this morning routine occasionally, preferably with a walk, both for the joy that’s to be had in the natural world (I live in a beautiful rural area) and to avoid remaining cloistered in the chambers of my skull. While not strictly ritualistic I do have a tendency to become lodged in routine, a trait generally expected in those many decades my senior. Fortunately, my partner is particularly adept at extricating me from these pitfalls (it doesn’t hurt that I love her tremendously either), even if at times I am reluctant.     

From then I will write, often starting with editing some previous work unless I am feeling particularly inspired by something new. I imagine we have all experienced moments when we have almost sprung out of bed, salivating insanely and bursting with energy to begin the task we have before us. If not in this state of high enthusiasm, I find the editing process a good exercise to bring me into the correct mindset required to write something new, if, indeed, I have anything new to write.

While some writers are fortunate in their abilities to work enthusiastically and proficiently as a matter of course, I require a particular mindset in order to work to my utmost. I find it a combination both of my manner as well as the experimental nature of my writing which requires this. The nature of my work entails my getting behind the images, so to speak, to think in a way tuned to particular creative frequencies which are, perhaps, not conducive to the day to day processes of life. It is a mindset which I have only experienced, outside of writing, through meditation (and indeed, I consider my writing to be an act of meditation). Sometimes to my frustration it is beyond my reach. On such days I will remain productive by editing or working on forms of writing for which this mindset is not required (essays, reviews, etc.) as I like to write every day if possible. I’ll do this until about midday when I stop for a brief break, eat lunch and then get back to it. I will then continue to work until sometime in the afternoon (depending on how driven or how susceptible to procrastination I am). After that I do as I wish (more often than not this is more reading).

I live with my partner in a rather small house (just two rooms and a bathroom) and so don’t possess any of the fine writing desks or offices many other writers do. Instead I simply write in the comfort of my old fashioned green chair. A gift from my father once owned by a now deceased friend of his, an academic of Australian literature, that he hoped would bring me luck and inspiration. And while I cannot speak to any miraculous effects brought on by the chair, it is indeed a comfortable place to sit, laptop on knees, and quietly work.  

And indeed the quiet it vital. Like many writers I need it in order to work effectively. It is ideal then that I live more than an hour outside the nearest city in a small, fairly secluded rural area. Certainly a tranquil and beautiful place to live. Most noises here are confined to the laughter of the kookaburras, my partner’s singing and the occasional car. It makes for an idyllic and comfortable setting largely free from distraction. I remember being in a state of awe having read that the poet Frank O’Hara was capable of writing even in the midst of roaring parties. A great gift. If only to be so fortunate.  




Nathan Anderson is a writer from Mongarlowe, Australia. His work has appeared in Otoliths, Gone Lawn and elsewhere. You can find him at or on Twitter @NJApoetry.


Monday, December 14, 2020

Ai Jiang : My Writing Day


My writing day starts before the sun comes up; when it's past 12 a.m., perhaps around 3 a.m., when my eyes are closed and my body is frozen, but my mind wanders and begins to write with a pen that marks but without ink that stays. Sometimes, I'll force myself up to jot down the thoughts for my next piece; sometimes, I let the ideas simmer past dawn, after the sun rises, until I awake fully usually around noon. And if I still remember the idea or the scene development, then I'll write it down.

Throughout the day, if I'm not writing, editing, or reading for the magazines that I'm a volunteer at, I can be found reading to learn more about the genres that I would like to write in. In between the writing, editing, and reading, I have a bad habit of constantly checking my Twitter and refreshing Submittable to see if any of my submissions had somehow changed to "In Progress" in the few seconds that I left it unchecked. Although there will usually be email notifications whenever something new has arrived in my inbox, I'll check it regardless several times during the day.

I think that on a typical writing day, I often do much more thinking than I do actual writing. But I realized that for the fiction pieces that I think about for longer periods before actually writing, they are much more refined. Yet, this is the opposite when I'm writing poetry which inspiration usually hits me randomly and fizzles out just as fast if I don't write it down right away.

Sometimes, when I'm overwhelmed by my uncompleted works, I attempt to relieve my stress by surfing Netflix for different T.V. series and movies that I can watch and write reviews on at a later time. Unfortunately, I'm quite the incompetent when it comes to cooking, so for meals I usually take-out food or my boyfriend generously cooks for the both of us when he is not as busy with his own work. Generally, I end only have one or two meals a day because of the late times I sleep and wake at.

          After I've written what I needed to for the day, I find it difficult to go back to it and begin the revision process for quite some time unless someone made it glaringly clear to me what I needed to fix. I think that I'm the kind of writer who needs a little nudge to see what exactly is working and what is not in my own work, although it is much easier to notice these things when looking at works by other writers. Self-editing, I think, is always the hardest part. 

By the end of the day, I jot down my reading, writing, and editing plans for the next day in my overly decorated planner, which I sometimes may or may not look at the following day. I'll sit in front of my workspace, writing down future writing ideas on an excessive amount of sticky notes, or in my reading corner attempting to both plough through, but also practice slow ways of reading, the books on my reading list.




Ai Jiang (@AiJiang_) is a Chinese-Canadian writer. She graduated with a BA in Literature from the University of Toronto and is a current student at the Humber School for Writers. She is a columnist for Maudlin House and writes and edits for Velvet Field Magazine, and also reads for Strange Horizons. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Maudlin House, Haunted Waters Press, Beyond Words Magazine, and elsewhere. Find her online at