27 June 2017

A Day in the Life of a Writer – The Writing Life

by Paul D. Marks

Today I’m going to talk about A Day in the Life of a Writer. This Writer in particular, but to one degree or another I think much of what I have to say here will apply to most writers. And specifically I’m going to talk about the difference between what others think I do in a day and what I really do and the odd hours I keep.

(Note: Because of the limitations of Blogger, the screenplay format is not totally correct. Also, as this isn’t really a screenplay I’ve cheated and adapted the content for this post.)

Take 1 – The Life of the Writer – What Others Think I Do

FADE IN:


INT. LUXURIOUS BEDROOM – WRITER’S COUNTRY HOUSE – MOS – DAY

Sun streams in through whiter-than-white plantation shutters. A figure stirs under satin sheets. The WRITER sits up in bed, stretches. Rings a little bell and a breakfast of French toast and fresh-squeezed orange juice is brought to him by his ROBOT in a pristine white room with no clutter, little furniture and definitely no clothes strewn anywhere. It’s 1pm on the bedside clock.

Because his life is so perfect, he doesn’t need to go to the bathroom or brush his teeth. It all just magically happens.

He eats leisurely, under an original Edward Hopper painting. He peruses the papers on his tablet, the stock ticker scrolling by on the 75” TV. He smiles big. All is right with the world.


EXT. POOL/BACKYARD – WRITER’S HOUSE – DAY

Bright sun, reminiscent of the original Hockney hanging in the Writer’s office, beats down. The Writer swims laps in his Olympic-sized pool. Towels off, sipping a cool Harvey Wallbanger that his Robot made to perfection. He looks fit, relaxed. Tan. And has a full head of hair:

The Writer with a full head of hair.


INT. HOME OFFICE – A FEW MINUTES LATER

The Writer, dressed cool-casual, enters, his loyal and extremely well-behaved pooch Chandler trailing. He gives a quick nod to that original Hockney. Stands at his high tech Varidesk. Except for the ambient hum of computers and the Baroque music coming from his Echo, all is silent – the perfect atmosphere for writing.

He checks his e-mail. The phone remains silent. The sun spills in on him and Chandler. All is right with the world as he opens his novel’s file and hits the first key of the day.

The start of a perfect day.
                                                                                                                                         FADE OUT.
***

Take 2 – The Life of the Writer – What I Really Do

FADE IN:


INT. MIDDLE CLASS BEDROOM – WRITER’S HOUSE – DAY

Sun streams in through the formerly whiter-than-white blinds. A figure stirs under an old threadbare comforter. The WRITER sits up in bed. He wipes sleep from his eyes. It’s 1pm on the bedside clock.

WRITER
                                                           Oh shit!

He jumps out of bed, jams on a pair of sweats and a T-shirt. Says good morning to his dog, Pepper, sleeping in the corner of the room. Pepper barely stirs. Walks into the


BATHROOM

where he cleans up quickly. Heads back into the


BEDROOM

Tries to get Pepper up. She’s having no part of it. He grabs her collar off the dresser.

WRITER
C’mon, Pepper. Let’s hit the road.

She finally gets up. He puts her collar on. Opens the bedroom door.


BUSTER,

his other dog, charges in like a herd of wild elephants.

WRITER
Calm down, Buster. G’morning.

Buster, a very large German Shepherd, leans into the Writer, nearly knocking him over with love, while Pepper leans into Buster. The Writer tries to keep his balance. He heads down the


HALL

followed by, uh, following the dogs. They head

OUTSIDE

so the dogs can do their business.


INT. HOME OFFICE – A WHILE LATER

The Writer enters, followed by Buster and Pepper. He nods to the framed Beatle albums and lobby cards of In a Lonely Place, The Big Sleep and others. He tries to sit at his computer desk, but it’s almost impossible as the dogs are laying so close he can hardly pull his chair out. He finally “rearranges” them, sits at the computer, opens his file and hits the first key.

Buster hangin' in the office, taking up as
much space as he damn well pleases ;-) .




THE TELEPHONE RINGS

He looks at the Caller ID – “OUT OF AREA”

WRITER
Telemarketer.

He turns back to the computer. From the look on his face we see a great idea has hit him. He starts to type. THE TELEPHONE RINGS AGAIN – ANOTHER TELEMARKETER. 

From the rage on his face it’s clear he’s forgotten his great idea. He picks up the phone. No one’s there. SLAMS it down.

WRITER
Damn telemarketers.

He starts to type again. The phone rings. It’s his friend, who always expects him to be home and available and assumes he’s avoiding calls…which he is. He ignores the call. He starts to type again. We HEAR A CHIME – a new e-mail has just come in. A DIFFERENT CHIME – someone’s commented on Facebook. And the Writer, doing his best imitation of one of Pavlov’s dogs, must answer the chime. It cannot be ignored.

WRITER
Better check that out.
      (pause)
Oh, a cute cat video.

He hits play on the video.

WRITER
And a gorilla dancing to Maniac from Flashdance.

He’s about to hit play when THE DOORBELL RINGS (O.S.).

Buster and Pepper BARK up a storm. The Writer puts his hands to his ears.


INT. ENTRY HALL

The dogs charge in, ready to smash the door down. The Writer follows. He opens the front door to see the UPS truck drive off and a package at his feet. He brings it in. What could it be? Maybe it’s a gift from an anonymous fan? Opens it. It’s for the neighbor.


INT. HOME OFFICE – LATER

The Writer busily writes – for all of two minutes – as we see via the wall clock. He searches the net – sees a link.

WRITER
That’s interesting.

He starts hopping from link to link – doing RESEACH. For two hours – as we see on the wall clock. He returns to his manuscript, types one sentence. Stands. Stretches. Exits.

The Writer's Office -- complete with former assistant. Unfortunately, he's no longer with us. But he was a great assistant.


INT. KITCHEN

He opens the fridge. Looks around. Slams the door. Goes into he


GARAGE,

grabs some Cokes and returns to the


KITCHEN

Puts them in the fridge. Opens one. Notices mounds of dog fur everywhere. Grabs a broom. Sweeps the fur into a huge pile. Plops it into the waste basket. The dogs are at the back door. He goes



OUTSIDE

with them. They do their business. He cleans it. They frolic. He weeds, then waters the outside plants.

Pepper (left) & Buster


INT. HOME OFFICE

The Writer enters, with dogs. He sits at his computer with his warm Coke. He’s just about to start writing – more telemarketer calls. He doesn’t answer but they interrupt his flow.

The phone quiets. He’s about to write. The computer stops responding. There’s 1001 updates.

WRITER
Damn updates.

He downloads said updates. Waits forty-five minutes for them to download and install – we can tell by the clock on the wall.

Time to check the mail.


EXT. HOUSE

The Writer opens the mailbox.

WRITER
I’m sure there’ll be twenty royalty
 checks and a film contract to sign.

He grabs the mail. Bills. And junk mail.

WRITER
I must’ve been dreaming.


INT. KITCHEN

Writer returns. Plops the bills on the counter. Sees the drooping plants. Waters the inside plants.


INT. OFFICE

The Writer enters. Sits at his desk – it’s an hour after he left the office. Where did the time go? He’s just about to start writing – when HE HEARS HIS WIFE, AMY, ENTER (O.S.). DOGS GO NUTS.


MONTAGE: The Writer, Amy, the dogs. Everyone eats. Watch TV. Amy goes to bed.


INT. OFFICE – LATER THAT NIGHT

The Writer enters. It’s quiet. He sits at his desk. Shakes out his hands. Limbers his fingers. Starts writing the Great American Novel from 11pm till 3am – we can tell from the clock on the wall. The Writer does other things till about 6 or 7am, then finally goes to sleep.

And now you know why the Writer keeps such strange hours.

FADE OUT.
***
Take 3

Take 1 is sort of my idealized day. Take 2 is more like my real day, though fictionalized just a little. My comforter really isn’t threadbare. In reality, I’m pretty lucky in that I don’t have to have a day job and when I did it was writing. But the reality also is that my romanticized writer’s life isn’t exactly what we might see in the movies. I do live in a semi-rural area so it’s relatively quiet here, though we live in a canyon so huge double dump trucks go by as there’s a mine up the road. But there’s also a farm and we go there to buy peaches or whatever happens to be in season. Unfortunately, it’s for sale and I hope they don’t turn it into a housing development – Ahhhhhhhh! We also have our own peach tree. And it makes peaches too, lots of them. But the birds always seem to get them before we do.

I do get up around 1pm. Now that sounds pretty “luxurious” except that I go to bed around 7am, give or take. So I don’t really sleep any more than anyone else I just do it at a different time. I do get up and take the dogs outside. Then I usually come back in and have lunch (or breakfast). Do some Facebooking and try to get some work done. The phone does interrupt, mostly telemarketers. It’s gotten so that I almost never answer the phone anymore, even with Caller ID. And even when we had Privacy Manager that was supposed to block telemarketers, most of them got through. I used to love yelling at them or toying with them, but that’s sort of lost its sparkle, so now I just don’t answer the phone.

And since I work at home people expect that I have all the time in the world to talk to them. I have certain friends and family who think I’m available – or should be – any time of the day and night. And some get insulted because they assume I’m here but not picking up. They’re often right. They also assume that I’m watching TV and drinking beer, just having swell time. They’re wrong. It’s not like that. But just like you might be working a job in an office, I’m working a job here and don’t want to be interrupted.

I don’t give out my cell number. The only people who have it are Amy and my mom, and since my mom died a while back I don’t think she’ll be calling, but if she does I’ll let the answering machine pick up... If it’s important she’ll call back. And Amy knows my sleep schedule. So if she calls it has to be an emergency – like wildfire that she’s calling to tell me about. We’ve had to evacuate three times and came close another two. That’s a call I’ll take, but I’d rather it didn’t happen.

So there you have it. My day is a work day, like anyone who goes to an office. My office is just a shorter distance down the hall. And I’m disciplined if I don’t get too many interruptions… What about you? What’s your Writer’s Reality vs. what others think it is?

                                                                                                                           FADE TO BLACK.
###

And now for the usual BSP:

15 comments:

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi Paul,

I appreciated your "screenplay"--both clever and creative. I generally work from about 5 am to 9 am and then again in the evening as time and other responsibilities allow. But I am consistent. And I also get an awful amount of telemarketing calls which I mostly ignore thanks to caller I.D.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Jacqueline. We're kind of at opposite ends of the day in terms of our working hours. But both consistent and I think that's the key. Now if we could only zap the telemarketers through the phone we'do really be doing good.

janice law said...

I like your assistants. Mine is fond of taking my typing chair - now if I could teach the old cat to type my writers life might indeed be interesting.

Eve Fisher said...

Paul, your day #2 sounds pretty typical to me. I don't have assistants any more, but I did just move to a new place, and I'm always finding something else that needs doing. Or my husband tells me about it. Telemarketers, the lure of the internet, and I desperately need to get back on my old writing schedule... Which used to be from 9-10:30 AM, then a long break (exercise, lunch, reading) until around 1:30; 1:30-3:30 PM, go for a long walk; back to emails and internet and sometimes back at it for a while...

And don't we all go out, pick up the mail and think "royalty checks! acceptances! movie contract!" Sigh....

Melodie Campbell said...

Grin - so fun, and yet so clever, in that it is full of the things that drive writers CRAZY. If you're writing at home, you're not really 'doing anything' and thus can be interrupted at any time.
Thanks for my morning smile, Paul!

Art Taylor said...

Such a fun post! Enjoyed the screenplay format and the contrasts here from one take to the next. Nice!

Jude said...

Enjoyed the post. I teach at a local college. During my summer months, I wake at 5:00 A.M., feed my two dogs, my cat, and my rabbit. Then I make coffee, let the dogs out, wash the night's dishes, and after an hour and a half of this, I sit at the computer. I work from 6:30 until about 11:30. I eat, run errands, do shopping, and God knows what else until around 2:00 when I hit the computer again. I work until 5:00 and start supper. My wife, who works days at the same college, comes in around 6:00. We eat, talk a little, and go to our separate offices. She works on her movie scripts and I work until 9:00 or so. When the semester starts, I have the same morning routine, but I don't get to do much writing because I need to be at work by 8:00 A.M. usually. I steal whatever moments I can at work to get some writing done, but that's an iffy proposition. I'm usually done by 3:00 P.M., run errands, cook supper, and sit at the computer from around 7:00 until I either fall asleep in my chair or just turn in. I have no house phone, only a cell phone, and I rarely give out that number. My kids and my wife know that I'm busy and will text occasionally, and if it's important, I'll text back right away. Otherwise, I wait for a break. It's a hectic life, and I look forward to retiring in a few months. Then it will be a summer routine year round.

GBPool said...

I'm in the same screenplay just different hours of the day. The dogs, the phone, and cleaning something that hadn't been touched in four or five years. That's the job description and I wouldn't change it for anything. A fun read, Paul.

Fran Rizer said...

A fun blog. The telemarketers remind me of a Donald Westlake story I read many years ago. The narrator doesn't understand his wife's stress. He winds up at home alone one day. The phone rings constantly with sales pitches and foolishness, and he can't get anything done because of the sales people ringing the doorbell. It ends with murder, of course. If anyone knows the name of this story, I'd appreciate your sharing it. Paul, if you've never read it, I think you'd love it!

B.K. Stevens said...

Enjoyed your post, Paul. I now know an important difference between writers with dogs and writers with cats. If you're a writer with a cat, your day begins at 5:45, because that's when the cat wants breakfast. The cat doesn't care about when you went to bed. The cat cares only about breakfast. If the writer ignores the cat's yowling for too long, the cat will proceed to the second phase: jumping up on bed stands and bureaus and knocking things off. We lost two pretty good alarm clocks that way. Of course, we don't really need the alarm clocks. We have the cat.

Susan Oleksiw said...

I enjoyed the first day enormously--satin sheets and all the rest of it. Unfortunately, I don't have enough energy for the second day, and the dog has learned not to be in too much of a hurry. When we decide we want (have) to write, we never seem to think about how uncomfortable some of this will be. For most of us anyway. I'm more of a morning person, so I work through the morning and early afternoon, and then fuss around and do a few errands, pretend to clean, and read or work some more in the evening. I fit in at least an hour of exercising. Notice the omission of cooking time. Keep it simple is my motto.

Catherine Dilts said...

My writer's routine: up at 5 or so, depending on how many times I hit the snooze button. Dither about packing lunch, making coffee. Write from 5:30 or so to 7. Remember the day job. Run around the house like my hair's on fire. Get out the door and to the day job. Harbor a resentful attitude for 8 hours. Then grocery shopping, checking on mother, running errands, running team workout. Home at last, turn on computer. Remember to fix dinner, water garden, do laundry. Sit down at computer. Husband needs something. Return to computer. Phone call. Return to computer. Read a couple chapters of someone else's work. Fall asleep wondering why I can't write 2 novels and a couple short stories a year, like other authors I know.

M.M. Gornell said...

Oh Paul, what a great post. Not just because of the creativity involved, but the look "inside." And though our schedules and approaches are not the same--there are the animals (of course!) and everything else in the "real" world. So glad I'm not alone in not living in Take One... Very enjoyable post!

Paul D. Marks said...

Thank you, everyone, for your responses. It's fun to hear what your writing reality is.

I have to go to a funeral today, so I can't respond individually as I normally do. But I will tonight when I get home.

Thanks again.

Kaye George said...

Well done, Paul. I loved it. Seriously though, do you have any old CDs lying around? Hang them on wires in your peach trees. Birds and animals will all leave them alone. It works!