A lot of people tell me they would love to be doing my job, writing romance novels that are published and sold all over the globe and I agree-it’s the best job in the world. But what is it I actually do in the course of an average day?
Well…..are you ready?
I am not a normal person, OK? Let’s establish that right here and now. I am high energy and driven so what I pack into a day most people would do in a week: some wouldn’t even do it in a month!
I wake early, not by choice really but my brain clocks on about four a.m and decides any more sleep after that is superfluous. But rather than toss and turn and get agitated, I have found this to be a really good thinking and mulling over time. I don’t get up but stay snuggled there thinking about my latest plot and characters and what they might get up to that day when I finally get in front of my computer to interact with them.
Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day. I usually have it alone reading the paper and drinking a couple of cups of tear, the second one never tastes as good as the first one for some reason! The newspaper gives me a lot of inspiration and so too do magazines so I usually have a pile nearby I can flick through.
I usually check my emails as this point and see to any pressing business. That’s the part of a writer’s life I was totally unprepared for when I was first published. The business side of things takes up a lot of time, consequently cutting into writing time. I have to be really organised so things don’t slip out of my grasp so I have notes and reminders everywhere.
The next chore for the day (and to me it isn’t really a chore) is I go for a swim. I am a competitive Masters swimmer so training sessions are regular and hard but I love the challenge. I don’t swim any less than 3 kilometres, yesterday I did 4 and today’s program is similar. I love the thinking time if affords me as I follow that black line. It’s amazing how many plots I’ve thought of while I’ve been swimming.
After my swim I usually rush past the deli or the butcher or grocery market to stock up on supplies. I think I would have made a very good French woman as I nearly always shop daily. I never seem to know what I want to cook until that day. That’s the impulsive part of me, I guess. Today however I had to also drop in on my financial planner to sign some forms and I also went to the bank. Phew! Are you still with me?
Unless I am meeting someone for lunch I usually have it at home. I bolt down some protein-rich food and yes another cup of tea. I have to share everything of course with my two little writing companions, Pippi my little fox terrier and Polly our new baby miniature Poodle. They sit at my feet with beseeching black/brown eyes waiting for a crumb or two to fall. I usually take them for a decent walk after lunch as it gets my head around the prospect of sitting for several hours in my office and it also gets them off my back. They don’t really settle until I take them out. I sometimes take my mobile phone with me and catch up with one or two friends. It’s yet another way of multi-tasking!
Of course there is always a load of washing and pot plants to water but the busier I have become the more I have had to outsource those tasks. Actually I think I need a wife!
As soon as I sit down at about one in the afternoon I read through what I wrote the day before. If I have been interrupted say because of a copy edit that came in or a request for some revisions from my editor on a recently submitted novel, I will have to reread the whole thing to remind myself what colour eyes everyone has and who is who! I am fortunate that most days the writing just flows. I don’t have a problem with ideas or plots or characters, it all seems to come together quite easily, but having said that some novels do occasionally give me trouble. I hate those days! I feel like every word is being squeezed out of me like cold honey out of an eyedropper. However it usually passes once I work out what is wrong with the plot or scene or the point of view I’m in. Some writers have a set word count they aim for each day but I am a little more flexible. I try to aim for at least a chapter but that can be anything up to fifteen pages which is not always possible if there are other things going on. Working from home I am constantly interrupted by phone calls or people dropping by or relatives or friends needing me for something. I don’t like to lock myself away from genuine requests but there are days when I feel like putting a note on the door: Do Not Disturb.
One of the biggest challenges for me, particularly in the last two years as my schedule has risen to seven books a year is I have had to work out which days are just not writing days. Of course with such a big contract hanging over my head I can’t afford to have too many days off, but I am now starting recognise when it’s time to curl up with a good book instead to recharge my batteries.
I sometimes listen to music when I write but lately I haven’t as I have enjoyed the peace and quiet of the house. Also I love hearing Polly playing with Pippi or our newly acquired cat Mango.
I have heard it said that writers are mostly solitary people who prefer their own company. I would never have thought that particularly true of me as I am known for being an extrovert but over the last year or so I have found the need to be alone much greater. I guess it’s the need to centre myself, to gather my thoughts in order to express the deep and heart-wrenching emotional stories I like to write.
Writing a romance novel can be a very emotionally draining exercise that is why I think it’s important to have balance in your life. I am at my creative best when I have lots of exercise, lots of rest and reading time and not too much pressure. I keep well ahead of my deadlines as although I can work well under pressure I prefer to be organised and in front.
I am usually in the middle of a really great scene or idea when it is time to think about cooking the evening meal. Although lately we’ve been trying to share the domestic load, I am afraid being married to a surgeon for all these years has made me automatically assume that if the meal is not cooked by me by about seven p.m it might not get cooked until ten p.m at night or even worse not at all! I don’t dislike cooking but I find it very time consuming now so we eat out at least once a week which is a nice break. We often have friends over too which is fun but I am much more relaxed these days about what I cook.
After dinner I love to catch up on news and current affairs and lately have taken to watching a little more television than usual, perhaps as it is winter here now. I also love watching a thought provoking movie.
Bed time varies as some nights I love to cuddle up and read for an hour or so, although I often nod off and then I can’t sleep later!
Well I hope my average day hasn’t exhausted you!
All the best, Melanie Milburne
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